In celebration of International Drag Day on July 16, we asked one of our favourite Canadian queens to write a few words…
By Sofonda – Thrive
Brought to you by FIDO
Click here to read this article in French/Cliquez ici pour lire l’article en français
I often think about a time when I caught up with an acquaintance who had just become a lawyer after five years of school.
New Lawyer (NL): What are you up to these days?
Sofonda: I’ve been performing at Woody’s every week as well as doing shows around the city.
NL: You still doing that shit? Don’t you do anything else?
Sofonda: No, actually, I don’t. I’ve been performing full-time for a few years now.
NL: Isn’t that just a hobby? I can’t believe you’re still doing that.
I don’t know what it is but I always seem to dwell on that negative interaction. I was seven years in as a full-time drag entertainer and today I write to you, thriving in the art of drag in my 21st year. My name is Jonathan and my drag name is Sofonda.
I’m always shocked when people don’t recognize the art of drag as a career option. Yes, it is not quite what my parents had in mind. They dreamt of me being a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, an architect or even a dentist. I know, I know, our parents simply want the best for us. It’s quite common to have this belief, especially in my culture, being half Sri Lankan, plus Filipino, Mexican and Chinese. (What a mix, right?!) It has been ingrained in us that success appears once you follow the path of one of these five sought-after careers. So I followed it…only to realize, after my fourth year going for a BSc from U of T, that my passion lay in the arts.
Success = Preparation + Opportunity
Although this equation may seem accurate, I thought it was incomplete. Success happens when Preparation meets Opportunity with a pinch of Passion. Having a passion for something you love and that you wake up for every day is essential. Passion is saying to yourself, “What great things could I accomplish today?”
My passion was in the art of drag. So, rather than dwell on that same negative interaction with NL that scarred me for life, I thought I’d share with you the fabulous experiences and rewards/accolades I’ve received while performing for over 21 years in our lovely city of Toronto.
I broke into the art of drag by joining amateur competitions throughout Toronto’s Village. You need to stand out and luckily I was crafty, I loved to dance, and it paid off in my shows. I won talent contests from one bar to the next until I was offered a job at Woody’s, Crews, Fly and the Unity festival. I was working the circuit. I flourished throughout 2000 and on New Years Eve 2001, I graced the cover of Xtra Magazine as a top Queen of the Millennium. This was when I was coined the Sexy, Sassy, Sensational Sofonda.
I was Miss El Convento Rico one year, Miss Woody’s the next, Miss Zippers the following year, and so on. When the Queer as Folk series came to town, I landed three feature performance roles in different episodes! I did national commercials and corporate bookings, and performed the largest, spectacular shows at the annual PRISM festival. (I remember one Pride, I was strapped in a harness, performing 20 feet above 8,000 party revellers at the CNE Automotive Building.) I have been blessed to have been flown and booked to perform at places like Bermuda, Malaysia, Brazil, all over Mexico, all over the United States, all across Canada. Whether it be a solo show or a production number, I was ready to share my chops as a choreographer and director to produce a stunning show.
Being recognized as a reliable working queen was wonderful. Promoters definitely appreciate the hard work and effort you put into the shows. But what I value most is the fact that my audience and I have grown up together for over 21 years. It’s a relationship that I hold dear.
The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race brought drag to the mainstream audience, making it even more popular than ever, especially on social media. On August 3, 2015, when my Destiny’s Child Puppeteer Performance went viral – boasting over two million views on social media – I was speechless. That was followed by two other performances that went viral as well: The Spice Girls Group Puppeteer performance and my rendition of Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” all landing me on the national news. I was also featured on CBC’s Canada’s a Drag Docu series.
I am a trooper at heart and most definitely the queen of the hustle. I have found that success in my career as a drag performer requires constant evolution. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve performed online virtually through my show on Saturdays called Sofondays. I performed curbside for private events and at Drive Ins, and became a recording artist.
I rarely do this, but I’m gonna give myself a pat on the back for a career well executed. I usually cringe when I get complimented. But from this day forward, I will be proud of my hard work and accomplishments. It wasn’t easy getting here. It was a lot of work, but it was definitely a lot of fun. So on July 16, on International Drag Day, show your queens your love. In fact, show your queens some love every time you see them on stage. It goes a long way.
Your friendly neighbourhood queen,