“I believe Calgary has top-of-the-line, bar none, drag scenes in the complete nation.”
Regardless of the continued closure of queer areas all through the nation, drag is popping up in venues throughout, from straight cowboy-themed bars to libraries, bowling alleys, and cruises out on the ocean. The surge in reputation of the artwork kind over the previous decade has helped create — and in some circumstances, re-energize — drag scenes throughout Canada.
Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver could also be Canada’s best-known drag hubs, however there are vibrant, captivating performers throughout. As Winnipeg’s Prairie Sky places it, “Drag occurs wherever queer individuals have a closet and a mirror.” With Pleasure Month in full swing, FASHION spoke to tug artists from 5 Canadian cities to be taught extra.
Treaty 1 is dwelling to one among Canada’s most fun drag collectives, The Bannock Babes. Moderately than a drag household, which is a queer help unit of drag mother and father, siblings, and kids, The Bannock Babes is a unfastened collective of 15 to twenty Indigiqueer performers who come collectively for powerhouse showcases of Indigenous queer tradition.
Prairie Sky explains The Bannock Babes shaped in 2019 as a result of she and two different performers she labored with on the drop-in and useful resource centre Sunshine House noticed an absence of Indigenous illustration at drag reveals. That’s to not say there’s ever been an absence of Indigenous drag within the metropolis, however lineups weren’t reflecting Winnipeg’s huge Indigenous expertise pool on the time. “So long as there’s been drag, there’s been Indigenous drag queens in Winnipeg,” Prairie Sky says.
Bannock Babes reveals, which frequently promote out, have change into an area sensation. They’ve additionally attracted consideration effectively past Treaty 1. Since pandemic lockdowns jump-started digital drag tradition, Feather Talia has booked on-line gigs hosted as far off as New Brunswick, and he or she’s acting at this 12 months’s Toronto Pride festival on June 18. Feather Talia and fellow Bannock Babe Buffy Lo had been additionally just lately featured in a Sephora marketing campaign.
Bannock Babes reveals normally occur at Club 200, Winnipeg’s solely queer bar; Fame nightclub closed in February however hopes to ultimately relocate. There are different spots for drag reveals, although, together with the queer-friendly Good Will Social Club, which hosted a number of reveals per thirty days pre-pandemic and the restaurant The Tallest Poppy, which has a drag brunch.
In keeping with Buffy Lo, Feather Talia, and Prairie Sky, Winnipeg’s drag scene is characterised by a pretence-free environment the place performers of every type share the identical areas (and normally get sloppy drunk collectively when the present’s accomplished). “We ensure the present goes as easily as potential,” Buffy Lo says. “After that we let unfastened and calm down and have enjoyable with out having to fret about what individuals assume.”
There is probably not a homosexual bar in Whitehorse, however queer people within the northern Canadian metropolis have have managed to search out areas to host common drag and burlesque reveals, serving to to foster queer group up north. There’s additionally organizations just like the Queer Yukon Society and Yukon Rendezvous that help native drag performers and pay efficiency charges that usually exceed requirements in bigger cities. Some native organizations even faucet authorities funding to assist performers purchase drag necessities like sneakers and breast plates.
Native drag king Mixence Gold, initially from Montreal, says he’s discovered Whitehorse’s scene welcoming to kings, significantly in comparison with Montreal, the place queens are likely to reign supreme. The performer provides there’s ongoing efforts to decolonize drag and uplift BIPOC artists in Whitehorse. “There’s extra range right here than what I discovered in Montreal,” he says.
Jolene Queen Sloan additionally discovered Whitehorse welcoming after transferring to town following stints in Toronto and Vancouver. Jolene, who got here to Canada 5 years in the past from India, sought out an area hair salon proprietor who taught her the ropes of hair and make-up and launched her to Mary Sloan, a retired drama trainer who helped her hone her efficiency expertise. Jolene adopted the drag custom of taking over Sloan’s final identify for her moniker, explaining she considers the straight lady her drag mom. Jolene now performs frequently in Whitehorse and has racked up almost 20,000 TikTok followers, lots of whom are Canadians of Indian descent who love her drag-infused dances, which draw from her Punjabi tradition.
There’s no separation between the drag and burlesque scenes in Whitehorse, in accordance with the drag king Cereal, who co-produces reveals that blend the 2 with native burlesque star Chérie Coquette. The 2 have produced reveals everywhere in the metropolis, from occasion centres to bars and even home events. Cereal provides the native scene has been bolstered by way of collaborations with theatre teams like Gwaandak Theatre, which just lately created a mentorship program for Indigiqueer and POC artists and hosted a drag-infused cabaret as a part of its Awaken Festival.
Calgary is dwelling to the Fake Mustache Drag King Troupe, which claims the title of Canada’s longest-running drag troupe. Whereas it’s received “king” in its identify, the troupe’s reveals function a mixture of performers, together with ones with non-binary personas like drag monarchs.
