From the time Sasha Colby first took the stage in the latest season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” her eventual victory appeared almost inevitable. The 38-year-old — whose tagline is “Your favorite drag queen’s favorite drag queen” — brought her work ethic and two decades of experience to every revealing-yet-revelatory costume, heartfelt lip-sync routine and comically timed neck crack.
On the national stage, her rise to mainstream stardom, as a transgender woman and a Native Hawaiian, could also be seen as an act of defiance as a wave of anti-trans laws sweeps the nation and conservatives target drag shows in several states.
Ms. Colby, spoke to The New York Times from Oklahoma City, where she had just landed. This interview has been edited and condensed.
First, congratulations on your win on “Drag Race.” How has it been since? How much are you traveling?
Thank you so much. It’s insane. I haven’t been home in Los Angeles a lot in the past two or three months. I’m going to a different city every day. I’ve been all over the U.S. and Canada. I’m going to Australia soon. We are doing a little European tour and the Philippines as well. I’ve only traveled outside the U.S. and Canada twice before: once to Japan and once to Paris. So I’m just so happy and so excited that I get to travel all over the world.
Drag queens have to lug around a lot of stuff: costumes, wigs, etc. How many suitcases are you traveling with?
I’m pretty O.C.D.: Everything has to be organized. So this trip — I just did five cities and have about six costumes — I was able to get everything in one rather heavy suitcase. It was a little over 50 pounds.
That’s very compact. What’s your packing technique?
Ziploc bags for everything. I think Ziploc bags should sponsor me now. I have a hair bag with all the pins, one with all brushes and combs, another one with all the hair products, so that if I have to rush or if something happens, I don’t get all flustered. I’m just always planning for the me in the future, which is very travel-friendly.
Is there anything you can’t travel without?
I like to have my crystals on me. I’m a metaphysical kind of gal. I usually have tiger’s-eye for balance; some obsidian for protection; clear quartz is always great; a little jade for good luck, fortune and abundance; and rose quartz for self-love. The whole rainbow.
Airports can be stressful, and even more so for gender-nonconforming folks. Transgender passengers frequently experience heightened and often humiliating scrutiny at security checkpoints, for example. How do you feel about airports and how do you approach them?
Oh my gosh, as a trans person, it’s like the bane of our existence. I’m actually in the process of getting PreCheck. I get hyper-aware in airports. I get so nervous because, especially right now, I’m traveling a lot, so I’m not always feeling or looking my most “winning.” And I’m just holding my breath that they don’t misgender me until I see that green box on the T.S.A. machine. It’s crazy. I have exactly the same type of routine: If it works through the T.S.A., then I will wear those types of clothes all the time.
What’s your outfit?
I wear tight-fitted clothes. My go-to is a nicer jean and I tuck it up with a bodysuit kind of top. I always have a jacket with me because it’s pretty chilly in some of the planes. But yeah, it’s a relief when I get through the T.S.A., like, “OK, now I can just relax for a second” — until I have to go to the bathroom. And then I’m worried again, especially now that I’m on TV for being a drag queen.
There has been an onslaught of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. legislation specifically targeting transgender people and drag performers. How has that affected your travel?
I was in Tennessee a few weeks ago and was nervous about leaving my hotel room. I was like, “How am I going to get out of this hotel and get into the car in drag?” I don’t want to dress to attract attention. It just feels like I’m sneaking around, when it shouldn’t feel like that.
How did you get out of there in the end?
I had my makeup on. I put on my dress and I was like, “Whatever, I’m just going to look good.” At the end of the day, you just have to stick with it, and show them that you’re not going to frighten us into submission.
But then something amazing happened: While we were doing the show in Nashville, we got the news that they lifted the ban on drag. To see the whole club rejoice was so nice. I just want to see that in every other state now.
It seems like maybe if you went to every state …
That’s what they were saying: “Did we just need Sasha Colby to come over here and they could lift the ban?” I’m like, “Well, I’m off to Texas next.”
What’s a place you would really love to visit?
I really want to go to Bali. I also would love to go all around Europe and see all those crazy castles. I’m obsessed with monarchies in general. Being Native Hawaiian, we had kings and queens ourselves, so I think that’s where my obsession started.
What’s your relationship to your Native Hawaiian culture?
Even as a kid, I was pretty fair-skinned and I have light eyes, so I’m not what people would normally think a Hawaiian looks like. I definitely got a lot of teasing — a lot of kids poking fun at me, telling me that I’m not Hawaiian or not Hawaiian enough. I also grew up being called “mahu.” Back when we did speak the Hawaiian language, there was the word “mahu kane” for trans man and “mahu wahine” for trans woman. Through the generations, it became a derogatory term for anyone in the L.G.B.T.Q. community. In the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve taken the term “mahu” back — kind of like how we took back “queer” — and are now shouting it loud and proud. In October, I’ll be the grand marshal of the Honolulu Pride parade. That’ll be my homecoming. I get to represent a whole island nation, when growing up, I really didn’t feel like I was allowed to.
Hawaii is obviously also a super popular vacation spot. As a Native Hawaiian, what would your advice be to people who want to visit?
Be a tourist, don’t be a colonizer. Go and learn our history. Go to the Arizona memorial at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Go to Iolani Palace, where our last queen was imprisoned by the U.S. government. Support local businesses. Don’t go halfway across the world to eat at a Denny’s.
Last question: Do you have a crazy travel story?
I was just in Louisville, Ky., about a month or so ago. I didn’t realize until I stepped off the plane that it was the Kentucky Derby weekend. So it was all these ladies in bonnets and mint juleps all over the place.
Everyone was a drag queen.
Yeah. Where’s the law there, huh?
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