Priyanka has teamed up with hard seltzer brand Vizzy to roll out a creative grant program offering funding, mentorships and more…
By Christopher Turner
To say it’s been a busy year for Priyanka would be an understatement. The Toronto-based drag queen has been keeping herself insanely busy since she beat out the 11 other contestants of Canada’s Drag Race to win $100,000 and the inaugural crown for the true North strong and fierce.
Most recently Priyanka signed on as the Community Impact Director for Vizzy, the hard seltzer brand that launched in Canada earlier this year, and the pair are busy working with notable nonprofit Queer Collective on their first order of business: The #Vizzybility Project. The new creative grant program will elevate the #Vizzybility (see what they did there?) of LGBTQ+ artists across the country by appointing grants valued at $35,000 each to four different Canadian LGBTQ+ artists. Each grant includes one-on-one mentorships with Priyanka, features in brand social content, enrollment in a month-long virtual artist incubator with Queer Collective and spotlights in earned media outreach in the Canadian market. Not too bad.
We caught up with Priyanka to talk about the initiative, as well as what it has been like to reign during a global pandemic, her fave queens from the Drag Race franchise, what’s next for her and much more!
Priyanka! You proved it takes more than a global pandemic to keep a good queen down. What has the last year been like for you?
That is RIGHT! Hard work makes dreams come true and I was determined to make that happen. You know, I saw the pandemic take so many lives and it was so shocking and even NOW with the vaccine I want to make sure everyone is being very careful. I started to brainstorm ways to entertain the people who are stuck at home and becoming an iconic pop star diva was what I came up with. A pretty good place to land!
That being said…what do you think the future of drag and live performance looks like for the next year?
The future of drag is already here! There are so many new ways of entertaining people which is SO GREAT. YouTube, Live Streams, TikToks…you name it – put your art out there! It’s so important to be seen. With live events reopening again, the future of drag will be back on stage but with an appreciation for a bedroom queen!
How else do you think we can be supporting our LGBTQ artists right now?
Like, comment, stream, buy and tip! We are constantly putting out so much content and it’s important to keep supporting and keep engaging with people. Tell me I’m pretty, I love a compliment!
Did you find that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed you or affected you in other ways?
Yes! My body is not the same any more. So many of us struggle with not being as active, binging food, not getting enough exercise. Listen, I struggle with this and it’s not fun to just be SITTING at home doing NOTHING. Know that you’re not alone and set goals for yourself and follow through for yourself!
Looking back on your entire career, what challenges have had to overcome in your career to seek visibility?
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and a person of colour, I understand first-hand what it feels to be under-represented. I’m not alone as 69% of the Canadian LGBTQ+ community feel underseen and misrepresented in the media.
My dream was to be on television. My mother always told me to not let my queerness or heritage hold me back, and pushed me to go after my dreams. Starting out as an intern at MTV in Canada, I worked my way up in the industry and became the first web host of YTV’s The Next Star. I toured Canada as the face of Next Star Nation, and then was hand-picked by YTV as the face of their flagship after school program The Zone. But even with all my success, I was still faced with “you’re too flamboyant for TV”, “you’re too this”, “you’re too that.”
After 6 years of being on TV, I decided I didn’t just want to be the one interviewing, I wanted to be the one being interviewed. In 2018, I tried drag for the first time and I felt instantly connected to myself as an artist and creator. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I discovered our power in creating our own platforms, shows, and how we want to look.
As Priyanka, I feel unstoppable. And now I want to channel her to help other LGBTQ+ people like me be represented in the media, which is why the #Vizzybility Project is such an exciting initiative for me to be a part of. Through this collaboration, Vizzy and I are on a mission to drive impact and facilitate a contribution to the LGBTQ+ Community with the intention of celebrating what makes everyone unique.
So, what is The #Vizzybility Project and why did you decide to work with Vizzy?
Vizzy, the first Hard Seltzer with Acerola Cherry, has signed me, Canada’s first crowned drag superstar as Community Impact Director to launch the #Vizzybility Project – a new creative grant program that elevates the #Vizzybility of LGBTQ+ artists.
Through The Vizzybility Project, four Canadian diverse LGBTQ+ artists will be chosen to receive brand supported #Vizzybility valued at over $35,000 each to fund their art and provide exposure across Canada.
Where did the inspiration come from to create the Vizzybility project? Was this an idea brought to you from Vizzy, or were you given the reins to ideate?
The idea came together in collaboration between myself, Vizzy, and Queer Collective. As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ Community and the fact that I understood first-hand what it feels like to be under-represented, Vizzy signed me as their first Community Impact Director to help ideate and developm an impactful plan to launch in Vizzy in Canada and drive true meaning and impact for marginalized communities in Canada.
From brainstorms to late-night reviews, we worked together very closely to come up with and launch the Vizzybility Project – an idea I am SO passionate about and proud to have contributed to.
For our friends and artists who don’t end up receiving mentorship from you… What is a tip you can share with them to help up their game?
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I wake up every morning and tell myself that I’m an icon. You must do the same thing. Imposter syndrome can take over but it’s important that you tell yourself you’re amazing. IF YOU BELIEVE IT, WE WILL BELIEVE IT!
Any tips for the contestants on the upcoming season of Canada’s Drag Race?
Don’t do it, I want to reign forever.
Favourite Queens from the entire Drag Race franchise! (we had to ask!)
Alyssa Edwards, Alexis Mateo, Trixie, Katya, Lemon, Jimbo, Cheryl Hole, Priyanka, Priyanka, Priyanka, Priyanka, Priyanka, Priyanka, Priyanka.
And, finally… What’s next for you?
I am so excited to share my new music with the world! I began working on new music at a time when my life was in shambles. My uncle died, I got into a car accident and my boyfriend had just dumped me. I was inspired to channel all of that pain and confusion into larger-than-life pop songs my fans could dance and cry to. With Vizzy’s support, I’m creating music videos for the new songs which will be on my upcoming debut EP! I hope that they inspire other queer people to become the popstars of their own lives, whatever that means for them. It’s about taking your pain and struggles and turning it into bold, authentic art!
But I know that it’s also hard to see your own power as an artist. For every one person who enters the Vizzybility grant program, there will be a thousand more people who don’t have the confidence to participate. I hope that just by seeing someone like me in a music video, breaking into the mainstream, it will hopefully inspire them to live boldly.
Stay tuned, you are not going to want to miss this new pop era!
Inspired by Queen Priyanka’s well-known tagline – What’s My Naaaaame – Vizzy wants to learn YOUR name! If you’re an artist looking from some visibility, visit vizzyhardseltzer.com/en-CA/vizzybility-grant-program to learn more about the #Vizzybility Project and how you can apply for a grant to support your art.