Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Mado: Montreal’s grande dame of drag

Impresario hosts Mascara Ball, city's biggest drag event

Mado at Divers/Cité, 2007 Credit: Aydin Matlabi photo,

Drag impresario Mado has become such a Montreal institution that it’s difficult to imagine Village nightlife without her. Her hilarious routine, which often involves jokes about life in a bilingual city, has thrilled local audiences and tourists alike, so much so that eight years ago she opened her own club, Cabaret Mado.

Passing the eight-year mark as her own cabaret hostess and co-owner is but one of the anniversaries Mado celebrates this year. It’s the 23rd year that she’s been performing in the Mado persona, and the 13th anniversary of Mascara, her dragapalooza event that’s staged annually as part of Divers/Cité. This year’s Mascara will again be hosted by Mado and will include a “very cosmopolitan lineup,” she promises, one that will include such drag entities as Miss Butterfly, Dream, Tracy Trash, Nana and Celinda.

Mado has worked to keep her act fresh over the years. She has also proven her chops as a newspaper columnist and has worked to support new crossdressing talent. Mado put on a fresh coat of lipstick to sit down and talk about her unique act, what makes Quebec drag different, and the fact that the more things change outfits, the more they stay the same. As we sit down to chat, Mado reminds me that we have something in common: we both worship Joan Collins.

Xtra: What makes Québécois drag different then other drag?

Mado: I think it has to do with our culture — the fact that we embrace both French and English cultures gives us more variety in our shows. Of course, a drag show is a drag show, but when I travel I do see some differences. We don’t have the same references, since we grew up with a mix of music, TV and humour from here, there and everywhere. When you’re in the US, from New York to San Francisco, they all know who Carol Burnett is. Here it was Dodo et Denise.

Xtra: How have attitudes towards drag changed since you started?

Mado: I think drag queens are well integrated now in the general culture, in a way we weren’t before. Thank God people don’t consider us freaks of the night anymore! Since I opened my cabaret eight years ago, I started with a mixed crowd of about 50 percent gays, 50 percent straight. Now it’s about 80 percent straight, 20 percent gay. And I’d say 75 percent of the straight crowd are women.

Xtra: You’re basically doing franglais, a unique mix of English and French. What inspires your shtick?

Mado: It’s the way we all grew up in Quebec. When I was a little bitch I spoke French, watched The Price is Right and Walt Disney movies in French with the songs still in English. So as you can see, we’re pretty mixed up already, and that’s reflected in my hosting. Frankly, it’s much more fun to make fun of someone in a language they understand!

Xtra: Cher, Madonna, Joan Collins, Lady Gaga… who’s your favourite faghag?

Mado: Kylie all the way. I am a fan of Kylie Minogue. Sadly, in America she is only known in the gay community, so we don’t hear that much about her. I’m sure if I lived in Europe, where she’s more popular than Madonna, I would have dinner with her every Sunday night!

Xtra: Some people think drag is a bore. But 100 years ago, women would be frowned upon for wearing pants. Now they can. A man wearing a dress is still seen as taboo. Why is drag still so strange to so many people?

Face it, honey, drag queens are so fierce and fabulous that they scare boring people who fear their own boring selves being confronted by all the divalicious drag stars. And a pair of pants doesn’t make a woman less feminine, but a shoulder-padded sequined dress on a man doesn’t make him very masculine, and you know how men become insecure without their masculinity. Trust me, honey, if Jesus were alive today, he’d be wearing overalls!

Mado will host Mascara: La Nuit des drags as part of Divers/Cité, this Saturday, July 31 at 8pm, at the Telus Stage. (DJ Martin 450 will warm things up from 6-8pm). Info: