If you found yourself entranced by the Google Doodle tribute to Marlene Dietrich on Wednesday, then you may also like to know that the Dietrich tribute was drawn by Sasha Velour: the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 9. Drawn for what would've been the late icon's 116th birthday, fans of the show will immediately recognize what a huge deal this doodle is for Sasha.
During Drag Race, Sasha's performance as Dietrich on The Snatch Game was a high point of the season. Though Ru was initially skeptical of the drag superstar's ability to make the German actor "funny," Sasha's dry interpretation of the star managed to be an on-point impression that was also hilarious. It might've even been one of the key moments of Season 9 where Sasha went from being an outsider to a real contender full of hidden talents.
Suffice to say, Sasha's Google doodle of Dietrich qualifies as being yet another delightful unveiling of her hidden talents. Though the majority of fans will likely be aware of Sasha's broad palette of skills, which include being the artistic director of drag magazine, Velour, as well as her unique performance style, you might not be aware that Sasha is actually an accomplished visual artist and graphic designer. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense in regards to her incredibly artistic styling, high concepts, and overall aesthetic.
According to Sasha's website, between 2012 and 2014, the drag superstar created a series of comic works, the most notable of which is Stonewall. Described as a "full length graphic novel in-progress," about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which were a powerful turning point in the history of LGBT rights, Stonewall features lush comic book artwork that harkens back to comic art of the '60s.
Since then, Sasha's artistic work looks as though it continued to flourish, with more illustrative and comic book work in 2015 and 2016. One such piece titled, What Now, was a tribute to Sasha's late mother and published in the comic poetry press, Ink Brick #4. Adapted from a drag performance by Sasha, the published comic was introduced by an essay from Sasha which revealed,
"I want to be the kind of drag queen that sees herself as elegant, not over-the-top… Because I want to be my mother’s drag queen."
Featuring another throwback art style in the manner of Saul Bass' revered graphic design work of '60s Hollywood, What Now was bold, heartbreaking, and full of personality, showing Sasha as both an artist and a performer.
When immersing yourself in Sasha's work, it's easy to see why Dietrich would make an impression on the drag star. As a distinctive icon of old Hollywood, Dietrich subverted gender norms with great artistic power, and even engaged in rumored lesbian relationships with women like Greta Garbo. She stood out because she was so completely different from other women in the industry and unapologetic about it. As Sasha revealed to Google,
"She was a wild original! ... Despite the pressures of the time, she followed her own course, especially in terms of politics and gender. As a drag queen, that's particularly inspiring to me. Plus, she just had this power to her...in every role she's mysterious and strong, brilliant. That's what I aspire to be when I step on the stage."
As anyone who sat completely enthralled by Sasha during Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race, there's no question that the drag queen delivers all of those qualities whenever she steps onto the stage. But evidently, these qualities are also apparent within the rest of Sasha's artistic portfolio, too. One that is apparently bursting full of hidden talents, power, and brilliance, and will likely continue to surprise us at every turn.