Canada’s Drag Race has crowned its new queen after a glitzy season filled with heated moments thanks to cast members who weren’t afraid to speak their minds.
On Thursday night’s season finale, Vancouver’s Venus joined the ranks of past winners Priyanka, Icesis Couture and Gisèle Lullaby after weeks of fashion, acting and comedy challenges against the other queens, including the performers who made it to the final four: Calgary’s Nearah Nuff, Toronto’s Aurora Matrix and Montreal-based Denim.
Venus, who is the first Indigenous queen to win Canada’s Drag Race, said after being crowned that “to win on Indigenous land is such a monumental moment.” She is Métis and has family in rural Manitoba.
“I’m curious to see how things will go when I go back to Manitoba, when I go to, like, small town Ste. Anne, where my grandparents and my aunts and my uncles live,” she said in an interview with CBC News. “Maybe there will be a little parade there?”
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Indigenous drag queen wins Canada’s Drag RaceReality show Canada’s Drag Race has only grown in popularity since its first season. Now in its fourth season, an Indigenous drag queen has taken home the crown for the first time.
Venus says the cast knew it would be a special season when they were filming because they had years of watching Drag Race to help bring their fiercest looks and talent.
The show is a spinoff of the wildly popular U.S. reality show Ru Paul’s Drag Race, which has arguably played the largest role in bringing drag and ballroom culture into the mainstream, with 16 seasons and multiple spinoffs in countries around the world.
“There’s so many versions and so many franchises and so many seasons that it’s really hard to keep things fresh, and I think our team has done a really great job of that,” said Brooke Lynn Hytes, who hosts Canada’s Drag Race and is the lead judge.
The show is the most watched Canadian reality series on Crave since its debut in 2020, according to Bell Media.
It also saw a 35 per cent jump in global viewership this season, according to Wow Presents Plus, which streams the show internationally.
Hytes said riffs on the format, including allowing drag queens to save each other from elimination and bringing back fan-favourite queens to help judge, have set the Canadian edition apart. As well, she said, the willingness of cast members to speak their minds on set went a long way.
“If they’re upset about something, as we’ve seen, they’re going to say it and that’s amazing and that’s what makes great TV,” said Hytes.
Venus, who was named the winner of Canada’s Drag Race season four Thursday, is the first Indigenous queen to take the crown. (Bell Media)Canadian queens get international fameTen years ago, drag fans might’ve been hard-pressed to name internationally famous Canadian drag queens.
That changed when Hytes, from Toronto, appeared on season 11 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and became an instant fan favourite with her professional-level dance skills (having been a ballet dancer) and elaborate runway looks.
Now, Priyanka, who won the first season of Canada’s Drag Race, and fellow competitor Jimbo, who won season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, are well known.
Denim says the shows have given Canadian drag performers an opportunity to bring their drag to a global stage.
“Because it’s not just Canada that watches Canada’s Drag Race — everyone watches,” Denim said. “It’s the best platform to be on as a drag artist.”
Aurora Matrix grew up watching the U.S. version of Drag Race and said when the series came to Canada, they knew it was their moment.
“When I first got on, that was the first time I really realized, ‘Drag is about to become your full time career, and there’s no turning back.’ ”
Toronto’s Brooke Lynn Hytes became the host and main judge of Canada’s Drag Race after competing on Ru Paul’s Drag Race season 11. (Bell Media)Canada’s drag scene brings diversityIn the U.S. version, Ru Paul famously says it takes charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to be a successful drag queen.
Hytes and the top four queens say there isn’t much that differentiates drag in Canada from its international counterparts.
European drag tends to be more cabaret influenced, Hytes said, while American drag takes inspiration from the pageant scene, but she noted Canada’s drag is very different city-to-city.
One thing the queens agree on is that Canadian drag is diverse.
Denim, who uses she/her pronouns while in drag and he/him pronouns out of drag, was only the second trans masculine queen to compete on a Drag Race franchise.
She says she’s seeing more diversity in both Canadian drag performers and the types of drag shows as well as the locations they take place.
Denim left Prince Edward Island in 2019 to do drag in Montreal.
Drag queen Denim moved to Montreal from Prince Edward Island to perform and says she’s seeing more diversity in Canadian drag, both in terms of who performs it and where it happens. (Bell Media)”There was not really a drag scene there yet,” said Denim of P.E.I., noting there still aren’t any LGBTQ bars.
“Since I left, they’ve kind of created this entire scene and they’ve kind of been super resourceful in finding different people who are, like, open to hosting shows.”
Denim returned for a viewing party last year, and a local casino hosted.
Drag community weathers attacksWhile drag is well established in large Canadian centres and is becoming more popular in smaller communities across the country, it also sometimes comes under attack.
Drag performances in the U.S. drew more than 150 protests in 2022 and 2023, according to LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD. They also noted that as of April 2023, there have been legislative proposals in at least 14 states that aimed to restrict or ban drag.
In Canada, there have also been a number of protests, and some libraries and theatres have been threatened for offering drag programming, including drag storytime events.
Though Canada’s drag community is spread across a massive country, Nearah Nuff says it stands up for itself.
“We face pushback in who we are as individuals, and I think that we’re really good in standing our ground when it comes to protesting our rights as people,” she said.
Calgary-based drag queen Nearah Nuff says people in Canada’s drag community will always stand up for themselves and protest for their rights as people. (Bell Media)Hytes says that though drag performers are showing up in more media, like commercials, television and movies, she’d like to see it grow even bigger.
“I think it’s so important to be able to understand people and see where people are coming from and understand the way people are,” she said.
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Aurora Matrix says it’s important to remember that everyone is different, whether they’re in drag or not, and everyone deserves to be comfortable.
“When we come into the workroom, you can see some people present more femme, some people present more masc, and both are OK. What’s in between is amazing,” said Matrix.
“I think the show just really inspires people to be themselves — to live their truth and express themselves in a way that makes them feel comfortable.”
Canada’s Drag Race has already been renewed for a fifth season and seasons one through four are available on Crave.
Toronto drag queen Aurora Matrix grew up watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race on TV and said when they got on the show, they knew it was their moment. (Bell Media)