“It’s the aloha spirit,” RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Colby tells me in regards to her unbelievable kindness she has displayed throughout season 15. “It’s definitely what is instilled in us as Hawaiians, being from there. The first thing you ask someone is, ‘Oh, you’re hungry? You need to eat. Go eat.'”

She continued, “The people that I grew up with and raised me would be so mad if I was not aloha, so it’s just in you.”

It’s been almost a week since Sasha was crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar”, becoming the 15th queen to win the title. Her win is another historic one for the books as her win adds to the growing trans representation in the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise. This includes season 14 winner Willow Pill as well as All Stars winner Kylie Sonique Love.

Even though it’s been a minute since Sasha donned a triptych of lewks while lip syncing to victor against Anetra to Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood”, Sasha is still on cloud nine. Her Drag Race crown joins her prestigious Miss Continental crown but even though she is a legend, she admits that she worked two years towards this moment with auditioning and really focusing on honing in what she’d have to do in order to get on the show.

When Sasha won the crown she held up her scepter high and anointed her reign with the words, “This goes to every trans person past, present and future because we are not going anywhere!”


As soon as Sasha donned a sexy Polynesian punk lewk and walked into the Werk Room during the season 15 premiere and said the word, “Period”, we knew it was over for the rest of the bitches as murmurs of “Is that Sasha Colby?” were peppered among the queens during her grand entrance.

“Aloha! I’m Sasha Colby, former Miss Continental,” Sasha said in her introductory talking head of the season. “I’m a singer, dancer, activist and all around Goddess!”

When she walked in, everyone immediately knew who she was and someone even said, “Should we go home?”

Having done drag for about 20 years, Sasha is well-aware of her reputation and the trails she has blazed — including the one for her season 14 daughter Kerri Colby.  “I can’t let her be the most famous Colby!” she joked on the show.

Despite Drag Race being a level playing field, one would think that someone like Sasha was a shoo-in for winner of Drag Race. However, Sasha used her experience to help her balance humility, confidence, and ego during a high-stress televised reality competition.

She credits her humble competitive spirit to working alongside the best of the best at The Baton in Chicago and in Pageants. She called all of this her “Drag University”

“Working at Baton has taught me so many values that I could then use for [Drag Race],” she said. “Also, it instills a healthy amount of competition where you can be very confident in yourself, but you don’t also have to put anybody down, which is,  something that I was able to hold onto… [it] gave me this sense of calmness.”


During the show, Sasha mentioned the term “mahu”, which is the third gender in Hawaiian culture. Mahu represents the masculine and the feminine. “We definitely were the shamans and the medicine practitioners,” Sasha explained. “We carried on the language, the stories and history through our hula and our mele — which is our music. ”

These practices, medicines, and art were mostly safeguarded by the queer community and shows that mahu were integral to Hawaiian cultures. On top of that, they were also seen as teachers. “Parents left their kids with us because they understood, before colonialization, that it was more divine and safer to have someone that understands both genders” to teach these practices.

“Then religion came into and that is usually the ender of most indigenous traits,” Sasha points out.

Sasha was first introduced to the term “mahu” at a younger age, when it was used as a derogatory word. “The actual word, ‘mahu’ is pretty much trans,” she explains. “There’s ‘mahu wahine’, which is trans woman, a ‘mahu kane’, which is a trans man. It got umbrella’d at a certain point in history where it just became the word for gay. I also grew up in that time where people would be like, ‘Oh, that’s so gay,’ like a derogatory choice. It was like, “Oh, you mahu’.”

She compares the use of the word “mahu” with the use of the word “queer”. It was used as a derogatory term to insult people — mainly men — who looked feminine and that wasn’t something to be proud of. And just like there was a reclamation of the term “queer”, there was also a renaissance to reclaim the term “mahu”.

“This renaissance of mahu [and] being something that you’re proud of is really coinciding with the way Hawaiian culture is being exemplified, retaught and trying to save a dying language,” she said. “We also are taking back those words that were used against us by other people who didn’t understand it.” This resurgence of Hawaiian culture and the reclaiming of ideas has been amplified by Sasha and for her she sees a full circle moment of having the term “mahu” being used against her when she was younger and having RuPaul talk about it on Drag Race.


