Sequins, rhinestones, platform heels, glitter and feathers filled Montreal’s Palais des Congrès during the first day of Canada’s first ever drag convention on Saturday.
Over 100 drag artists from all over the country — and some contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race — bustled around the venue, meeting with fans in between lip syncs, cabaret performances and conference panels.
The convention’s goal is to increase visibility and showcase different kinds of drag through workshops, makeovers and shows over the weekend. Montreal drag legend Rita Baga, who competed on Canada’s Drag Race and hosts Drag Race Belgium, said the city was the perfect choice to host the first event of its kind in the country.
“Montreal has been known for years to be a safe space for drag performers,” she said.
“It’s a challenging time to be a drag, so it’s a great time to gather and show support for our community.”
The city of Montreal said it was proud to host the event as drag “is an integral part of Montreal’s cultural and artistic identity.”
“Drag artists contribute to making Montreal a more open, fair and inclusive city,” said councillor Ericka Alneus, who sits on the executive committee and is responsible for culture and heritage.
The art of drag
Duo Peach and Era came all the way from New Brunswick to showcase their Acadian flavour of drag. “It’s fun, it’s funny, we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Peach.
“We are artists that do a lot of stuff, not just one thing. We don’t have that agenda everyone is talking about, we’re having fun and being ourselves.”
Era stressed that drag is an art form — creating clothing, styling wigs, choreographing performances and creating a new persona. Miss Butterfly is from Lebanon and has been doing drag in Montreal for 23 years. She made a career off her art and has performed around the world.
Miss Butterfly is also a painter, and was showcasing her paintings at her booth. She says she once made a painting in a three-minute performance that sold for $400. The world of drag has changed a lot in those two decades, said Miss Butterfly. She was once the only Arab drag queen in Montreal.
“Before it was mostly white men who wanted to be female impersonators, but now it’s really a form of art and that’s what we’re here for — the diversity.”
Drag fans were over the moon at the convention. Heather Boyle-Mackenzie is an avid watcher of the Rupaul’s Drag Race franchise.
“People are getting to express themselves and be themselves which is so important, especially these days,” she said.
“It’s such an art, they work so hard, it’s amazing. I don’t think people realize how much work goes into it.”
For Drag Race Canada vs. The World winner Ra’Jah O’Hara, it was beautiful to see what kind of artists Canada has to offer.
“To be an American queen and get all this Canadian love, it’s amazing,” she said.
For O’Hara, drag bans in the United States and protests against drag queens change nothing.
“To actually be in the community… Drag queens have always been there, we’ve always been the people who are championing our community and we are going to continue to do that,” she said.
“There’s nothing wrong with drag, drag is just an art. It really is love.”