“It takes one person to do drag,” RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour said at Opening Ceremony’s New York Fashion Week extravaganza. “But it takes a family to put on a show.”
On Sunday night, in lieu of a traditional spring 2019 runway, Opening Ceremony designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon invited Velour to play host and share the stage with a cast of 100-percent LGBTQIA+ models. Together they hosted “The Gift of Showz,” a drag extravaganza and Transgender Law Center fundraiser that brought down the house at (Le) Poisson Rouge, a cabaret club in Greenwich Village. (“In fashion shows you see clothes; in showz, you see personality,” Velour explained.) Christina Aguilera even made an appearance for a surprise finale performance, while artists like Nicki Minaj and Troye Sivan cheered from their seats in the front row.
While the room was filled with fashion editors and buyers, it was clear that the clothes were a mere backdrop to the the performers, who included Drag Race alums Miss Fame, Jiggly Caliente, and Shea Couleé. The emerging Brooklyn artist West Dakota also took the stage, along with Hungry, who doubles as Björk’s makeup artist. The rest of the cast wore the collection, but Lim and Leon gave these five queens yards of fabric to dream up their own outfits, and some even sewed them themselves.
“Whether they like it or not, Opening Ceremony has just welcomed over 40 queer artists and entertainers into their family,” Velour told the audience before the show began. LGBTQIA+ culture has long inspired fashion designers, but the community is not always invited to model the clothes. “Carol, Humberto, and the entire team told us in no uncertain terms that we belong in these clothes,” Velour continued. “That’s a great privilege, and we take it seriously. This is not a time or a country where many queer people get to feel like they truly belong; like they deserve to stand in the spotlight. … I hope this is what the future looks like.”
Family, and the cultures of acceptance and exclusion that it can create, has been a strong theme this season, from Eckhaus Latta to Pyer Moss. The Opening Ceremony show drove home the idea that family is not dictated by blood, though, and that there’s room for every individual in the fashion community. It takes a crowd to stand out — or, as Velour said: “It’s impossible to be yourself without a community that’s doing the same.”
Below, we spoke to the Opening Ceremony cast backstage about what inspires their style, how they channel confidence, and what it means to be in the spotlight during New York Fashion Week.