“We are not America’s little sister. People have been sleeping on Canada and it’s time to wake ya’ll up to the brilliance that Canada has to offer.”
The queens of the North are here! After months of anticipation, and plenty of outlandish rumours from Drag Race superstans on Reddit, the first season of Canada’s Drag Race has arrived and it’s streaming on BBC iPlayer.
The “unapologetic” new series follows 12 sickening drag performers as they compete in a variety of maxi-challenges for the title of Canada’s Next Drag Superstar, as well as a (non-taxable) cash prize of $100,000. (The US and UK queens are shaking.)
The first episode premiered last night (2 June) to wide praise from viewers on social media, who have hailed Canada’s Drag Race as a “fresh take” on the iconic format due to the quintessential Canadian humour and fierce line-up.
But that’s not all. With RuPaul busy on the US original, his runway walk, iconic “may the best woman… win!” catchphrase and other host-related duties are fulfilled by a special guest star who sits beside main judges Brooke Lynn Hytes, Stacey McKenzie and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman on the panel each week. We’ll admit: we had reservations. But it works, and it works well.
“We kept a lot of the elements the same as the American show that people know and love, just to keep it familiar,” Brooke tells GAY TIMES. Jeffrey adds: “The very essence of the show is still the same. As much as we all miss Ru’s presence, it also creates an opportunity for each week’s guest host to live the dream of stomping down the main stage runway.”
Over Zoom, we caught up with Brooke, Stacey and Jeffrey to discuss the gag-worthy new series and honestly, our main takeaway is that these three are perfect for this mothertucking job. In the words of Brooke, “the chemistry is not something you can fake.”
Read the T and nothing but the T on Canada’s Drag Race below.
Congratulations on Canada’s Drag Race! The first episode was INCREDIBLE.
Brooke: I’m extremely excited. We’re all just waiting in anticipation to see what everyone thinks about it, and we’re all so proud of our queens and the amazing job they did. I think it’s going to be incredible.
Stacey: I’m so excited as well. I had such a great time working on the show, working with Brooke Lynn and Jeffrey – and the competitors! I had an awesome, wicked time and I’m so looking forward to seeing the finished product out there so the world can see and enjoy, and to have a great time, especially during these times.
Jeffrey: You can never get too much Drag Race. There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. As a quintessential Drag Race super-fan, the more the better. I’m a hungry, hungry verse-bottom. [Laughs]
Which Canadian slang do you think fans should brush up on before watching the show?
Jeffrey: More so just the stereotypical accent, I think. Brooke Lynn can demonstrate, ‘Sorrie, aboot.’
Brooke: Aboot! I don’t even notice that I have an accent. Everyone always comments on the way I say certain words and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s like the word ‘process’, everyone says ‘PRAWCESS!’ We speak the queen’s English, dear!
How would you describe Canadian humour to those who don’t live in Canada?
Jeffrey: A little bit more self-deprecating and a little bit more sarcastic.
Brooke: Yeah, definitely.
Stacey: Yeah, that’s true. We are so much more sarcastic.
Jeffrey: A little bit closer to British humour than American humour, for sure.
Brooke: Which I absolutely adore, I love love love British television. We have some characters on our show!
How did all of your respective experiences in the industry prepare you to be a judge on this series?
Brooke: Oh gosh, well I mean I was a contestant… so that prepared me! [Laughs] I had a very good understanding of what the girls were going through and what it was like, so I was able to bring that to the table as well as my experience as an actual drag queen and my expertise in dance – all things movement related! This was just a really great well-rounded group and it was perfect putting us all together.
Jeffrey: I had spent my teen years modelling, travelling and acting since I was 21-years-old, so for the past 14 years or so. In between all of that, I actually worked as a model and talent scout for about two years, in my early 20s, which really prepared me to be on the panel for RuPaul’s Drag Race when they asked me to come on in season nine. It was a very similar set-up, me sitting behind a judge’s panel, watching puddles of talent walk down the runway as I critique them and give them different tips and advice to help hone their skills and craft.
