Capturing the heart of New York’s flamboyant drag scene

gregory kramer drag tease 2

Editor’s Note: Sasha Velour is creative director of Velour: The Drag Magazine, producer of the monthly drag show “Nightgowns,” and winner of season nine of “Rupaul’s Drag Race.” This is an edited excerpt from “Drags” by photographer Gregory Kramer.

CNN  — 

Sasha Velour didn’t just come into existence; she was designed – inspired by queens before her, by films, by fashion, by the deep and honest belief that glamour can be self-healing. To me, drag is the ultimate art form of self-creation and recreation.

To some extent, drag is always about our real living body: the things we love about it, the ways that it can change, the way we costume it, its inevitable queerness, and its beauty (which we insist on again and again). It’s not a matter of being superficial, but rather because bodies, clothes, labels, faces. That’s the language of humanity, and we want to be fluent.

Drag meddles in stories about gender, beauty, and culture. Even in the act of lip syncing, we choose a song – a preexisting story that’s deemed “straight” or “normal” or “nothing out of the ordinary” – and then we squeeze our beautiful queer bodies into it, shifting the meaning, disrupting the total effect. Drag makes room for us queers as we are (or perhaps more importantly, as we imagine ourselves) in the center of every recognizable narrative.

Drag is like an act of magic, a way of casting spells. If a spell is meant to change the living world through the constitutive powers of language, then I think drag is meant to change it through fashion, gesture, and effect. And even if it’s only for a moment, in the closed safety of a nightclub (or photo studio!), drag plants the seed for alternative gender and alternative beauty.

Right now we are living in a time of resistance, a time of violence towards those who are different, who are brown, who are queer. Now more than ever we are called upon to be loud and angry and alternative; to insist on a world as we see it – a world that accepts and values difference, a world where people have options and voices. And what better place to do that than with drag?

Drag is the space of our queer dreaming. We queens and kings are dreamers and inventors, and you, the audience, the reader, who cosign these fantasies – who live for them, who scream for them – you are the revolutionaries that will take these visions, these dreams, these new expectations for beauty and change the world.

“Drags” by photographer Gregory Kramer is out now.