Being able to lip-sync is a crucial skill for any drag queen, but so is the ability to deliver a song in your own voice. This week on RuPaul’s Drag Race the queens found that out with a musical competition that featured rock-and-roll as the chosen form of expression. I recently chatted with Sahara Davenport, who was eliminated after a strong and uncompromising run that culminated in the rocked-out singing exercise.
Although she went home, Sahara told me she is no stranger to singing musical theater and gospel. “I knew that had to be coming, (that) we are going to have to sing live, do something vocally,” Sahara said about the competition. “Then I was like, it’s rock-and-roll!”
During the challenge, Sahara tried not to focus on the vocals and instead went out on stage to have fun. I told Sahara, with that high note of hers, she knows how to make an entrance! “I felt good about it,” Sahara said. “I thought, oh my God, I’m living. I French kissed a girl in the audience!”
One element of Sahara’s drag artistry that has always struck me is her use of movement, which makes sense considering Sahara is trained in ballet, jazz and modern dance. I asked her if she considers that her trademark – and got back a hilarious answer.
“My trademark, Bebe, is my beauty!” she said, which had me in hysterics. “After the beauty, people come see the kicks and tricks and comedic timing. Dance is the basis of my show. It’s how I express myself when I’m not at the microphone.”
Sahara is comfortable around a microphone. With a full resume as a male dancer and model, she uses drag as a way to support herself. “I’m not one to wait tables or cater events,” she explained. “Drag was my side gig.”
A side gig that grew into a career! As a drag performer who sings and just released a single (check my song out on YouTube!), I spoke to Sahara about the balance between lip-syncing and live-singing performances, and how both are equal forms of expression. “It’s about my message in that moment,” Sahara said in agreement. “I don’t think there should be a lip-sync versus live singers debate.”
One characteristic I think makes Sahara so successful is her vulnerability. I respected how open she was on the show about her struggles with identity and family acceptance. “I made a decision to go out there and just be me,” she said. “So many kids are now hitting me up, saying you understand me. What the show has done is given me a voice. I tell everyone going through a dark time, ‘You are never the only one.’”
Don't forget, catch RuPaul's Drag Race every Monday night at 7pm and 10pm on OUTtv!