Brooke: Little known fact, Jeffrey was a phone sex worker and he doesn’t like to talk about it. That’s where he really honed that buttery voice of his.
Stacey: [Laughs] So, I erm…
Brooke: As I said that, I had a visual of him as a phone sex operator and now I can’t stop laughing.
Jeffrey: Sam, you’ve caught us at our loosest!
Stacey: I can’t focus right now, this is hilarious. What I bring to the table is that I’ve been a model for over 22 years now. Quite some time, as I’m only 32. Shut up, stop laughing. My experience being a model and also being a judge on certain shows like Canada’s Next Top Model, as well as being a celebrity guest judge on America’s Next Top Model, allowed me to bring my expertise in that respect. Also, just being a model that’s different looking means I can also share with the competitors that it’s okay to be different. I know what it’s like to be judged as well.
Canada’s Drag Race majorly switches it up by having the host be the guest judge of the week – what do you think this change adds to the series?
Brooke: We kept a lot of the elements the same as the American show that people know and love, just to keep it familiar. Obviously, the biggest difference is the fact that RuPaul is not there, and Jeffrey, Stacey and myself are there in his place, but besides that, I don’t know if there are a lot of changes. Do you agree Jeffrey? Beside Ru’s absence, I don’t think much has changed.
Jeffrey: The very essence of the show is still the same. As much as we all miss Ru’s presence, it also creates an opportunity for each week’s guest host to live the dream of stomping down the main stage runway and saying the words that have only ever been uttered by Mother Ru herself. It’s such an extraordinary experience for each week’s guest host who are all mega super-fans of the show. You can just see the glee and joy in their eyes and feel the energy from each and every one of them as they took the opportunity to mount the throne. It was so exciting to watch them.
Brooke, what was it like being on the same side of the panel with Michelle Visage?
Brooke: It was wonderful, we had such a great time that week. Michelle Visage is the GOAT really, when it comes to judging. She is such an inspiration to watch. She gives such concise, clear criticisms in this perfectly wrapped, little soundbite box that you can just go *mwah* there you go! She’s wonderful to work with, and it was neat having her there and learning from her. I learned a lot from her that week, and she’s just such a wonderful person. She was so excited to be there and to help out, and it was nice to kiki with her for a bit! I hadn’t seen her in months. It was very surreal for sure, well the whole thing was extremely surreal for me! I just couldn’t believe it was happening the whole time it was happening to me. Even now I’m like, ‘Is that actually coming out?’
Which Canadian idols would you like to see on the panel in the future?
Brooke: Celine Dion for me. It would be my ultimate dream.
Stacey: For me, Grace Jones.
Jeffrey: She ain’t Canadian!
Stacey: [Laughs] Oh Canadian? What am I talking about? Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. Urm… Canadian. Hmm. Jeffrey, you go. I was thinking Shania Twain?
Jeffrey: That’s good, that’s really good. I would love to have Pamela Anderson on the panel.
Stacey: Yeah! Yes, that’s a good one.
Brooke: Or Anne Murray.
Stacey: And Jann Arden! She is funny, she is a good one.
Brooke: Joni Mitchell? I would gag.
Jeffrey: Rita MacNeil?
Brooke: May she rest in peace.
Jeffrey: Oh is she…? I’m so sorry!
Stacey: Oh… my… gosh. Jim Carrey!
Brooke: Oh yeah, Jim Carrey is Canadian!
Stacey: He would be made fun, I think.
Brooke: Jim Carrey would be AMAZING. Keanu Reeves? Now we’re just listing Canadians.
What kind of impact do you think Canada’s Drag Race will have on the drag scene in Canada?
Brooke: I think it’s really going to elevate it, personally. One of the great things Drag Race has done for queens in the United States is that it’s given them something to work towards and strive to be on, and to give them a little push and motivation. I think that is what it’s going to do for Canadian queens. It’s really going to light a fire under a lot people’s asses to become a better drag queen and to elevate their drag. They’ll be able to see that they can do something incredible with it. I think it’s going to inspire queens in the Canadian scene to be the very best they can be, because now there’s $100,000 at stake! Might I add: in Canada, we don’t tax our prize earnings, so when you win $100,000, you win $100,000 – okay?!