Sasha spoke openly about how she lost her father to suicide in 2016. She also lost her niece and her brother-in-law to COVID during that pandemic. It was a difficult and dark time during Sasha’s life. It made her think, “Something has to happen from this because it is really, really hard.”

For Sasha, grief and death are two of the most challenging and growing life experiences. “It left me with so many questions about life, which then to a lot of self-work, a lot of therapy, a lot of meditation, a lot of psychedelics even,” she cheekily admitted.

Sasha said that these experiences led her to ask questions and understand why we’re all here and to make sense of it. It also gave her a path to have her own relationship with spirituality. She deprogramed religion out of but she kept the good things to use as a moral compass. That said, it’s her own spirituality and existential exploration that helped her cope with the grief after her father’s death.

With the deaths of her brother-in-law and niece, she learned what death leaves to the people that are still around you and the people that are affected by it. She saw how grief can bring out the worst parts in us because sometimes people don’t know how to process it. For queer kids, Sasha points out that we know how to do that very quickly in our lives.

“We know how to do whatever we have to do to get through it,” she says. “We are the most resilient type of person out there because everything is coming at us. It was really these life experiences that inspired her drag which includes numbers about her father’s death. “I made numbers about my father’s suicide that no one knows about — but I did,” she says. “It was something that I needed to work out.”


Even though she has found a connection with her Hawaiian culture, Sasha shares that it’s been a “long, long, strange relationship”. Growing up, she was blonde, green-eyed and had fair skin but was very much a Hawaiian kid. Her dad was 100% native Hawaiian and her mom is half-Hawaiian and white.

“I grew up in a very Hawaiian town, went to a very Hawaiian school where everyone looked dark, but most of them were mixed with Portuguese, Filipino, Chinese or some Asian,” she said. “I was technically probably one of the kids in school that had the most Hawaiian percentage.”

She was often teased and called ‘haole’ at school, a term which refers to someone who is not Native Hawaiian. She would often be asked, “Why are you so white?”

“I had been told at an early age that I wasn’t Hawaiian and I wasn’t allowed to be where I held space… and then put queerness on top of this poor little white kid… it’s like ‘Girl what?!'”  Sasha laughs. “So I was like, ‘Where am I supposed to be?'”.

She admits it was bad at one point that people were basically telling her: “You don’t want to be Hawaiian” or “You think you’re better than Hawaiian” so she went to the mainland with a fierce determination to succeed and prove everyone she is somebody. She fell into this idea of a “blonde white girl in Hawaii” and so that is what she became.

It wasn’t until she moved to Chicago that she started to appreciate her heritage. “All of a sudden, I was the cool, exotic Hawaiian girl in Chicago,” she said. “I’m like, ‘This is crazy because when I’m in Hawaii, I’m not Hawaiian enough for them’ and now it was so weird… but I started to lean into it. I started to love it and it all started to stem off of a lot of self-work.”

A lot of that self-work had to do with unlearn a lot she was taught in religion. She respects religion to a certain extent, but her own experience was cult-like and controlling. That said, Sasha had to deprogram a lot of what she learned. “A lot of what religion does is it extracts all culture out of a person,” she explains. “When I’m talking about, I was told that I was too white when I was little, it was because my dad forgot how to be a Hawaiian.”

There were misconceptions that native Hawaiians couldn’t get a good job and that you would have to shed all that the indigenous nuances from your life. Since native Hawaiian practices and culture were seen as “pagan”, religion squeezed that culture out of indigenous people — and Sasha said her dad was included in that.

“I didn’t even have the knowledge to defend my Hawaiian-ness because I wasn’t taught that,” said Sasha. “So when someone teased me, I felt like, ‘I think I am’ because I don’t know anything about Hawaiian culture.”

She continued, “After this deprogramming, I started to really delve into what is a Hawaiian. Then I realized how much queerness was a part of ancient Hawaiian culture. I understood that, I’m feeling innately is something so special. It’s something indigenous, it’s something in my DNA that it doesn’t feel like what I was taught to as a child — that it was an abomination. Finding my culture was finding the strength of my queer voice.”