In the midst of rising anti-drag legislation across the United States, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” concluded its 15th season Friday with a show-stopping, star-studded finale as RuPaul addressed the politicization of drag and crowned the season’s winner.
Sasha Colby – a transgender woman and the 2012 winner of Miss Continental, a prestigious annual drag pageant competition – took home the “Drag Race” crown after dominating the season with her unrivaled star power and 20 years of drag experience. Colby left little to the imagination as she accepted a $200,000 prize and the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar while nearly nude, a decision she made to protest increasing intolerance and hate toward drag performers and trans people.
“It was a specific choice to be naked in these times,” Colby said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I wanted them to see what they’re trying to eradicate.”
The finale opened with a runway featuring each eliminated member of the 16-queen cast, the largest of any “Drag Race” season in history. The eliminated cast members delivered extraordinary alongside the season’s top four remaining competitors – Sasha Colby, Anetra, Luxx Noir London and Mistress Isabelle Brooks.
After the runway, RuPaul came to the stage and displayed a QR code onscreen for people to donate to the Drag Defense Fund, created in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union to protect drag and the form of expression from “threats and censorship.”
Once the finale began, each finalist performed an original number to win over the audience and RuPaul, earn a top two spot and advance to the final lip-sync battle for the crown.
Anetra, a high-energy performer hailing from Las Vegas, danced to her original song “Lotus,” an uplifting anthem that showcased her iconic performing abilities. Her taekwondo and “duck-walking” skills went viral earlier this year after she won the season’s premiere episode talent show number, earning her the most-watched scene ever posted to “Drag Race” social media accounts with more than 13.1 million views across all social media platforms.
Luxx Noir London, a self-proclaimed fashion queen hailing from East Orange, New Jersey, performed her original number, “It’s Giving Fashion,” an upbeat testament to the fashion prowess that earned her a maxi challenge win earlier in the season.
After the first two performances, RuPaul announced that Bob Mackie – a fashion designer known for his glamorous stylings of female performers, like Cher in the 1970s – would receive the first-ever “Giving Us Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “priceless” contributions to “glamour, beauty and excitement.”
The performances continued when Mistress Isabelle Brooks, a “plus-size dancing diva” from Houston, Texas, performed her original song “Delusion” in a candy-striper outfit as she threw light shade at other queens and rapped about curing their drag delusion. Brooks gave a shoutout to her drag family in the audience for helping her grow as an entertainer and a queer person.
But it was Sasha Colby, the season’s angelic front-runner from Waimānalo, Hawaii, who stole the show as she channeled her experiences as a queer child in a religious family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and delivered a spectacular performance of her original song, “Goddess.” Coming onto the stage in a snake costume that revealed into a leafy glitter-spangled bodysuit that alluded to the story of Adam and Eve, Colby reclaimed her religious background and served divine feminine on her own terms.
“I’m so grateful to be here, but it takes a village,” Colby said during the finale. “What I want to tell my family, my chosen family and the few biological family that I do keep in contact [with], I just want to tell you thank you so much for believing in me, I love you all so much.”
Colby and Anetra advanced to the final lip-sync battle, where each delivered an electrifying performance of “Knock On Wood” by Amii Stewart. Although Anetra served her signature jaw-dropping dips and splits, Colby’s hairography and iconic mid-song transformation from a pageant-esque queen in a floor-length gown to a nearly nude look ultimately secured her the win, and RuPaul announced Colby would be the season’s crowned queen.
Colby won four main challenges this season and was the only finalist to avoid placing in the bottom-two spots in any episode throughout the season. She routinely received praise from the judges panel for her elevated perspective on runway themes and performance in a variety of challenges ranging from designing an elegant crystallized gown to improv-ing a chaotic interview with Charo, a characteristically quirky Spanish-American actress and avid supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.
Colby is the first Hawaiian-native and the fourth consecutive transgender woman to win a U.S. season of “Drag Race” after Kylie Sonique Love in All Stars 6, Willow Pill won in Season 14 and Jinkx Monsoon won in All Stars 7: All Winners. Her historic win also received praise in a tweet from Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono.
“At a time when MAGA Republicans are pushing hateful restrictions on drag and the trans community, mahalo for using your creativity and talent to share Hawaiian culture with the world and bring joy to so many,” Hirono said in a tweet addressed to Colby.
In an interview with Vogue, Colby, who was already deemed a drag legend before her iconic run on “Drag Race” because of her 2012 Continental win and years of impressive performances, likened her extended absence from the program to surfing in Hawaii as a child and waiting for a wave to come. She said she originally considered joining the show in 2014 but waited for RuPaul’s historically turbulent relationship with trans performers to come to an end before she decided to join Season 15 and ride the wave all the way to the crown.
“This, today, is when I can be the most impactful with my art, with my trauma and with my inspiration for others,” Colby said. “This wave feels like a tsunami. It’s a big one.”
This article appeared in the April 20, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.