Petals, Pizzazz and Politics—How the Season Finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race Sashayed to the Mainstream

A 29-year-old drag queen from Brooklyn, New York known as Sasha Velour is lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional. She’s gliding across the stage; a graceful avant-garde, bald ballerina.

Arms clad in opera-length bronze gloves, Velour vogues alongside fellow queen Shea Couleé, sauntering her hips and moving her lips soundlessly. Then, she craned her neck and began tugging at her wig. Pantomiming a seizure, she grabbed each scarlet lock to unleash a cascade of rose petals—just as Houston’s ballad reached its dénouement.

Watch the performance:

It was the season 9 finale of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Nearly 9 million people watched as Velour won the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, making Drag Race history for the most-watched finale. It was, in the eternal words of Whitney Houston, “So emotional.”

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