Montreal’s drag scene is regarded by some as the most artistic, creative and unique in the country. From its mastery in visual artistry to live singing and hilariously bad translations, the performance art of our dear queens is as unique as its eclectic aesthetic, one inspired from not only female impersonation, but blue-collar Québec, Mardi-Gras clown and the biggest French divas the world has ever known.
We asked Montreal’s most popular queens, Michel Dorion and Mado Lamotte — two polar opposites in terms of performance style, to answer 10 questions.
Xtra.ca: How would you describe your act?
Michel Dorion: I would describe it as female impersonation. I like to have my public seeing a woman before their eyes, and moreso, how I’m able to do that for them.
Mado Lamotte: A flamboyant, eccentric star diva with a twisted tongue.
Xtra.ca: If you fashioned yourself on another artist, tell us why you chose her.
MD: My main performance is as Céline Dion, and I don’t have much choice in that, because it just comes naturally to me. It’s a question of feeling, and with Céline I live out such intense moments that I love doing it. She’s an artist whose emotion I truly adore.
ML: I have always been a big fan of glamour. What drag queen isn’t? For my looks, I would say French diva singer Dalida, because I am inspired by her amazing gowns, her big hair, the extravagant life she lived and her superstar diva status. As for my talking, it’s both Michel Tremblay and Clemence Desrochers who have been my inspiration.
Xtra.ca: When it comes your own contributions to the queer community in Montreal, what makes you most “proud” over all these years?
MD: For my part, I’m not sure what to say, but I do know part of it is helping people to simply accept who they are, to open people’s eyes. I felt I really did this at the now defunct Cabaret l’Entre-Peau [the original site of Cabaret Club Mado] as is artistic director and animator in the 1990s. So many people really discovered the village by coming to those shows.
ML: I don’t like that word “proud”. “Proud” here, “proud” there, I find the word too pretentious when I talk about myself. I’m simply happy that I could make a difference in gay boys’ lives when they write to me to tell me how I helped them coming out, or helped them get on with life.
Xtra.ca: What is the most important element of drag perfection?
MD: I am not sure how to respond, because I think that is different for each of us. It all depends on the vision, on the craft — for me there are so many elements…
ML: Discipline, a lot of it. And of course, respecting your public. Bitching on stage doesn’t mean being cruel.
Xtra.ca: If you to were to describe one performance you’ve made that was as close to perfection as it will ever be, what was it?
MD: It would surely be a Céline performance, because it’s truly the role where I am most in my skin.
ML: I will never achieve perfection. I always rework my acts until I’m satisfied, and guess what? I’m never entirely satisfied! If I had to pick my favorite moments on stage they are my solo shows with my pianist. I love singing and telling stories to the public.
Xtra.ca: What is the most important decision you have had to make to maintain your career in Montreal as an artist?
MD: In fact, I haven’t made many big decisions — my career is now going on 21 years, so I’ve never had to make one!
ML: I think it would be to let go of a serious relationship and internet sex — my face is too recognizable in Montreal!
Xtra.ca: Who is your favourite up-and-coming drag queen in Montreal, one you feel will make ‘herstory’ like you have done over the years?
MD: For the moment I want to say V.NUS…. I see her in the same category of performance as myself with the most promise, and she’s already such a huge Montreal diva.
ML: I love Nana. I’ve been working with her for more than 20 years (we started performing at nine years old!) and she always made me laugh, and she is such a hard working girl, I admire her for that. But if I had to choose a younger one, I think in 20 years from now we will still be talking of Dream, a young drag queen with a lot of talent, a good sense of humour and a great attitude.
Xtra.ca: If you were to open a “school for girls,” what would you call it?
MD: Haha! I have no idea!!
ML: Épaulettes, pailletes et spraynet! Bad English translation: shoulder pads, glitter and hairspray!
Xtra.ca: What is the number one piece of advice you have for drag queens everywhere?
ML: Work on your acts please and when becoming a star, don’t take yourself too seriously. Being a star doesn’t mean being a nasty bitch. Remember that people in the audience paid to see a good show, not to be insulted by a badmouth or to see a bad performance.
Xtra.ca: If you were shipwrecked on an island and had a choice of whom to invite, who would it be?
MD: Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner, but I have no idea which one I’d de-flower!
ML: Kylie Minogue. She could sing to me in her angel voice, while I make love to her gorgeous Spanish boyfriend [model Andres Velencoso].