Mina Mercury is hoping to shake her Future Lovers curse before the curtain goes up Feb 1.
The last time she performed her fave Madonna song du jour, at Celebrities’ Madonnathon Nov 29, Vancouver was blanketed under a blizzard, the fire alarm went off at the worst possible moment, and the two-metre disco ball she’d spent weeks constructing crashed to the floor just hours before the performance was set to begin.
“That show was cursed!” laughs Mercury, who generally goes by her boy name, Jaysen Bradstock, and works in customer relations when she’s not strutting across stage with a riding crop. “It was just one thing after another…”
One thing after another it may have been, but it was also mesmerizing.
As a true blue Madonna fan who’s been in love with the diva since puberty, I can tell you: Mercury does a mean Madonna, down to the smallest details.
Her costumes are amazing, her mimicry precise–she even bats her eyelashes à la Madonne! And her choreography, flanked as she was at Celebrities by two SM ponies pawing the air from their knees as their riders sought to master them, was nothing less than impressive.
I’m not the only one who noticed, either. Mercury says she got a lot of positive feedback after that performance, urging her to stage the number again, and soon. “So I thought, well, if I should do it again, I should do it without a fire alarm!” she laughs.
And a show was born.
For her first solo endeavour, Mercury plans to mount a mini-Madonna concert of her own, with six all new numbers from the Confessions Tour plus an alarm-less Future Lovers. The timing couldn’t be better: the concert tour’s DVD just hit stores Jan 30.
It’s a format she’s been longing to try for years, having watched other drag queens stage similar mini-concerts in other cities. She was just waiting for the stars to align.
The 32-year-old has been doing drag in Vancouver for more than a decade, though she describes herself as an “under the radar” drag queen, who isn’t very well known in the scene.
Having moved here from Vancouver Island at age 19 with a background in musical theatre, Mercury soon found she’d need a “real” job to pay the bills, and buckled down to the task of hawking trendy garments at Metrotown Mall. Then, about a year after she arrived, she and a friend decided to dress up as Patsy and Eddy from Absolutely Fabulous as a joke for Halloween.
“We were friggin’ bang-on,” remembers Mercury. “I became the character.”
Soon she was performing at the Commodore Ballroom’s disco nights, then she got discovered by Carlotta Gurl, Mz Adrien and Sister C, who took her under their wings and invited her to perform in their own shows.
Her very first drag number in a gay bar? Little Bird by Annie Lennox, at the Dufferin around 1995. She’s been performing in the community ever since.
In addition to her Annie Lennox debut, she’s also been known to play the title role in Aqua’s Barbie song (opposite a drag king in the boy part), and tackle the occasional double-genderbend of Michael Jackson or Pee-Wee Herman. But most of the time, Mercury can be found honing her Madonna character.
“What draws you to Madonna?” I ask.
“Ohhhh, everything,” she purrs, drawing the ohh out in a happy moan.
Like me, she’s been a fan for a very long time.
Growing up in Goldstream, a small community “way outside of Victoria,” Mercury says the outspoken, in-your-face megastar was an inspiration. Thanks in part to watching Madonna be herself, Mercury says she found the courage to stand out in school, to change her look and speak her mind.
“She helped me to really be myself. She really, really helped me to become a total individual.
“I love that she pushes people’s buttons, she makes people think,” Mercury continues. “She wakes people up. Sometimes she has to hit them over the head with the truth, and it scares a lot of people, but sometimes that’s what it takes.”
Plus she’s just an amazing performer, Mercury gushes. “I adore her as an artist.”
For Mercury, drag is largely about art, about theatre, about pouring herself into a character and inhabiting her, or him, fully. And if that involves bending and adapting to a gender expression other than the one she brings to work everyday as Bradstock–which it usually does–then so be it.
But don’t expect a beaded gown anytime soon.
“I don’t think I have ever worn a beaded gown and done a classic drag song,” she says. “I don’t have anything against those who do that. I think it’s great. Drag should include diversity.”
As long as that diversity is nurtured, “as long as there are people who are creative, as long as that outlet is available for people who choose to express themselves that way, [drag] will never die,” she says.
It may go through lulls and transitions, she continues, but it’s one of the staples of gay culture. “I like to think of it as the theatre of the gay world.”
Mercury thinks Vancouver’s drag scene is going through a “big transition” right now, as more and more new performers emerge, bringing “a new, fresh kick to it. I think it’s great when somebody comes in and says, ‘I want to do country,’ or ‘I want to do hip-hop, I want to do r’n’b.'”
There’s room for classic drag and new forms of genderbending to share the stage, she says. The drag scene is richer for having all of it together.
Her eyes shine when I suggest that her fresh, powerful take on an unconventionally feminine gay icon is proof that drag is still vibrant in this city.
“That means a lot,” she smiles.