When event production company owner Tommy D decided to bring his uber popular drag show from Vancouver to Victoria, he didn’t know if it would appeal to audiences on the island, much less break the company’s record by selling out within one hour – yet that’s exactly what happened.
On Saturday, January 19th, the Royal Theatre & McPherson Playhouse played host to a sold-out show featuring some of the most talented and fabulous drag artists from Victoria and Vancouver – plus a couple of out-of-town international superstars.
For the first time ever, event production company TFD Presents crossed over from Vancouver with mainland drag performers and RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Farrah Moan and Vanessa “Vanjie” Mateo to bring ‘It’s Just Drag‘ to audiences in town – and we can, in fact, confirm that Victoria LOVED it!
Leaving it all on stage
The performances ranged from well-choreographed group dance numbers to exaggerated lip-syncs, from comedic acts to outrageous surprises – like the performance of Eddi Licious, who tied a butt plug to helium balloons and let the spectacle float all the way to the ceiling of the theatre.
Unfortunately, Victoria Buzz was unable to decipher whether this contraption was recovered manually, or if it was allowed to drop down of its own accord once the balloons deflated (and if so, did it hit someone on its way down? Guess we’ll never know).
The two-hour show was tied together with bursts of comedy, courtesy of host, the Vancouver-based drag queen Joan-E, who at one point introduced an interactive element to the evening by inviting volunteers to take the stage with her, much to the spectators’ delight.
With the all-ages audience cheering their lungs out for the performers on stage, we decided to take a trip behind the curtains for a tête-à-tête with some of the show’s biggest stars!
Farrah’s first time in Victoria
To begin with, we spoke to one of the two headliners of the event, 25-year-old Farrah Moan (offstage name Cameron Clayton) who became internationally renowned after appearing on Season 9 of the iconic Emmy-winning series, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The surprisingly down to earth celebrity visited Victoria for the first time on Saturday and was, unsurprisingly, blown away by the view while catching the ferry over to the island.
Although Moan was only in town for one day, she seemed eager to return and explore Victoria – and, judging by the uproarious cheers caused by her stage presence alone, we’d say this is welcome news to audience members who were clearly hoping for an encore!
About RuPaul’s Drag Race and managing mental health
A future stage visit isn’t entirely out of the cards, as Farrah confirmed to us her preference of live shows over televised performances.
“I personally feel like I shine a lot more when I’m doing my own thing because when I do a show, my numbers are choreographed [and] thought out, versus on RuPaul’s Drag Race [where] you have an hour to put something together and you have to do what they’re telling you to do,” she said.
Nevertheless, she was thrilled to compete in Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars edition until her recent elimination.
“Unfortunately my time was cut short and I feel like [in] All Stars, it [was] a little bit harder to showcase yourself because if anyone sees you as a threat silently, they could have a plot out to get you. As we saw, that kind of was the case with a couple of girls.”
Here, she makes a reference to the dramatic altercation with co-star Gia Gunn who approached Farrah on-air to rehash a conflict that occurred before the filming of All Stars Season 4 – an issue that Farrah herself believed to be long forgotten, until it was brought up again.
However, for the most part, Farrah’s relationships with fellow Drag Race alumni have been far less bitter.
“I’m friends with almost every single girl that was on the season and I consider them as sort of my best friends, so we’re always on the phone … and we get to travel the world together. The sisterhood of the Season 9 girls makes the whole ‘on-the-move-all-the-time’ lifestyle a lot easier.”
And while competing on a widespread, internationally acclaimed platform may be the ultimate dream come true, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to prioritizing mental health.
“I have actually been struggling with my mental health [over] the past couple of years. My therapist has told me that I’ve had some traumas earlier in my life that I’ve repressed. Going on national TV and then being succumbed to everyone’s negative remarks can really eat away at you. Even just being on TV in general, when you want something so bad and then you lose it – it’s really easy to feel hard on yourself.”
