Winnipeg just received a visit from Tatiana, one of the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and some local queens shared the stage. But without the RuPaul name behind them, local artists can’t always enjoy that level of visibility.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race is really in right now. It’s really popular, so a lot of people watch it. But then they don’t go out to local shows and support the local queens,” Will Garrioch, who performs as Cheron Sharelike Lamour, says.
Garrioch would love to see more growth on the scene so artists could start making some money.
“I would love to see drag go there, but Winnipeg isn’t quite at that point yet. We don’t have a club that would pay enough for someone to do it as a side job even,” he says. “Right now, there’s quite a few queens in Winnipeg, and we all kind of do it for the love of doing it.”
Levi Foy, or Prairie Sky, hosts drag queen bingo nights at The Good Will Social Club. He says the events can be a non-intimidating way for people to start getting in touch with local drag culture.
“It’s just really relaxed. It’s not 1:30 a.m. at Club 200,” he says.
The bingo events support Sunshine House, a charity with a come-as-you-are philosophy. They host a program called Like That, where people can feel safe to explore their gender through drag.
“All of us who are involved in the Sunshine House, many of us, couldn’t necessarily find a welcome home in the Winnipeg drag scene for a number of reasons,” Foy says.
He notes certain aesthetics are more popular than others on the local scene, and there are those who aren’t aware of drag’s punk roots.
Picky and Glory are a well-known drag duo to those on and off the scene. They’ve had an unconventional aesthetic since their debut.
“Our rules were, ‘no shaving no tucking,’” Brent Young, or Pictoria Secrete, says with a laugh. “So we kind of made a spectacle with all this body hair.”
Young and Bob Burgess, or Gloria Booths in drag, were excited to see a bearded drag challenge on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as they’ve always had fun with neon colours and glitter in their own facial hair.
Their elaborate, over-the-top costumes are rumored to be part of why people look forward to Winnipeg’s pride parade every year.
Picky and Glory are very involved in local affairs and don’t restrict themselves to events affiliated with the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s in their mission statement to be fun, visible and accessible. The response they get in public is a positive one.
“We actually walk down the street and take Winnipeg transit down to the bar,” Burgess says. “We just get on there, and people start asking if they can take pictures of us or with us.”
Sometimes, however, negativity comes from within their community.
“We had one queen say to our face that we weren’t real drag queens,” Young says.
Foy says that animosity goes back to those who aren’t in touch with the history of drag and the fact that there are many styles within the art form.
He has a couple issues with the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, because it can cause people to latch onto drag culture without doing any research.
He cites the film Paris is Burning as a must-watch.
“RuPaul is RuPaul. (He was) a very, very important part of bringing drag into our collective identity, our collective vocabulary,” he says.
There are queens who are only interested in looking good, and Foy likes to remind them there’s more to it than that.
“Do you understand what kind of thread you’re weaving into the fabric?” Foy says. “The role of drag queens has traditionally been the role of agents of change within the community and agents of acceptance.”
Foy says the scene’s future success should start with more camaraderie.
The next drag queen bingo event is at The Good Will on May 14.
Visit @sunshinehousewpg on Facebook for more info.
While you’re there, check out @Club200, @famenightclub and @PictoriaSecreteGloriaBooths for info on upcoming shows.
Published in Volume 71, Number 26 of The Uniter (March 30, 2017)