Drag Race’s Sasha Colby visits campus to talk about love and chosen families

"Drag families are a place for you to heal," said the celebrity superstar to a packed audience at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. "To figure yourself out and take solace in"
Photo: Siobhan Rollo
Sasha Colby and host Alli Harris in the midst of conversation.

Queer celebrity and winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 15 Sasha Colby visited Algonquin College on March 19 to talk about being a transgender woman who is also a drag queen.

The theatre was packed full fans of Colby, RuPaul’s Drag Race and its home-grown spinoff, Canada’s Drag Race.

Her talk covered a lot of ground. Colby walked the audience through her thoughts about found family, her experiences with her transition, her coming out experience, the future of healthcare for queer individuals and growing up as a Hawaiian native.

Sasha Kekauoha, who is better known by her stage name Sasha Colby, had a sit-down conversation with the host of the event, Alli Harris. Harris is an Ottawa-based artist who dabbles in both music and film.

The conversation discussed heavy messages that emphasized the importance of love: self-love and the love of the people who you choose to surround you.

“The family that you are born into doesn’t always have everything you need and that’s okay,” said Colby. “It’s okay to outsource support.”

Colby described her own experiences with coming out, first as gay, and later as a transgender woman.

“I knew at such an early age I was trans, I just didn’t have the vernacular,” said Colby. “I ran away from home. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but that was my exit strategy. For safety purposes… My family told me ‘You can be a girl, just don’t be gay. Don’t bring a guy home.'”

Colby went on to talk about her other experiences as a transgender woman, talking about the importance of companionship in the drag community.

For instance, Colby is a drag mom to several children. A drag mom is a term to describe a typically older drag queen who takes in a younger drag queen and mentors them.

“A lot of us get kicked out of our houses, and our drag moms take us in,” she said.

Colby also talked about some of the challenges of being a trans woman in the United States right now. She, like many of her trans friends, struggles to get access to proper healthcare. Colby described the issue of healthcare as ongoing, and while she personally doesn’t have much hope, she strives to be a beacon of hope for others.

Kiki Coe is dressed in an intricate white feather and rhinestone garment as she stands in the middle of the stage.
One of Sasha Colby's openers, Ottawa drag legend Kiki Coe. Photo credit: Siobhan Rollo

Audience member and former Algonquin College interactive media design student Jayde Medland said she was excited about seeing Colby in person.

“Obviously I’m here for Sasha Colby,” she said. “She was the most formative trans representation on TV at the time. I saw her and was like ‘I wanna be that.'”

The audience responded positively to Colby’s message of love. During the question period of Colby’s interview, a mother from the audience spoke up about her experience raising her transgender child. She tearfully thanked Colby for being a positive role model for her child.

Tatanisha Riggan, the equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator for the Students’ Association says the reason the SA rallied for Colby was due to her advocacy work across North America.

“It’s incredibly meaningful [to have her here] because we want to make sure we’re bringing platforms for the queer community,” Riggan said. “The big draw was just trying to bring someone with a big platform for trans visibility day. We could’ve had someone smaller, but we wanted someone who’s done the hard work. Sasha’s advocacy work was the biggest draw.”

The night also featured performances from Ottawa-based Canada’s Drag Race contestants Kiki Coe, Aimee Yonce Shennel and Kimmy Couture.

The Algonquin Commons Theatre is set to have more Drag Race superstars in the theatre for conversation segments similar to this. Drag Race season 14 winner Willow Pill is set to perform in September.

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