If you can imagine it, Brooke Lynn Hytes’s hair has gotten even bigger lately. It seems to be a natural result of living and working in Nashville, Tennessee. But it’s not out of control. It’s nothing she can’t handle. She’s always been up for a challenge.
Brooke Lynn Hytes is the drag persona of Brock Hayhoe, a man who seems to be always on the move. At age 20, the Etobicoke native was in South Africa, performing with the Cape Town City Ballet. Two years later he was living in New York City and touring the world with Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo (think ballet drag).
After four years on the road, he moved back to Toronto in 2011. “Touring is so hard,” he says, speaking on the phone from Nashville. “So I decided to try to work for myself and be a drag queen full time.” Anyone in Toronto with a penchant for drag will have seen him shaking his voluptuous booty somewhere in recent years — probably at Crews and Tango, Woody’s or El Convento Rico.
Just as he was starting to feel bored — to feel that, drag-wise, he’d “reached the ceiling in Toronto” — he won Miss Continental 2014, the largest female impersonation pageant in the United States. “It was probably my performance [that clinched it],” he says. “It was a ballet version of Britney Spears’s ‘I’m a Slave 4 U.’”
Winning was a thrill in itself, but it also opened an unexpected door — a Nashville-style, swinging saloon door. Well, actually, it’s the door of a massive club in the heart of a city with a booming arts scene. “Someone saw me perform [at Miss Continental] and offered me a job,” he says. So he packed up his wigs and moved down in February 2015, having only a minor holy-shit-did-I-just-do-that freak-out upon arrival.
The club is Play Dance Bar, and he performs three nights a week in the show lounge portion of the complex with other drag queens sourced from near and far. He says it’s a beautiful set up, with nice dressing rooms and a proper stage. “They don’t really have a Village here, but oddly enough the club is on a street called Church Street,” he says with a laugh. “When I first got here, I was like, ‘Oh, well, here we are once again.’”
In Toronto, he was usually required to do what he calls “marathon drag” — that’s so many numbers each night that it doesn’t really matter what songs and outfits you choose, so long as you’re up there doing something. He says that in Nashville he has a maximum of six numbers each night, “so you have to put a little more effort into what you’re doing.”
He does some country, more top 40 than you might imagine in “the home of country music,” and the crowds go wild when he comes out as Celine Dion. “If I’m at the end of a show on a Saturday night, I always do a Celine Dion ballad,” he says. “There’s something about drunk people and Celine — everyone’s holding each other and crying.”
He’s enjoying this latest challenge, but already looking forward to the next ones. As the outgoing Miss Continental, he’s giving the big opening performance — it’s a bit like the opening of the drag queen Olympic Games — at the 2015 pageant in Chicago this September (he’ll have dancers and a theme, but he refuses to divulge any more details). He also plans to apply to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
But whatever happens, you can find him now every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Play Dance Bar in Nashville, performing his large hair off for a mixed crowd that always includes a couple of bachelorette parties (and, if his dreams come true, will someday include Dolly Parton).