What I’ve Learned about Death as a Drag Queen – Sasha Velour and Daphne Chan

Sasha Velour confesses, “I think a lot of drag queens take inspiration from fabulous women in their own lives. For years, I gave all the credit to my dad’s mom, Grandma Dina, the Chinese-born Russian Jewish actress who talked about sex all the time and spent an hour setting her hair. But while she certainly fulfilled the Auntie Mame role in my life… that’s not really the kind of drag queen that I am, or aspire to be.

Chan1

“I want to be the drag queen that’s smart, and that cares about others. That asks questions. I want to be the kind of drag queen that sees herself as elegant, not over-the-top… Because I want to be my mother’s drag queen.

Chan2

“Four months ago, on June 17th, a few days after turning 64, my mom Jane died of primary peritoneal cancer. She couldn’t speak when I arrived at the hospital in Illinois. She moved around a lot – whispering to herself, occasionally breaking into a smile so big she looked like the Cheshire cat – and she too was fading away.

Chan3

“I learned that it can be empowering to wear your mother’s dress. Or power suit. At first I was worried that it was a little Norman Bates Psycho, but then I just embraced it and now I’m a murderer.

Chan4

“I have learned that you must be honest about your pain – because you can, and must – think of it as something beautiful and yours.

“I learned that I have not lost the relationship, it’s just moved inside. It exists inside my mind, among memories and fantasies – and that space in there is just as important as the one out here.

Chan5

“I learned that listening and caring and loving can be powerful – just as powerful as talking and acting, and can touch just as many lives.

Chan6

“Beautify your life, beautify your pain. Remember to play and imagine – to smile, and to find strength in listening and thinking.”

Photographer: Daphne Chan
Model: Sasha Velour
Art Director: Sasha Velour
Photographs originally published in VYM Magazine
http://www.vymmagazine.com/

 

Sasha Velour (b. 1987) is a drag queen and visual artist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Her creative work employs a wide range of media including illustration, comics, live performance, bookmaking, and video. Velour’s work explores the meaning and beauty of drag, and blurs the lines between camp entertainment, activism, and philosophical reflection. Velour created and stars in the acclaimed drag event “Nightgowns” at Bizarre Bushwick, which has been called “[the] thinking queens drag show” (Time Out NY) and “a signature blend of thoughtful, politically-charged, emotional drag” (NEXT Magazine). She is also the creative force behind VYM: The Drag Magazine, a bi-yearly publication about drag artists that has been called “unmistakably thoughtful…[with an] edgy, demure, and exacting aesthetic” (Bushwick Daily). Her illustration and comics work has been published (as male alter-ego Sasha Steinberg) in QU33R, Blab!, Cicada, The Nib, and Comics Workbook Magazine. http://www.ahsasha.com/

 

Daphne Chan is a Canadian artist and photographer. Born in Montreal, she obtained a BA in Psychology and a LL.B/BCL in Law. She’s a graduate of the National School of Photography in Arles and the International Center of Photography in New York.

Chan’s work explores identity and how it reveals itself through gender, culture, sexuality, and body image. Her work has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions internationally. She has been acclaimed for her fine art nude portraiture and articles about her work have been published in different media.

Her current project Transparency: The Gender Identity Project is a cross-platform transmedia exploration of the LGBT and genderqueer community of New York, individuals who challenge the social precepts of gender identity and gender expression. It’s a visual depiction of the LGBTQ community that is unique and much needed. There is still a lack of visibility of specific identities and uncovering these identities will challenge the common stereotypes for what certain identities are expected to look like. It’s a powerful statement of visibility and diversity.

The goal of is to celebrate and encourage the expansion and public awareness of queer fluid expression. The transgender community has historically faced systemic discrimination and this project provides a platform for visibility, recognition, and eventual acceptance.