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Canada’s Drag Race Season 4 Sashay Q&Eh: Aimee Yoncé Shennel

IN Magazine talks to Ottawa’s Aimee Yoncé Shennel, the fifth queen to be eliminated from Canada’s Drag Race season 4…

Aimee Yoncé Shennel knows how to make telenovela-worthy drama on television. Aimee was sent home as part of episode six’s double elimination (You can read IN‘s recap of episode four “The Slay-Offs” right here). She chats with IN Magazine about the importance of connecting with fans, what queens inspire her, and of course, that damn towel dress.

You’re a proud Ottawa Queen, so what is unique about Ottawa’s drag scene that sets it apart from the rest of Canada?
The drag performers in Ottawa in general, they are amazing. They are powerful, they are emotional, they are the drama. Because right now, the people want to base their performance on a split and all of these gymnastic things. But in Ottawa, you can have those types of shows, like splitting and all of that, but we always make sure to connect with the audience because we don’t want you to come to the show and just watch the beautiful makeup and outfits. We want you to go home with an experience. And the experience is like meeting the queen, connecting with the queen, feeling emotions, we do song requests. So I think that’s the difference between the performers in Ottawa and other cities.

Also I see in other cities like the queens, they are split by groups. These people, then those people, and they don’t talk with these people. In Ottawa, we have differences, yeah, we have problems, you know that. But when you need your sister, they will be there for you right away.

Like, my viewing party, all of my drag performer sisters and brothers, because we have drag kings here too, they come to my viewing party and support me.

That’s amazing.
And it’s something I don’t see in other cities. I don’t want to mention which city, but I went to one city to perform, and I was talking with people because I like to talk with people. I like to take photos, I like to hug, I like that experience. They were like, “Oh Aimee, don’t talk to them. Come here to the VIP area”. I’m not a VIP queen. Just because I’m on TV you’re not allowed to touch me? I’m not God,I’m human. I’m just like you! What I really enjoy from my drag is meeting people, sharing emotions, and telling you how much I love you. Who I am is because of you. Because of people who are watching the show, because of people who come to my shows. Because of the people who tell me how beautiful I am every single day, that gives me motivation to work hard and show the best of me all the time.

Talking about experience, Were you surprised when Nearah chose to lip sync against you during the slay off?
I would say yes and no because to be honest, it was not planned. It’s not like producers made that happen in that way. No. As you can see, they were picking names and the name were hidden, so we don’t really know who they’re going to call. AndI had the opportunity to go up against Venus, because Venus was alone. Well, I saw that spot empty there. It was like, you know what? Let me pick this one. And whoever comes against me, it’s fine. We’re going to do a show. So when they call Nearah…Yeah, I knew she was coming for me because every single week we have a moment in the show. I knew when they called her name, I was like “Okay, this is gonna happen”, because she really wanted to send me home (laughs). But she just wanted to prove “I didn’t send you the first time, let me send you now”, and she did! I’m home right now (laughs).

Speaking of lip syncs with Nearah, you are part of an iconic one this season that is the only double shantay in Canada’s Drag Race herstory. What goes through your mind when you’re lip syncing for your life?
To be honest, the fight I had with Nearah last night, that was the end for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore. And I know on social media people are saying “Why did you put yourself in the bottom against Nearah if Nearah knows how to do this and that?” First of all, I didn’t know that person until I met them on the show. And second, we were just fighting and it was really intense. What I was thinking in my mind is, “If she goes home or I go home… I just can’t see this person anymore”. I was watching it on TV, I’m really sorry to the audience because I wasn’t really performing, I was coming for her. I was just like, I want to lip sync to her. And I feel like as a drag performer, I shouldn’t lip sync against my drag sister. I should lip sync to connect with the judges, you know? I’m in the bottom to give a show to the audience. But that night, I don’t know, I think I take things personal and I was just coming for the bitch. I think with the lip sync I performed, I delivered. They kept me. And I’m so happy for the opportunity because I really wanted to be on the show. And I still want to be on the show. 

