Canada’s Drag Race isn’t letting us breathe, is she? For the third consecutive week, a fierce competitor – one we touted as finalist – made an untimely exit from the competition. Anastarzia Anaquway, one of the supreme queens in Canada’s drag scene, became the third queen to sashay away after failing to impress the judges in the girl-group rap challenge and for her Québec-ky With The Good Hair-inspired runway; the latter of which personally left us with a severe case of GAGGING.
“I did think going into the runway that my look would revive me a little bit,” Anastarzia tells GAY TIMES over Zoom. “You just never know what the judges are thinking, you never know what they’re feeling and you never know what their preferences are.” Although the Toronto-based performer didn’t advance as far as we expected, she feels content with her performance after earning universal praise from fans and fellow Drag Race alumni for her Canuck Couture Fantasy runway in the premiere. She also won hearts of viewers around the world when she bravely opened up about the homophobia she endured in The Bahamas, and how a near-death experience forced to her emigrate to Canada.
“When we walk into the werkroom, we don’t walk in saying, ‘I’m going to talk about getting shot today.’ Everything is so genuine and we don’t know what we’re going to talk about when we walk into that werkroom,” explains Anastarzia. “For it to have come out, I’m grateful. The backlash, I am not grateful for, but it was expected. Any time we put ourselves into the public eye, this is a part of our industry. We will have backlash that comes our way.”
Here, Anastarzia discusses her short-lived stint on Canada’s Drag Race, how she was at a disadvantage in her lip-sync against Tynomi Banks, and whether she’s prepared for her legal battle against The Moose Knuckles (you’ll understand that last bit later).
Hello Anastarzia! How is life in lockdown?
It’s been trying. I’m a concierge by profession, so I’m constantly around people. This is a huge change for me, but it’s okay!
Not only has your life changed because of lockdown, like many others, but you’re on telly every week!
That part. That part! That has kept me extremely busy, so being in lockdown isn’t even a thing!
How many people can say they made it on Drag Race? How many people can say they now have an international platform? Not many.
How does it feel to have made it onto the biggest drag platform in the world?
You know what, it feels amazing. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is a chance for us to show the world who we are as drag queens and as human beings. We get to show them that we’re funny, that we’re entertaining and we also get to show them that we’re real people, so it’s an amazing experience.
Condragulations are also in order, because you also made HERstory as the first ever contestant from the Bahamas!
That’s right! The first Bahamian baby! Making history! I like being the first.
How did you feel after your elimination?
I felt perfectly fine. I’m a realist. When you come into any competition, you know that there’s a chance that you won’t make it to the crown, and that’s part of our reality. You win some, you lose some. But the good thing about Drag Race is that no matter where you fall, no matter where those cookies crumble for you, you are still a winner. How many people can say they made it on Drag Race? How many people can say they now have an international platform? Not many. No matter where you place, we are all winners.
Exactly, you’re part of the Drag Race family now.
You’ve competed in many competitions before, I think the number is around the 300,000 mark?
[Laughs] That’s what the world would like to believe! That’s the rumours! I have done a lot, a shit load. I can’t even tell you how much!
How did those competitions compare to competing on Drag Race?
You know what, they don’t. I think that they’re in completely different worlds. Preparing for a pageant, I usually take a year, and it is only one night. Then, you get to Drag Race and it’s like, ‘I have to prepare my entire life for this bullshit!’ It was a lot. It was a weekly thing. Eery week there were new challenges. It pushed us to our limits and to be better than we were yesterday, to do things that we never thought that we would be able to do. I never considered myself a funny person, and then here I am on Drag Race, doing all these stupid things! I realised, ‘You are funnier than you give yourself credit for!’ So, there’s no comparison between the two.
This was an extremely tough episode, I was getting exhausted just watching the queens rehearse…
Mmhmm! The dancing routine was one thing and then they were like, ‘We’re going to put you in front of a mic… and rap.’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute? Ya’ll moving too fast for me!’ It was definitely a challenge, but it was also a fun challenge. We had fun doing it.
Although you had some difficulties with your rap at first, I thought you rose to the challenge and slayed.
Oh, thank you! Now that the show has ended and I’m home, I’m saying the rap to myself and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is what they meant when they said to infuse more of your personality into it. Oops!’ I love it now actually. I’ll do it as a song!
I can’t wait to stream it!
Did you expect to fall into the bottom?
Kinda, sorta? I know I struggled a bit and I don’t think there was anyone else that was struggling as much, but I did think going into the runway that my look would revive me a little bit. You just never know what the judges are thinking, you never know what they’re feeling and you never know what their preferences are. Everything boils down to judge’s preferences.
You can’t really fault the judges as none of them are well-versed in design and sewing. One is a model, but are they really capable of doing what I do? They’re not.
I personally loved your runway. The amount of hair on your head…
[Laughs] I’m becoming a hairy queen baby!
How did it feel to lip-sync against your sister Tynomi Banks?
I’ve competed against my gay family a million and 10 times, so it comes with the industry. How did I feel that it was Tynomi? I’ll say this much: I love her dearly, and if I had put my all into it, Tynomi would’ve gone home. Point, blank, period. I’m not afraid of anyone when it comes to lip-syncing. I’ve been doing this my entire life. I was just tired. I was done. I was over it.
The runway can also impact the way you can perform…
It does, and people don’t realise that. You are restricted. I had this huge, heavy thing on the top of my head and I’m like, ‘Am I really supposed to do anything with this shit on my head? You know I can’t.’ At one point, I was about to take it off but I was like, ‘Nuh uh. There are a million and 10 pins in this. What are you doing?’
