This drag queen is twirling and kicking her way into queer city nightlife…
Story, styling and creative direction by Aram Eginliyan
Photography: Janine Maral
“You better get it!” “YASSS!” And, surely, “Slay Queen!” These are often heard when Aurora Matrix hits the stage at Crews & Tangos, a nightlife staple in the heart of Toronto’s gay village. Aurora may be one of the newer girls to be seen twirling and kicking her way into queer city nightlife – but there is more to this young, talented beauty than a pretty face and some jaw-dropping dance moves.
Whether you are a newer member of the LGBT+ community or have been part of queer nightlife culture for many years, drag queens are undeniably something you are familiar with…especially nowadays, when drag culture is more mainstream than ever before. Given how readily available and apparent it is, it comes as no shock that Toronto – a city with thriving creativity and startup hubs – is also one of the biggest drag-supporting and drag queen-birthing cities in the world, with more than 200 queens giving us shows and entertaining at bars, brunches, birthdays and all forms of celebrations in between, from the city’s east end to the west. And younger generations of queer artists have opened the door for themselves and started a journey that never would have seemed imaginable for themselves as young, questioning queer teens.
Now, being a queen sure isn’t as easy as it looks, let alone a queen who struggles with the traditionalism of an immigrant family and their eastern ideals; one who deals with the harsh realities of parents who are homophobic (yes, that still happens for many, even in a liberal city that is Toronto). Over the past year, Aurora Matrix has gone from having a regular hobby for makeup and practising far away from her traditional Chinese family and upbringing, to bringing down the house all over Toronto’s gay village and beyond: showing us that age truly has no limitation on artistry and the ability to be a true entertainer. At 20 years old – making her one of Toronto’s youngest drag stars to emerge from what seems to be the baby boom era in drag history – Aurora has truly set herself apart from the rest of the emerging Toronto queens.
To have the confidence Aurora has as a new drag queen is something that anyone can admire (albeit with, perhaps, just a teeny tinge of jealousy). As Aurora, nothing can stand in her way, but that isn’t to say that the confidence that exudes out of her as Aurora is apparent in every facet of her life. Coming out wasn’t the easiest journey, and living now as a formulated open queer individual hasn’t become any easier, coming as she does from a traditional Chinese family where the topic of being gay is extremely frowned upon and often dismissed to this very day. This is a common tale among the queer community, and one that leads many to find their tribe within their new ideals of what family really means. As queer individuals, we often “choose” our family: the people who form us after we come out and who understand us in ways that some of our original family perhaps never will.
In talking about the struggles with her birth family, Aurora says, “Coming out was extremely difficult since my family doesn’t support the LGBTQ+ community. Because of that, they actually don’t know that I am a drag queen.” But, she continues, “through drag, I have met so many wonderful people who love and support both me and my art, and I have found a second family within the Toronto drag community.”
Aurora goes on to say that “being an Asian queen and representing my culture through drag is extremely important to me, especially because there are so few of us in the Toronto drag scene. Growing up, there weren’t really any queer and Asian role models that I could look up to. Now that I have this platform, I want to be a role model for queer Asian youth. I want to be able to be that figure that queer Asian youth can look up to, because I didn’t have that when I needed it the most.”
Marrying drag with Chinese tradition
Recently, she hit the stage in one of her proudest moments in drag yet: a baby blue traditional Chinese Cheongsam dress made with a fabric patterned with blue dragons, a vintage victory roll hairstyle with a barrel curl back, decorated with yellow and white flowers. Aurora was a vintage Asian Barbie straight out of the box!
“Throughout my childhood, I would always look forward to Chinese New Year, because my family and friends would always dress up in our traditional Chinese clothing. I always admired the Cheongsam and was often jealous that I never got to wear one. So it was a full circle moment for me to be able to wear one as Aurora.”
Oppressing your “gayness,” fighting the status quo and discovering who you are as a queer individual is a liberating journey that truly is never-ending, and when you add a pound of makeup and your favourite pair of heels, it is bound to become even more interesting. “My drag is hyper-feminine and I love it,” says Aurora. “Out of drag, however, I try to hold back that side of me in fear that I might come off as too feminine. My queer identity is something that I continuously work on, and I look forward to exploring it more as I continue on this journey.”
Similar to how we all evolve as queer individuals, Aurora faces the challenge of simultaneously evolving as both a queer individual and an artist. Her makeup, she says, is “definitely a key factor of the transformation process – almost like a ritual.” And with a face painted as beautifully as a porcelain doll, you cannot help but stare in a daze at how, at such a young age, Aurora was able to perfect her face in a way that would take some queens decades to manage.
Her talent doesn’t stop at the face (or “mug,” which is a more common term queens use to describe their painted faces) – this queen is far from a one-trick pony. When asked what she would say to those asking what to expect at an Aurora Matrix show, she answers, “Pop, dance, splits and sex,” which really are things she incorporates into every single one of her high-energy dance numbers. But for Aurora, it’s not all about making people talk with her dance moves, it’s about making a difference, and also showing up each and every night as a loud and proud Asian queen.
What does she ultimately want to accomplish with her platform? “Drag has helped me through tough times in my life, and I want to be able to do the same for others.” And if she gets to do that, being the proud Asian queen she is, it’s as good as it can possibly be for this budding drag superstar.
You can catch Aurora Matrix performing all over Toronto, but mostly frequenting local drag bars like Woody’s and Crews & Tangos. Trust us when we say, you’re not going to want to miss her on your next big gay night out!
ARAM EGINLIYAN is a Toronto-based wardrobe stylist, style writer and co-owner of Toronto’s The Fashion Hotline. A fashion chameleon and lover of all things fashion and luxury, he can often be seen playing with highs and lows in fashion, mixing and matching local vintage gems with high-end street style.