Drag Race star Rock M Sakura shares sex worker past in wake of harrowing Atlanta spa shootings

Maggie Baska
·4-min read

RuPaul’s Drag Race star Rock M Sakura has shared the heart-wrenching story of her time as a sex worker in response to the tragic shootings in Atlanta, Georgia.

On Tuesday (16 March), a man went on a rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area, killing eight people. The murderer, who was later identified as Robert Aaron Long, was arrested and admitted to the attacks. He told authorities that he had a “sex addiction” and saw the spas as a “temptation” that he “wanted to eliminate”.

The brazen shootings – which took the lives of six women of Asian descent – stirred considerable outrage and fear in the Asian-American community, which has already seen an uptick in hate crime fuelled by rhetoric that blames them for the spread of COVID-19.

Now, Drag Race season 12 star Rock M Sakura has weighed in on the events and revealed her own heartbreaking story about working in the sex industry. Sakura wrote on Twitter that she had to “get something off my chest” which has been “weighing very heavy on me for a long time”.

“With the violent crimes that have been affecting the Asian community as of recently and the hate crimes that were committed last night against Asian sex workers, I wanted to come out and say that I was a sex worker, specifically working with massage until my debut on season 12,” Sakura revealed.

She said: “Everyday, I have felt the emotional weight of keeping this secret from the community and my fanbase because of fear of being blasted from things like TV appearances and All Stars, slut-shamed publicly or losing job opportunities in different countries.”

Sakura said she remembered “feeling shame” during her time on Drag Race when she was asked what she did for a living. Instead of telling the truth, she admitted she lied and said she was a “full-time queen” because she “didn’t want to get kicked off” the hit show.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

But she said that her job “paid for my expenses” while she lived in San Francisco and “helped me pursue and fund my drag, even on Drag Race“.

However, Sakura said what people need to “see”, “hear” and “know” is that “we need to [stop Asian hate] and protect sex workers”.

“What happened last night was exactly what it looks like. A hate crime against Asian people,” Sakura said. “I want everyone to have perspective that could have easily been me, it could easily have been people you care about and love.”

She urged her fans, drag fans and the LGBT+ community and allies to “please help and protect our community right now” and “keep Asian people safe”.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Rock M Sakura explained that she doesn’t “regret doing sex work” and doesn’t feel “shame now that I’ve come out and said it”. But she admitted that she feels “very vulnerable”.

What happened in Atlanta?

On Tuesday (16 March), police rushed to the scene of a shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Cherokee County. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital. The police later confirmed that two people, who had been rushed to the hospital, had died.

Less than an hour later, police were called to a “robbery in progress” at Gold Spa in northeast Atlanta. When authorities arrived at the spa, police found three women deceased inside the spa from “apparent gunshot wounds”.

While there, officers were called to Aromatherapy Spa, which was right across the street from Gold Spa, and they found another woman who had been murdered.

In a news conference on Wednesday (17 March), investigators said their suspect, Robert Aaron Long, admitted to the shooting spree, but he denied that the attack was motivated by race. Long has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department.

Captain Jay Baker said that Long “has an issue”, which he considered a “sex addiction”, and saw the spas as a “temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate”.

However, police cautioned it was still too early in the investigation to definitively state a motive.

Four of the victims have been identified as Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz was identified as having been injured.

Authorities in South Korea are reported to be working to confirm the nationalities of four victims of Korean descent.