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Spring 2024 Cover Story- Canada's Reigning Queens - The Drag Series - HEADER 1

Spring 2024 Cover Story: Canada’s Reigning Queens

Canada’s Drag Race royalty Priyanka, Icesis Couture, Gisèle Lullaby and Venus join The Queen Of The North Brooke Lynn Hytes and get behind the camera for one epic photo shoot…

Story and interviews by Christopher Turner
Photographer: Fernando Cysneiros

Since RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered back on February 2, 2009, drag artists from all seasons of the show and its many spinoffs have become superstars on the global circuit. Drag Race was a game changer, and its alumni now tour the globe, dominate social media, walk international fashion runways, play major concerts and festivals, and have become a very real part of our lives. Canada’s Drag Race is no different. 

Of course, Brooke Lynn Hytes captured the entire country’s attention when she strutted into Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race as the first Canadian contestant to appear on the hit drag competition series, and she made history as the first alum from the cultural phenomenon to hold down a fixed gig as a panellist on any of the series’ international editions. But she’s not the only one. Since the Canadian spin-off premiered on July 2, 2020, Canadian queens have been going global, following in the footsteps of their sisters south of the border. And Canada’s four winning queens – Priyanka, Icesis Couture, Gisèle Lullaby and Venus – have been leading the way.

Spring 2024 Cover Story: Canada's Reigning Queens

What better way to celebrate than with a little photo shoot. For the first time, all of Canada’s reigning queens, plus Brooke Lynn Hytes, Canada’s Drag Race’s most iconic host, were gathered together in mid-February in Toronto for one epic photo shoot and Q&A. Read on to see the pics and hear what each of the queens had to say on secrets from their season, returning to the Drag Race world to compete again, role models, the best advice they’ve ever received, what drag means to them, what they would be doing if they weren’t in drag, and much more.


Priyanka
Winner of Season 1 of Canada’s Drag Race, which premiered on July 2, 2020

CREDITS:
MAKEUP: Kályd Odeh
HAIR: Kirsten Klontz, Bellami Hair
OUTFIT: Artiface Clothing / Mr. Haque
NAILS: The Pink Room
STYLING: Kályd Odeh

Tell us something about your experience on your season of Canada’s Drag Race that we might not know.
Oh wow, I feel like I’ve told EVERY SINGLE story ever. One that I actually don’t ever say out loud was when I got home from filming, I told all my friends that I knew Rita Baga was going to win. It wasn’t until the show aired that I realized how well I was doing. Imposter Syndrome at its best!

Would you ever make a return to the Drag Race world on an All-Winners season or similar?
I think about what Bob the Drag Queen said about doing an All-Winners season. She said, ‘I do drag other places too!’ Of course, the prospect of being back on a season is a HUGE deal and you KNOW I love a good competition. I would absolutely consider returning if it were the right time for me. Last year I said 100 per cent. Now I’m like….wait…WILL IT BE THE RIGHT TIME?! 

What’s the one piece of advice someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?
Oh wow, well, during my reign, as AMAZING and INCREDIBLE as it was, there were plenty of growing pains with friends, family…everyone, it felt like. The one piece of advice I always carry with me is, ‘I know you do this because you love people so much, but you will never really ever be able to protect yourself from bad people out there. Don’t let negative thoughts and people slow you down; always remember the little kid who used to dance in his bedroom with big dreams.’ I’m living those dreams! The doubts that you have are fictional obstacles you’re putting in your way to make it easier for the people around you to be content with what they have. Dream Big! 

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?
I always say, WORK SO HARD YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE. I am constantly WERKING and thinking of bigger and better ways to entertain people. I mean, look at this magazine cover – I pitched it to you! [Editor’s note: Yes, she did.] Don’t be afraid to ask: the worst they will do is say no or ghost you, but that happens all the time so…who cares? RIGHT?!

There is so much chatter about drag right now, especially south of the border. I’m wondering: what is drag all about for you at its core? What does it mean to you?
Being able to host HBO’s We’re Here really showed me a lot of truths about hate. I will say that the only difference between hate in Canada vs the US is that it’s a different country. People need drag more than ever right now – it’s the ultimate escape and inspiration for so many people to find themselves. There is nothing like going on stage and being able to be exactly who you dreamed of being, or being an audience member and watching someone not care about what the world thinks of them. It’s inspiring and ICONIC! 

