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Pride Day Baby: Miss Conception

Take a bow

WHO, ME? Hard-workin' queen Miss Conception celebrates her birthday over Pride. Credit: (Paula Wilson)

Miss Conception was born proud. The singer/dancer/drag performer extraordinaire sprang forth from her mother’s loins on Pride Day back in 1980. Fitting perhaps, for a drag queen that’s all over Pride Week like pan-stick on a freshly shaven face. “I love having my birthday on Pride,” she laughs. “It’s like a huge party just for me every year!”

As Kevin Levesque, the budding Miss C made her drag debut at the tender age of 10. Enamoured with Disney’s animated film Beauty And The Beast, Levesque staged a little show at home in Mississauga one Christmas, where he played Belle to his sister’s Beast. “I came down the stairs with my hair slicked back in a ponytail wearing one of my mother’s dresses,” he says. “My Uncle Arthur videotaped the whole thing.” After it was over, Levesque’s mother asked why he couldn’t have let his sister play the girl, to which Uncle Arthur replied, “Because Kevin makes a better one!”

It turned out Uncle Arthur had a keen eye for budding homos. As a teen, Levesque spent a weekend at his house, and decided to peruse the Internet for a little man-on-man action. When Uncle Arthur (who Levesque later learned was a homo himself) discovered the seedy trail left in the computer’s history log he confronted the young Levesque about his sexual leanings. “I got totally embarrassed but my uncle reassured me that being gay was nothing to be ashamed of,” Levesque says. “I was really thankful for that.”

Though he put off his official coming out for another few years, Levesque marched in his first Pride Parade quite by accident at the age of 18. While watching from the sidelines, he was yanked over the fence into the fray and ended up marching the rest of the parade route. “I was so worried I’d end up on the cover of a newspaper or on TV and my parents would see it,” he says. “But marching in the parade, seeing all those people screaming for you, it was such an amazing feeling I forgot my fears pretty quickly.”

Levesque also made his first trip to a gay bar that night, the now defunct Boots on Sherbourne St. “It was one of the best nights of my life,” he laughs. “I managed to get in without getting carded because I was still thin and cute back then.

“It’s all been downhill from there,” he laughs.

After that, Levesque bid Mississauga farewell, and moved in with gay Uncle Arthur downtown.

At first his forays into female impersonation were minimal. Levesque got the bug again while attending a Monday night drag show at Zipperz. “My friends kept daring me to do it, so finally I gave in and decided to perform,” he says. “I would stand at the back of the bar watching the other queens perform and lip- synch along with their songs, so I figured I may as well get paid for it.”

Over the next few months, Miss C would show up at various bars on the strip with his bag of wigs and CD in hand hoping to jump on stage during a break in the action. “I was doing my own face at that point, wearing hardly any makeup and thinking I looked fabulous,” he laughs. “Sometimes when you show up at a bar and you look too good, the other queens don’t want to let you on stage, so maybe that helped me get more work.”

The big break came in 2002 when he took home the crown in the inaugural Drag Idol pageant. The coveted title brought with it a $1,000 cheque (“Those bitches get $2,500 now! I got screwed”). Perhaps more importantly, it also came with a series of bookings at bars all over the city. “That was the point when I really started getting my name out there.”

Since then he’s gone on to claim just about every drag title worth having, including Miss Gay Toronto, Queen Of Halloween, Miss Gay Universe and Miss Canada Continental. He’s also been the reigning Miss Zelda’s for the past four years. “They haven’t run the contest since I won, so I’m still the titleholder.”

Part of Miss C’s success is her unconventionality. In a city full of “real-girl” queens with waxed legs and cosmetically enhanced features, Miss C stands out, both for her curvaceous figure and over-the-top impersonations. “I’m a 200 pound bald man in a dress,” says Levesque. “Every successful queen has something that makes them distinctive, and for me that’s it. I may not go on stage in a bra and panties but I’m not afraid to be crazy.”

This is a queen with talent. Despite her portly figure, Miss C can still pull off some wicked dance moves and has been spotted more than a few times doing cartwheels down the middle of the street in heels. He’s also well known for his live singing. “I think every queen could sing live if they wanted to,” says Levesque. “It’s not even about having a good voice, as much as it’s about taking a song and making it your own.”

As for the future, Levesque has big plans. He recently quit waiting tables to join the ranks of the full-time queens. “I’d love to be on Broadway,” he says. “I don’t care what I’m doing — I’ll be a fucking background dancer if it means getting to perform there.” He also has aspirations of opening his own drag bar someday under the moniker of Conception’s Cabaret.

The more immediate priority, however, is to get through Pride Week without collapsing. Miss C is booked just about every day of the week, sometimes with only minutes to get from one gig to the next. “It can get hard when you’re running from bar to bar in the summer heat,” he says. “You’re sweating your face off, trying to get somewhere on time, and you have to stop every few feet because tourists want to take your picture.”

When I asked if Pride is still important, Levesque tells the story of a 16-year-old boy he met doing a show in North Bay last year. “I could tell that he was gay, but he didn’t have any outlets there,” says Levesque. “He had seen Pride on TV and the fact that it existed was giving him the hope to get though life till he could move away.

“Sure, Pride has become a big party, but it’s also about showing the world that we’re here. It’s so important for queer kids growing up to know that a community exists for them.”