The Faux Mustache Drag King Troupe is a part of what introduced drag artist, producer, comic and DJ DeVery Bess to Calgary from Montreal. Since then DeVery Bess has change into one of many metropolis’s hottest performers — he even gained a contest that earned him a weekly internet hosting gig at a bar that had by no means had a drag king, somewhat than a queen, as an everyday host. For a metropolis that leans conservative, DeVery Bess says it was a giant deal for a Black drag king to land that form of gig.
He additionally created stage time for different BIPOC performers by way of his selection present Reverse Racism — the title of which is a playful response to a remark a former romantic accomplice made about how it could be reverse racism to have a lineup of all non-white performers. DeVery Bess says The Faux Mustache Drag King Troupe was important in making Calgary a metropolis the place he and different drag kings can prosper.
For instance, in 2018 Duke Carson was the primary king to win the celebrated title of Alberta’s Subsequent Drag Famous person, an honour that’s handed out as a part of an annual drag competitors. Duke Carson is a member of the Haus of Trash, a “drag incubator” that grew out of a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing celebration at Dicken’s Pub. Haus of Trash members Vanta Blaque and Karla Marx say the queer-friendly house was important to diversifying drag in Calgary.
Because the begin of the pandemic, the Haus of Trash has produced a string of modern digital drag reveals, like one which tasked performers with creating tongue-in-cheek spoofs of infomercials and its most up-to-date effort, ThemTV Cribs, which took viewers on excursions by way of the houses of drag performers. In tapping an inclusive mixture of performers from throughout the nation for its digital reveals, Karla says she’s reaffirmed her perception Calgary’s drag performers are pretty much as good as — or higher than — ones from bigger cities.
“Calgary has been seemed down upon by different drag scenes for a very long time,” she says. “I’m fucking sick of it and it stops this 12 months. I believe Calgary has top-of-the-line, bar none, drag scenes in the complete nation.”
Le Drague Cabaret Club in Quebec Metropolis might have the most effective stage devoted to tug in the complete nation. The house has full theatre-style lighting and sufficient stage house that its annual Christmas present contains a specifically constructed two-storey set. The bar even employs a creative director, dressers to assist performers change between numbers, a tech and prop assistant, and somebody to run the highlight.
Scarlett Paris Schatzi, who describes herself as “Canada’s Plus Measurement Barbie Doll,” is Le Drague’s present home queen, which means she’s a frequent presence on the venue, the main target of its advertising and marketing supplies, and has her personal dressing room massive sufficient to retailer her drag. Scarlett explains that Le Drague produces huge, theatrical productions about 4 instances a month. The reveals draw inspiration from every little thing from disco to Imply Ladies to cosplay.
Le Drague is the place Canada’s Drag Race star Kiara received her begin; her castmate, Rita Baga, additionally had a month-to-month present there previous to her TV debut. Many of the numbers in Le Drague’s reveals are English language, however hosts communicate in French until they’re doing crowd work with Anglophone vacationers, who flocked to the house pre-COVID.
The venue can also be dwelling to Will Charmer, a drag king who moved to Quebec Metropolis after beginning drag at Cabaret Mado in Montreal. Whereas Will Charmer is among the solely drag kings performing regularly within the metropolis, he says the queens at Le Drague have welcomed him into the household.
Le Drague dominates the scene, but it surely’s not the one drag house on the town. Throughout the park the venue sits upon is Bar St-Matthew’s, a a lot smaller homosexual bar with Friday night time drag reveals the place Will Charmer says you’re extra more likely to see a queen carry out a traditional Quebecois music than one of many pop culture-driven numbers over at Le Drague.
As the most important metropolis on the east coast, Halifax is the area’s pure drag hub. Even so, town is usually missed by artists in different components of the nation. Considered one of Halifax’s best-known performers, Elle Noir, says individuals usually act like drag “stops in Montreal.”
“We’re not within the ice age over right here,” she says. “We have now cell telephones and plumbing and, sure, we’ve got drag queens.”
The drag scene in Halifax dates again to not less than the Nineteen Eighties, when the principle spot for drag was a bar known as Rumours the place you needed to get buzzed within the entrance door. It was the age wherein Pleasure marchers wore baggage over their heads for concern of their security and the bar employed safety guards to not hold minors out, however to maintain the queer people inside secure.
Lately, Halifax has change into a hotbed for drag kings and non-binary performers. Native king Craven Blood says the king and non-binary scene is a liberating house of artistic freedom, citing performers like X who break down the gender binary with their drag. “You don’t need to do dips, you don’t need to put on nails, you don’t need to put on wigs, you don’t need to put on pads when you don’t need to,” Craven Blood says.
The center of the drag group was as soon as Menz and Mollys, which closed in 2020 and offered earlier this 12 months. The lack of the house was successful for the group, however there are nonetheless different venues that host drag reveals, just like the restaurant M+J’s and the Grafton Street Theatre. And Craven Blood says it doesn’t matter what occurs, native drag performers will discover their stage.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll discover a place to do it. We’ll do it on the street, it doesn’t matter.”