If you weren’t doing drag right now, what would you be doing?
I guess still hosting kids’ TV?!??!?!! [Editor’s note: Priyanka’s alter ego, Mark Suknanan, was a host of  YTV children’s series The Zone.] Or trying to pursue an out of drag music career LOL what?! 

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I have an addiction to Ajisen Ramen. My order is Spicy Beef with mala broth, spicy pork, extra egg, udon noodle and corn, ALSO NO SPROUTS – UGH I HATE SPROUTS. 

Last question. What’s next for you?
I wouldn’t say it’s NEXT, I would say it’s NOW! Pop Music World Domination, Baby!!


Icesis Couture
Winner of Season 2 of Canada’s Drag Race, which premiered on October 14, 2021

CREDITS:
MAKEUP: Icesis Couture
HAIR: Drag Daddy
OUTFIT: Suki Doll
JEWELLERY: Suki Doll
STYLING: Icesis Couture

Tell us something about your experience on your season of Canada’s Drag Race that we might not know.
While filming snatch game, Suki Doll had a roll of toilet paper and got up from the table and wrapped Brooke Lynn Hytes in the paper as Yoko Ono. Just one of the hilarious moments that I cherish from my time on Drag Race that did not make it to TV! 

Would you ever make a return to the Drag Race world on an All-Winners season or similar?
Absolutely! I’ve always said ‘never say never,’ and even though currently I may still not be ready to immediately jump right back in after doing two season back to back, the opportunity to return in front of RuPaul for an All-Winners season would be a dream!

What’s the one piece of advice someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?
Never stop learning, growing and pushing yourself to be better than you were yesterday, and use what you’re learning to make a difference! 

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?
It’s okay to put your well-being first! It is not an act of selfishness; it’s actually quite the opposite! You must put your happiness and health first before you can be of help to anyone else! Kindness and understanding to yourself goes a long way! 

There is so much chatter about drag right now, especially south of the border. I’m wondering: what is drag all about for you at its core? What does it mean to you?
Drag at its core to me is a true expression of who I am as a person, and who I aspire to be in the world. My love of fashion, beauty and art is the culmination and form of who Icesis Couture is. It’s everything, both beautiful and ugly, about me. Drag helped me figure out who I am, and genuinely helped me through some of the hardest times in life. Drag has truly saved my life – to me drag means everything.

If you weren’t doing drag right now, what would you be doing?
I’ve got two answers! 1: Obviously something in the creative fashion field! Whether that be designing, directing, curating, etc. 2: A vet, or running a dog shelter. I have such a love, respect, connection and admiration for animals that I would love to dedicate my life and time to helping animals in need, any way I can!

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I’m actually a pretty open book when it comes to the aspects of myself and my life I care to share. There is not anything at this current moment that you don’t already know…well, save the rest for a book! Lol 

Last question. What’s next for you?
As always! Continuing to travel the world, putting my best foot forward and working harder than I did the day before to help spread Canadian drag as the mecca of the art form of drag! And we have lots of secret projects currently in the works that I’m super, super excited about and can’t wait to share with the world!


Gisèle Lullaby
Winner of Season 3 of Canada’s Drag Race, which premiered on July 14, 2022

CREDITS:
MAKEUP: Gisèle Lullaby
HAIR: Hugo Lamoureux
OUTFIT: Cluc
NAILS: Funeral Face Nails
JEWELLERY: Gisèle Lullaby
STYLING: Gisèle Lullaby

Tell us something about your experience on your season of Canada’s Drag Race that we might not know.
One of the things I was excited by was, they gave us each a journal to track our thoughts and experiences and plans day to day at the hotel! Funny thing was, when I checked in I received two in error, which helped me to sort my thoughts for sure! By the end of the season, one looked like a novel of good times, and the other was filled with only desperation and doubt –that one ended up in the garbage at the airport on my way back home after wrapping lol!

Would you ever make a return to the Drag Race world on an All-Winners season or similar?
Of course! I love Drag Race, and the concept of all the winners together competing for a crown without elimination would make for a super exciting time! I would say yes right now! Yes!

What’s the one piece of advice someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?
Practise, and take the time to learn your craft! Practise your number and dedicate the time in your schedule to rehearse and challenge yourself to be better. Practise your makeup and learn your face – being this gorgeous takes time and is a process to learn, so don’t rush it! 

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?
First, thank you! Second, tomorrow can ALWAYS be better than yesterday! And thirdly, you can have the same dream as someone else, and celebrate their accomplishments at the same time. There’s a beautiful community here, and we can all win together, whether or not you get the crown! 