If you could go back and do one challenge differently, which challenge would it be and what would you change?
The design challenge, I’m not going to use the fucking towels! And I’m sorry for swearing, but the design challenge, because I’m not a designer. Design is not my thing but I know how to put things together. This is what I was trying to explain in the show. I took classes just to have an idea. And even that week when I was doing my design challenge, I made the pattern from scratch. I didn’t ask a single person for help, not for a zipper, not how to assemble the machine or for anything because I wanted to show them this is not my area, but I can do something. I wanted to challenge myself. What would I do different? I would ask questions. I would go and ask the girls, “Oh, do you know how to sew? You know how to design? Hi Sister, let’s be best friends. Let me grab all of your tips”. And if I have questions about how to do the stuff, I will ask, I don’t want to be afraid of asking you because this is a competition, and I need to use every single tool I have around me. On Drag Race we don’t have time to think. You don’t have time to say “Oh, I made a mistake, let me go back”. No, girl. You are there, you have to fight, you have to do what you have to do. And you can’t overthink.

When I spoke to Kitten she brought up your towel dress, and she mentioned that Balenciaga just did a towel dress. You were just ahead of the curve. The world wasn’t ready for the towel dress yet.
The towels, they are following me. Oh my god! Social media, everywhere. Towel, towel, towel. I know it was terrible. I’m not saying my look should have been in the top that week. I knew I was supposed to be in the bottom. I didn’t cry because I was in the bottom. I was crying because of other things I’m not allowed to share, and then Nearah started coming for me. I was like, “Girl, I haven’t even touched your name. I haven’t mentioned you like why are you trying?” But it’s good. I’m happy because we made TV. That was a great TV drama. That was a telenovela. It was great.

And what were you most proud of during your time on the show?
I’m really, really proud of the girl group challenge when I wrote the song. I don’t know if you listen to my song, but you should listen to my song. My lyrics were the best (laughs). Yeah, I really have fun with that. I’m so proud because I wrote a song in a language that’s not my language. Even though I put in a little bit of Spanish, and I mixed Spanish and English. Trying to mix them and trying to make them make sense and be funny at the same time. It was fun!

Who inspires you and your drag the most?
She’s in the competition. When I arrived to Canada in 2016, Isis Couture, Kiki Coe, and Makayla Brown. Makayla Brown is not performing anymore. But they were the first queens I saw. And since I saw them at the local bar, I was like, “Oh, wow!” I was so into their art. I told them I wanted to try drag. And then a year after I tried. And since 2017, here I am! It’s a process. If you saw a photo and video of how I used to perform in 2017, it’s like, “GIRL”. I’m like a Pokemon with my evolution, but I’m happy. My big inspiration, I would say in Canada would be a combination between Kiki Coe and Icesis. But out of Canada, one of my inspirations, like, I cry watching her season is Shangela. Just because I really see myself in Shangela. Like, every time the girls were coming for her, for her makeup, or saying,  “you’re not going to do this, you’re going to be nobody”, and all of that kind of hate she was getting, I’ve been getting in my career.

I’m wearing this hair today because a long time ago, I was wearing an afro to do a promotion video. And somebody was like, “Oh, can you change the hair? I don’t like that hair. That hair is, no. Can you have something more draggy, big, and blonde, and maybe long and all that?” No! Do you know why it’s not gonna happen? Because this hair, my afro hair, this is who I am. I’m an Afro-Latina. You’re not going to tell me what to do with my drag. I’m wearing this hair today representing my black community, all of my Afro-Latina people, all of my African people, because I’m an Afro descendant even though I’m from The Dominican Republic. I’m beautiful and I’m happy with myself right now. Thanks to the show, because on the show I learned how to love and respect myself more.

And you look absolutely stunning today. But what was your favorite look that you wore on the show?
Too many! Sunglasses at Night. That was one of my favorite ones. I would change the color of my lips because when you’re painting it looks great. But when you see it on TV (pauses)…I don’t know. Because I saw myself in the mirror and I was like, “Oh girl… tonight’s your night” But it was not my night unfortunately (laughs).

What’s up next for Aimee Yoncé Shennel? What are you excited about?
I’m so excited for next year. I’m going to L.A. DragCon. I’m so excited for that. I’m getting ready for that. I’m planning a tour coming up because obviously I got eliminated, and I’m not part of the Canada’s Drag Race Tour because it’s something for the top four. I’m so talented (laughs) and, you know, I wish I could travel with them, but I’m planning to do my own thing. I’m gonna work with a few of my sisters from the same management and then we’ll see! 

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