Not one to leave the conversation down in the dumps, Farrah quickly bounced back into fierce-mode and, with a flip of her long, blonde hair du jour, left us with a message of positivity for all our readers.
“I think that it’s very important for anyone in any field to always look out for their mental health and the first step is recognizing it. You’re never going to be able to change what people say about you but you can change the way that you are affected by it by practicing self love and self affirmations … Take the steps that it takes to heal yourself.”
Victoria queens on the LGBTQ community and drag etiquette
On a more local level, the drag community on Vancouver Island has been growing larger and larger thanks to rising levels of acceptance within and outside of the queer community.
One of the performers at the event, Henrietta Dubét (offstage name Charlie Nash) talked to Victoria Buzz about drag as a part of the LGBTQ community in Victoria.
“I feel like drag queens are sort of unofficially known as the champions of the gay community sometimes,” said 26-year-old Dubét. “I’d say that it’s almost less welcoming towards drag kings; I think that cis[gender] men get a lot more time in the spotlight.”
“Locally we have things like King Fling which is a big focus on female bodied people performing as drag kings … I think it is super important because it is shining a light on other members of the community who don’t get given so many opportunities.”
In speaking to fellow performer, 21-year-old local queen Shelita Cox (offstage name Aaron), we learned that the LGBTQ community in Victoria has been extremely welcoming to drag queens for the most part but, without pointing to any explicit examples, she stated that “in every community there are negative moments.”
The city’s thriving drag scene has been inspiring more and more new visitors to shows, which means further exposure for Victoria’s talented artists. However, not every audience member is entirely familiar with drag etiquette and how to behave during a performance.
“I was doing a number where … I come out wearing a sheer bodysuit with a leather harness on, and a young woman came up and she started tipping me but then … she started grabbing onto the harness and was super physical,” Dubét explained.
“A lot of the time, I’ll have friends who are keeping an eye on things and most clubs will have a security person right next to the stage who knows. 98% of the time, people are respectful and don’t touch you.”
One of these friends she refers to is fellow performer Shelita Cox, who described some of the situations in which she has had to step in to stop an audience member from getting in the way of the performer.
“It’s one thing to hand out a $5 bill, but then you have some people who [think], ‘oh I’m going to put this in my mouth and I’m not going to let you accept it unless you take it from your mouth’, or ‘I want to tuck this $20 [bill] into you’. No, this isn’t a strip club, it’s a drag show,” said Cox.
“We’re quite frank with audience members who get too hands-on but unfortunately you can’t monitor every show [and] there’s not always enough people to be able to jump up on stage and help someone.”
Both Dubét and Cox expressed the need for audience members to be respectful of drag performers, and to be aware that the venue is meant to be a safe space for everyone in attendance.
“Look around you, don’t be the standout person doing something that no one else is doing,” added Cox, when asked about how newcomers should behave at their first drag show. “Don’t blend in but come with your common sense. Don’t be rude.”
Advice for up and coming Victoria drag queens and kings
Consistent practice is key for performers looking to unleash their inner queens, especially when it comes to staying on top of your makeup game, says Henrietta Dubét.
To help baby drag artists hone their performance, Shelita Cox invites one and all to attend her 11:30 p.m. Drag Sundays show at Paparazzi Nightclub every Sunday night.
“It’s your first chance in a very welcoming crowd, because on Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. you only have people there who are really wanting to be there for the content,” she said.
Cox also added that there are a number of different groups on Facebook geared towards helping kings and queens in Victoria build themselves up and practice their art before performing in front of an audience. One such group is linked here.
When it comes to perfecting performances, none says it better than Farrah Moan, who dropped this bit of sage wisdom before taking the stage herself:
“At the end of the day, there’s no diploma that says ‘you are a good drag queen’; there’s always room to improve. I’m always trying to improve and I think that that is what anyone in this industry needs to do because there’s always going to be someone younger and prettier that’s going to come up behind you!”