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PRIDE: Sil Sit Down with Priyanka Priyanka guest stars amongst Hamilton queens during Digital Pride 2020

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Photos C/O Bell Media

Pride month is coming to an end, but its impacts can be seen throughout the year with the increase of queer culture coming into the mainstream. One such example is the popularization of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, a show that puts drag queens through competition-style challenges, competing to become America’s next drag superstar. The show has recently expanded to Thailand, Chile, the United Kingdom and on July 2, “Canada’s Drag Race” premieres on Crave.

12 drag queens from across the country will showcase their various drag styles. One contestant, Priyanka, hails from Toronto. Not only has she been crowned Miss Crews and Tangos (2018-2019) and NOW’s 2019 Readers’ Choice winner for Best Drag Performer, but you may know her as a former host of YTV’s “The Zone”. Priyanka recently decided to do drag as a full-time profession due to its boundless limitations.

“Whenever you do something for so long and you have a creative frame, you tend to get bored because your brain is always [wondering], ‘what’s next?’ . . . At the end of my kids TV career . . . I kinda hit my ceiling and the natural progression was to enter drag and see what I can do there. [T]he cool thing about drag is there is no limit on what you can do. You can do everything, which I love,” said Priyanka.

July 5 marks the queen’s birthday, having been involved with the Toronto drag scene for three years. In that amount of time, Priyanka has carved out her own space within the queer community while representing people of colour, which is reflected on “Drag Race” as she is the first Guyanese contestant. Much of Priyanka’s drag is representative of pop stars such as Beyonce or Rihanna; however, she integrates her cultural heritage into each and every performance.

“[G]rowing up, you’re so scared to bring your chicken curry to school because you don’t want your white friends to smell it, and now everyone is like ‘Oh my god Priyanka is the first ever Guyanese drag queen on Drag Race’, said Priyanka. “At this time in my life, I am the proudest to be who I am because I’m representing people who need to be proud of who they are.”

Priyanka recalled her early beginnings as a drag queen, comparing her looks to driving down a long road and seeing roadkill, but then blossoming into a gorgeous gay goddess. She attributes much of what she knows about drag to her drag mother, Xtacy Love, who has been with Priyanka since the beginning of her career.

“There was one time where I was painting my face and my drag mother, Xtacy Love, sat across from me, [watching] me paint and questioned everything I was doing. I wanted to be put up for adoption because it was the worst experience of my life. It was awful, but the thing is because she was questioning me, I was learning so much about makeup and why you’re putting things in the places you’re putting [them] . . . for my kind of drag, you’re sculpting your face to really sell into this illusion,” said Priyanka.

Typically Pride month is a busy time of year for drag entertainers. With festivals across the province moving to an online platform, performers have been finding different ways to still participate. Priyanka has been hosting Zoom parties, posting on YouTube, livestreaming on Instagram and performed as a part of Pride Hamilton’s Digital Pride.

Priyanka believes that a virtual Pride has its own merits as it allows people to reevaluate the importance of why we have a month dedicated to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and to focus on how to create inclusivity amongst one another. While it might not be fun staying indoors during a time usually spent celebrating, it’s important to remember Pride’s roots and why we are all here.

Advocacy and drag have always been intertwined within the Queer community. For Priyanka, it’s important to use the platform she has acquired to share information with those who follow her.

“Here’s the tea. Drag entertainers are the mascots of the [2SLGBTQIA+] community. People listen to us, people will hear us and they will jump on things . . . drag queens have always been political. We kind of fell into a pocket where it was all lipsync for your lives, sparkly costumes, big wigs and glittery eyeshadow, but as I said before, it’s so good that we’re all at home because drag queens have to use their platforms to help share the information to what’s politically correct,” said Priyanka.

“Here’s the tea. Drag entertainers are the mascots of the [2SLGBTQIA+] community. People listen to us, people will hear us and they will jump on things . . . drag queens have always been political. We kind of fell into a pocket where it was all lipsync for your lives, sparkly costumes, big wigs and glittery eyeshadow, but as I said before, it’s so good that we’re all at home because drag queens have to use their platforms to help share the information to what’s politically correct,” said Priyanka.

“We are like the approachable popstars, like you can’t talk to Beyonce, you can’t talk to Lady Gaga, but trust and believe when you message the Queen Priyanka, she will hit you back with [a] message because I’m desperate for love”, she joked.

As we approach the end of June and the end of Pride month, “Canada’s Drag Race” serves as a reminder that there is always time to be loud and proud about who you are regardless of the time of year. For many Canadian queens in particular, the show also offers an opportunity for worldwide exposure and a chance to showcase their talents on a platform that is tried and true.

“Here’s what I’ll say. Canadian TV shows have a reputation of whenever they do a spin off, it looks a little janky . . . the cool thing about Canada’s Drag Race . . . is the quality of the show is beyond,” said Priyanka. “So now, [“Canada’s Drag Race” has] opened up this whole new ball game for drag entertainers to really work on their style, get better and thrive to do something, because there was a time where being a local girl in Toronto, you could only do so much but now you can do all of it”.

For the Queen Priyanka, getting onto Drag Race felt like the next step in her drag career, both personally and professionally as it was the culmination of a dream. She feels like this is a sentiment that students could apply to their academic lives as well.

“I think that being in school is weird. Being in high school, being in med school, being in university and college is also very weird because you’re like, ‘oh, once I graduate, I have to go find a real job’. But I think that it’s just important to whatever program that you’re in and [whatever] you’re doing, just keep focused, keep your eye on the prize and if your heart isn’t in it, get out while you can because you have to love it to do it for the rest of your life.”

 

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Author: Andrew Mrozowski

Andrew is in his third year of Political Science. He enjoys stressing himself out for no good reason! When he’s not writing or editing, he can be found working at Starbucks or performing at a gig.