We chat with Toronto’s brunch-queen-meets-entrepreneur about the local drag scene, starting a business, and Toronto’s hunger for drag brunch…
By Bianca Guzzo
You can feel the personality that fills the room while sitting at a table at Miss Pippa’s in the Brockton Village area of Toronto. The west-end spot is part café, part wine bar and part floral/gift shop – a mix of comfort, chicness and cozy eccentricity. Immediately after stepping into Miss Pippa’s, you can tell each and every piece on display has been picked out with extreme care, which is thanks to Adam Moco and his husband, Anton Levin.
When Adam is not being an entrepreneur serving up drinks, food and flowers, he is serving up looks, lip syncs and wig snatches for brunch audiences as one of Toronto’s top drag queens: Miss Moço. Whether at the café or at Miss Moço’s weekly performances, the customer mix is diverse. We sat down with the Toronto queen to talk about the good and the bad of drag going mainstream, the reality of being a working queen in Toronto, and bringing drag brunch to the city.
Before opening Miss Pippa’s, Adam and Anton moved to Portugal in 2015. “He’s a florist, so that’s where the flowers come in,” says Adam. “And he’s always wanted to have his own flower shop: he questioned doing it in Portugal, but it just wasn’t the place.” After spending a year abroad, Adam and Anton moved back to Toronto, and started to seriously consider opening up their dream shop. “One day [Anton] just walked by [the café’s site], saw it for lease and said, ‘Okay, this is it,’” Adam recalls. “And we knew that just doing a flower shop wasn’t enough. I like wine, so we thought it was a perfect pairing. And with all of the gifts and things with the plants, it all just happened really organically.”
Adam calls himself an “entrepreneuress,” which makes perfect sense after finding out that running the café is only half of his professional story.
His journey with drag started as a child. He has been in touch with his feminine side since a young age, always exploring his expression with androgynous pieces, which evolved into wearing heels in his early 20s. A Businesswoman Special wig party hosted by Micheal Yurxa and April Wozny got him into a wig, and the rest followed naturally. “They asked me to take a photo in a wig to be on the poster, and then a few days later, I said, ‘Can I maybe perform? Just pull something together?’ and that was it.”
Drag was not something he had wanted to go into, Adam says, explaining that others’ perceptions of the drag community held him back from trying it out. But once he experienced performing as Miss Moço, he was hooked. “I got on that stage and now she’s a queen.” In fact, Miss Moço is currently a superstar in Toronto’s unique drag scene.
But that success wasn’t instantaneous. While the couple was living in Europe, “there wasn’t a drag scene, so I had to create one for myself,” Adam says. “I had moved to Portugal to work on my art, because I had just started doing drag, so I added that into the mix.” He also brought screenings of RuPaul’s Drag Race to local queer spaces, and even started his own competition, Miss Drag Lisboa (for which he still goes back to Portugal each year).
Adam says it’s hard to compare Toronto’s drag scene to anywhere else in the world because of how different it is. For one, Toronto queens are infamous in the city for marathon drag: performing long sets of drag, sometimes four or five songs, taking a short break, and doing four or five more. “I think it’s great because it definitely prepares you to know a lot of music, and have a good repertoire, and prepares you to work hard,” says Adam. “I would love to perform song after song after song because I love to perform, so I think it’s a unique thing to Toronto.”
Drag brunch is relatively new to the city, but it’s exploding in popularity, with a more diverse audience than other drag venues in Toronto. Bars that host traditional drag performances in the Village tend to have more queer-based audiences, while drag brunches in other parts of the city attract a more family-centric, and younger, crowd. “My customers at a drag brunch are I would say 95 to 98 per cent straight,” says Miss Moço. “Every weekend I always ask who’s here for the first time, and I would say 80 per cent of the room is always new every weekend.”
Adam credits the Gladstone Hotel for the diverse audiences that come out to brunch. “I think the space I’m in, and the area that I’m in in this city, brings out a very unique and diverse group of people. I think also that because drag has become more mainstream, that has opened it up.”
Shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race have given drag queens and queer performers exposure and success in mainstream popular culture. Queer audiences still mostly dominate drag performances in queer spaces, but as the worldwide drag fan base becomes more diverse, so do the number of fans who want to experience live performances. While it’s fantastic that drag is becoming more beloved by the masses, there is still division within the community about these new audiences. “I think where it becomes a bit of an issue is when these people are coming into our safe space, where we know we can go and just 100 per cent be ourselves. Unfortunately, all it takes is that one rotten apple to spoil it for everybody,” says Miss Moço. While some queens may see the wider audience base as a disadvantage, Miss Moço sees it as an opportunity to open more people’s eyes to the world of drag.
Her performances aren’t limited to drag brunches, either. She takes her performances at corporate events as an opportunity to bring drag, and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, to people who might never find themselves at a traditional drag performance. “I’ve always gone into anything I do business minded, so I’m here for mainstream, I’m here for corporate gigs – I’m also here for maybe shedding a little light when people don’t understand, especially at corporate gigs. It may be their first drag show, and I don’t mind being there to be a bit of a resource,” she says.
For a while, local queens were getting corporate gigs only during Pride season, but now companies are bringing in queer performers and drag queens all year round, which is a testament to their mainstream success and the changing environment surrounding drag performers. Miss Moço says it’s a reminder that the LGBTQ+ community exists, and deserves visibility outside of Pride season – and more people are starting to understand that.
While the mainstream success has resulted in more people eagerly coming out and supporting local drag performers, drag isn’t exactly what it looks like on television. Comparing local queens to the queens you see on Drag Race isn’t always a fair fight. “What you’re seeing is very scripted, and guided. Us queens are out here schlepping across the city, spending hours on our makeup getting ready for a gig, and we’re not getting paid from the moment we start getting ready. We get paid when we get to a gig. It’s a lot of work.”
Queens from Drag Race have big platforms that attract large crowds, but local queens need your support too. Canada’s local queens will get their time in the spotlight with the arrival of Drag Race Canada, which will no doubt bring some more attention to the Toronto drag scene. “I think it’s going to – I hope – make a very positive impact,” says Miss Moço.
Miss Moço is just getting started, and she’s already done incredible things in Toronto’s drag community. From hosting drag brunch at the Gladstone and introducing new people to the art of drag, to participating in a national Roots campaign, she shows no sign of slowing down. Recently, her drag brunch has been sold out weekly, and she’s even hosted actress Cate Blanchett at a brunch. She is continually finding new ways to make her performances interesting. From starting out with a photo in a wig for a Businesswoman Special, the entrepreneuress is now serving Businesswoman Special 24/7, with flowers, wine, lip syncs and wig snatches.
BIANCA GUZZO is a writer based out of the GTA. She spends her free time watching Trixie Mattel makeup tutorials, though she has yet to nail the look.