There is so much chatter about drag right now, especially south of the border. I’m wondering: what is drag all about for you at its core? What does it mean to you?
Honestly, for me: beauty, freedom, truth and love!!! At its core, drag is meant to entertain, inspire, and at its core bring queer joy!

If you weren’t doing drag right now, what would you be doing?
Wow, good question! Growing up poor, I feel like I’ve literally already done every job possible haha! But for real – I think I’d be a reporter, TV journalist or news anchor.… Even though I’m dyslexic, it would be so much fun! 

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I love to eat!! Touring around the world has been amazing for the food!! Discovering so many new flavours! I did a tour across Europe last spring with La Big Bertha from Drag Race France, and we had only one mission: eating! Best tour ever! 

Last question. What’s next for you?
Since last summer, I am now engaged, so focusing on my wedding plans. I’ll be a blushing bride before you know it! As well, a lot of touring, and I’m starting to write a top-secret film project…which I can’t wait to share more about! I’m really excited for everyone to see what I’ve got coming up next! 


Venus
Winner of Season 4 of Canada’s Drag Racewhich premiered on November 16, 2023

CREDITS:
MAKEUP: Venus
HAIR: Marc-Andre Levac
OUTFIT: Evan Clayton
NAILS: Jo Durée
STYLING: Venus

Tell us something about your experience on your season of Canada’s Drag Race that we might not know.
I’m the only queen in Canada’s Drag Race herstory to win the crown without having to lip-sync for her life. The only time I lip-synced was for the win in Episode 1 and for the crown in the finale. But you already knew that 😉 #FemmeTopDomination 

Would you ever make a return to the Drag Race world on an All-Winners season or similar?
Yes…in due time.… I want to let things marinate for a little longer, though. 

What’s the one piece of advice someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?
Gisèle was one of the first people I saw after my win. I went straight from the crowning to DragCon UK, and she said to me, ‘Now that you’ve won, sometimes you might feel like you have to change yourself to fit other people’s ideas of who they think you should be. Pay no mind to that – remember who you are and that that’s the reason you won. Change only for yourself.’ I’ll carry that with me forever.

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?
Be your own role model. 

There is so much chatter about drag right now, especially south of the border. I’m wondering: what is drag all about for you at its core? What does it mean to you?
Drag is love. Drag is about pure, authentic self-expression. It’s a way for queer people to connect and form community with a chosen family who understand you on a deeper level. I think people need to realize the humanity behind drag artists and that the intention of this art form comes from a place for love. 

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I used to be a flight attendant with Air Canada. I left with the intention of getting on Drag Race (and winning). So, I’d probably still be serving it 35,000 feet in the air. I looked really cute in the uniform too.

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I know I said on the show that I don’t pluck my eyebrows like it was some sort of flex, but I now wax my brows and will never look back. And that’s what? Growth. 

Last question. What’s next for you?
I’m about to have the biggest performance of my career in March…that’s all I can say for now. Follow me @legallyvenus to stay up with all things Venus. There’s so much on the horizon that I can’t wait to share with y’all.


Brooke Lynn Hytes
Host of Canada’s Drag Race

CREDITS:
MAKEUP: Viktor Peters
HAIR: Kirsten Klontz
OUTFIT: Art de Fashion
JEWELLERY: Icesis Couture
STYLING: Brooke Lynn Hytes

Tell us something about your experience hosting Canada’s Drag Race that we might not know.
It’s really hard and stressful! But at the same time the most fun.

Would you ever make a return to the Drag Race world on an All-Winners season or similar?
Never say never 😉

What’s the one piece of advice someone gave you that has really made a difference to you?Comparison is the thief of joy.

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?
Don’t! Just kidding. I would say, Thank you for the love and support. I do my best.

There is so much chatter about drag right now, especially south of the border. I’m wondering: what is drag all about for you at its core? What does it mean to you?
Drag to me is about expression, transformation and, most of all, JOY!

If you weren’t doing drag right now, what would you be doing?
Trophy wife.

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I’m a big introvert.

Last question. What’s next for you?
So many fun things in play I can’t talk about yet!


CHRISTOPHER TURNER is the editor of IN Magazine. He is a Toronto-based writer, editor and lifelong fashionisto with a passion for pop culture and sneakers. Follow him on social media at @Turnstylin.

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