Wow. So this is technically the biggest prize fund the franchise has ever dished out?
Brooke: It is! It really really is. That’s super exciting.
You three together are wild – what are you all like behind the scenes?
Stacey: We can’t stand each other.
Brooke: The three of us had never met until literally the day before we started filming a little run through. That was the first time we had all sat down and talked. Me and Jeffrey had met once before at the Emmy’s and then Stacey and Jeffrey had never met, and me and Stacey had never met. It was great, honestly. The chemistry is not something you can fake. It was a really beautiful thing to have it all come together. Stacey is definitely the goofball…
Brooke: I’m somewhere in the middle and Jeffrey is definitely the serious one.
Brooke: It definitely worked out for all of us, which is great because we have a great balance on the panel. It was fun going to work everyday, honestly. This is the dream job.
Stacey: Everything that Brooke Lynn said. Everything she said. I’m still laughing!
Brooke: I always get Stacey going and then she can’t stop laughing.
Jeffrey: Then Jeffrey goes around the stage going, ‘We need to cleanse this place! We have to cleanse this ENTIRE place!’
Brooke: The first time we got to the studio for filming, Jeffrey walked through the entire building – and I mean the entire building – with sage.
Stacey: Except for my room!
Brooke: Not Stacey’s room, she thought it was witchcraft.
Please tell me there’s going to be some kind of blooper reel?
Brooke: I hope there is! It’s cool because we were there and we judged it all, but we saw them all in the runway and whatever challenges we were helping with. We haven’t seen the show either! So, we don’t know what we’re about to see for a majority of it. Besides the runway, I have no clue what’s going to happen.
With more countries having localised Drag Race shows, would you like to see a worldwide, olympics of drag-esque All Stars season?
Brooke: Oh totally, are you kidding me?
Stacey: That would be dope!
Brooke: That would be so cool, I’m so down for that. I’m still waiting on them to do a winners season for the United States. I still want them to do that. Bring them all back!
Jeffrey: We just have to do anything to give The Vivienne an opportunity to win some cash money!
Brooke, does this mean that if there is a worldwide All Stars, would you sashay back into the werkroom and compete against some of the Canada’s Drag Race queens?
Brooke: Oh my god. I mean… We’ll see? Right now, this is what I’m doing and this is what I’m focused on, and I think it would look a little strange for me to go back as a competitor while being a judge. I’m focused on being a judge right now, because to be perfectly honest, it’s way more fun sitting on the other side of the panel! It’s still stressful, I will say. When I first started, the evil part of my brain was like, ‘This’ll be fun, I get to send some girls home.’ Then we had to send people home! I got really emotional about it. It was hard. It still was not as hard as competing! Maybe one day in the future – who knows what the future holds? Right now, I’m focused on being the best Judge Judy I can be with these two amazing people.
What do you all think international viewers will learn about Canadian culture through this series?
Jeffrey: That we have a culture and extraordinary array of talent and artistry that is so quintessentially Canadian, but stands alone on its own. We are not America’s little sister. Like Stacey says, people have been sleeping on Canada and it’s time to wake ya’ll up to the brilliance that Canada has to offer.
Stacey: Everything Jeffrey said!
Brooke: We’re going to wake you up very politely though.
Jeffrey: That’s how apologetic we are.
Brooke: Like, ‘It’s time to wake up.’
Brooke: I’m so excited to see episode two and watch us really get into it, into the meat of the season. I think it’s going to be so great and it was so much fun to film. I mean, what an incredible opportunity for us all to have? I’m so grateful for it.
Canada’s Drag Race airs every Thursday in Canada and the United States on Crave and WOW Presents Plus, and evert Friday in the UK on BBC iPlayer.