You had such an amazing reception following the first episode because of your jaw-dropping Canuck Couture Fantasy – how did that feel?
It felt amazing. Absolutely, positively amazing. It was the validation that I needed because I know that the craftsmanship and the work that went into it was 120% overlooked. At the end of the day, you can’t really fault the judges as none of them are well-versed in design and sewing. One is a model, but are they really capable of doing what I do? They’re not. Again, it boils down to their preference. Brooke Lynn Hytes said I was salty. I wasn’t salty, I just know how to judge unbiasedly. That’s all it is. But, the validation that I needed came through social media. I had girls from RuPaul’s Drag Race in my inbox and on their own pages saying, ‘This was immaculately made.’ Raja and Raven also gave me the top toot. So, clearly I did something correct.
In the words of Monique Heart: “Facts are facts.”
And that’s it! Point blank. Period. What you gon’ do?
In the second episode, you bravely opened up about your past trauma in The Bahamas. Was it important for you to tell your story?
I do believe that it was important. When we walk into the werkroom, we don’t walk in saying, ‘I’m going to talk about getting shot today.’ Everything is so genuine and we don’t know what we’re going to talk about when we walk into that werkroom. For it to have come out, I’m grateful. The backlash, I am not grateful for, but it was expected. Any time we put ourselves into the public eye, this is a part of our industry. We will have backlash that comes our way. Unfortunately, people are just not open-minded enough to listen to the story and hear the underlying messages. The blatant messages, sometimes. They just take what they want from it, use it as negativity and turn it into their own stories. I would never say an entire nation is homophobic, but there are homophobic people.
Did you receive any messages from followers in The Bahamas?
I became public enemy number one of The Bahamas. They’re all saying that I’m lying about it and what I love about my people is, you give them leeway and they will show who they really are. A gentleman went on Facebook and said, ‘If he comes back here, we’ll shoot him again.’ That is all the evidence that I need to prove that my people are homophobic.
What would you say you’ve learnt from your time on Canada’s Drag Race?
Never limit yourself. I think I kept myself in a box, but being a pageant queen brought me here. It brought me to this point and I stayed true to that the entire time. But it taught me that I am a lot more than just a pageant queen, I can do anything I set my mind to. Hell, I made it onto Drag Race! I’ve known that my entire life, but this really compounded that message for me.
I mean, you’re in a girl group now: The Moose Knuckles!
[Laughs] NO! I wasn’t ready!
I was so interested to find out about Canadian culture through this show, but I never expected to learn about… ‘moose knuckles’.
Neither was I! When they said it, I was like, ‘What? What is that supposed to be? What?’ Then they explained it and I was like, ‘WHAT? Are we really going to call ourselves that? What is happening?’
Do you think The Moose Knuckles will top the charts in Canada any time soon?
Child… I don’t know, but I do know that there is a company that’s called The Moose Knuckles, and they’ve already messaged all of us. I’m like, ‘What is happening?’
Canada was built on the backs of immigrants and that comes through in our form of drag. There’s every style of drag represented in this country and it is amazing.
Have you lawyered up?
Child, I didn’t choose that name. Priyanka, you got a lawyer?
What do you think international viewers will learn about Canadian culture through this show? Other than about moose knuckles…
Oh child, thank god you said “other than about moose knuckles”. They’re going to learn that Canada’s culture is very diverse and that the drag culture is just as diverse. Canada was built on the backs of immigrants and that comes through in our form of drag. There’s every style of drag represented in this country and it is amazing.
And what do you think Canada’s Drag Race will do for the drag scene in Canada?
I can tell you what it has already done: it’s amplified it by a million. Canada, especially Toronto, has always had a thriving drag scene, but we now have an international eye that is on us. We are stepping our game up a million times over. Everyone that walks away from this Drag Race experience is walking out a renewed queen. I’m sure we’ve all improved on our makeup skills and hair skills, and for some of us, our sewing skills. This show has already done a ton for the country, and for those watching the show in our country, they aspire to be part of our industry. This is their ‘yes, you can’ that they’ve been waiting on.
Are you ready for the full Drag Race experience when lockdown is over, being thrust into DragCon and worldwide tours?
I think the question to be, ‘Is the world ready for that?’ I’ve been ready! I was born ready and I am patiently waiting. I’ve been in this house sewing, beading and stoning. I’ve been preparing for the day the world says, ‘Bye bye Miss Corona! Hello Canada’s Drag Race superstars!’
What has been the best part of the experience for you?
There’s been so much. It’s a complex situation, but I think the greatest, without a shadow of a doubt, is the connection that I’ve made with these other queens. They are my sisters for life. I was just in Vancouver last week with Scarlet Bobo and Ilona Verley and listen, it was the time of our lives. We hadn’t seen each other since we wrapped up filming, and it was so good getting to see them because there’s a genuine love that we all have for each other. My sisterhood is by far the greatest experience I’m walking away with from Canada’s Drag Race.
I’m so sad you’re not going to be on future episodes, but I think you’ve shown the world exactly who Anastarzia Anaquway is.
I know, right? Thank you!
Final question: who did you have planned for Snatch Game?
[Laughs] OKCURRR! My girl Cardi B, baby. Uh huh! Cardi wanna party!
Canada’s Drag Race airs every Thursday in Canada and the United States on Crave and WOW Presents Plus, and every Friday in the UK on BBC iPlayer.