Opinion
3 min

All hail the queens

Spilling the T on Toronto’s drag scene

A classic visiting queen: the “big-titted, soul- honking mama of New York City,” Sweetie. Credit: Tony Fong

Drag queens, like raccoons, should not be seen in daylight. They are creatures of the night, agents of artifice and the best possible excuse to stay up late and go to a bar since alcohol was invented. Like stars in their own sparkling and drama-filled galaxy, some shine, some burn out, but all of them demand to be seen!

Now, there’s obviously more to drag than what’s on the outside. Drag queens are the court jesters of the queer community; anyone who enters into the den of drag with a motive other than to give people a good time will end up sorely disillusioned. Make no mistake! Drag is a profession. No one likes a messy queen, and deportment is important, which is why tongues are wagging about a major queen on the scene right now . . . let’s call her Lamb. She was riding high for a long time and regularly booking the best gigs in town, but it went to her head and she started indulging her vices a bit too much. After interrupting a few too many shows and getting into a few too many shouting matches, you don’t see her name as much anymore. It’s a damn shame, because she’s as talented and connected as they come yet seems to no longer care about any of that. Remember on America’s Next Top Model when Tyra shrieked, “We were all rooting for you!” That’s exactly how many people tell me they feel about Lamb. Get it together, queen ­— you can make it through the rain!

Toronto is both blessed and cursed with too many drag queens. It’s a blessing because it means there’s room (and stages) for everyone: RuPaul and her Drag Race ladies seem to have made everyone want to glue on some lashes, perfect their shading and Instagram the results. The flip side is a critical mass of too many people doing the same thing, which can lead to a queen with more a unique take finding it difficult to get a foothold or a really cookin’ regular night somewhere.

If there’s a reigning style of drag in Toronto, it’s the “top 40 queen”: Church Street is full of these ladies, and it seems like there’s a new one every second. These are the queens who do Britney, Nicki, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Madonna. When they’re good, they’re amazing (this includes Devine Darlin, Scarlett Bobo, Ivory Towers and Cassandra Moore, who are always at the top of their game when they hit the stage), but when they’re not . . . well, let’s just be polite and not embarrass them further than they embarrass themselves.

I’ve always been fond of the old-school live-singing queens, myself: Roxxie Terrain’s Monday-night show is a reliably good time if you’re a fan of Judy, Lena Horne, Shirley Bassey, Liza and older musicals. With support from Adam Weinmann on the piano, she belts them all and sometimes throws in tap dance for good measure. Jade Elektra’s another favourite who comes from a more elegant era of dragdom. Her Faux Girls night will be revived soon, and I hope it finds success with the masses . . . she’s a hard worker, in and out of drag, and she never fails to put on a great show (when most other queens are content with a great number or two).

Then there’s the dark, out-there, bizarro queens who have hearts of gold under a twisted, gothy exterior: Jenna Syde, Judy and Igby, and Donnarama serve up drag that isn’t necessarily nice, pretty or palatable but is endlessly watchable. Factor in the new wave of queens — Allura Bonet, Juice Boxx, Enya D, Atmos Fierce, Sapphire Tithi-Reign and Allysin Chaynes among others — and you have a scene that’s overflowing with drag queens. Don’t even bother asking me who’s my favourite . . . remember what I said about it being a blessing and a curse? Even narrowing it down to a top 10 would be impossible.