In the words of Slay Couleé, this period of Drag Race will forever be known as the “Melanin Dynasty”. Last week, what’s-her-name (PRIYANKA!) became the first ever incumbent of the ‘Canada’s Next Drag Superstar’ title when she beat Rita Baga and Scarlett Bobo on the inaugural season of the Canadian spin-off. Her win followed in the footsteps of Jaida Essence Hall on season 12, Heidi N Closet as Miss Congeniality on the same season, and Shea on the fifth season of All Stars.
It sends a powerful message to the rabid, ever-growing fanbase that “anybody” can take home the crown, Priyanka proudly states. “The cool thing about Shea Couleé, Jaida Essence Hall, Heidi N Closet, Monet X Change, Yvie Oddly and myself is that they’re all well deserved crowns,” she tells GAY TIMES. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, they just threw it to her because she’s Black,’ or ‘They just threw it to her because she’s brown.’ It’s like… ‘Oh she is that bitch.’ Sorry ‘bout it.”
It’s been one week since Priyanka sashayed down the runway with her crown and sceptre, and in that time, she’s caused pandemonium with Lemon online – as well as on the roads – campaigned for a role on Scream 5 alongside Neve Campbell, and performed at a cafeteria. Following her near-death experience with the e-lemon-ated fan-favourite, we Zoom’d with the star to discuss her triumphant stint on Canada’s Drag Race, the importance of her win to the queer Indo-Caribbean community, and how she’d advise future contestants to deal with online trolls. Priyanka also spills some exclusive T on her upcoming, highly-anticipated, hasn’t been confirmed or even talked about dating series, and sends a VERY threatening message to her season one sister Ilona Verley. This interview is Priyanka at her peak.
I’m a winner baby! Can you believe it?
Can you confirm your name for me please? What is your name?
My name is Priyanka! What’s my name?
My name is Priyanka. Say my name!
Do you love me?
It means a lot for a brown person to wins this crown. People are like, ‘Oh, brown people can do it too?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah that’s right, you can do it too.’
I love ya.
Do you think I’m pretty?
You’re bloody gorgeous.
I’m glad to see you’re okay, because I saw you were with Lemon and there was a car and some salsa dancing…
[Laughs] Lemon… Well, I didn’t know what song she was playing me, but she was playing me a song… Sorry, I’m choking because it’s so funny. What ha-happened was, we were dancing and I accidentally swerved to the right a little bit, but then I got back on track and I’m safe. Lemon is in the bathroom.
Ok, so Canadians they don’t just have to watch out for COVID… They have to watch out for Priyanka and Lemon.
I know. I need to be more careful! Isn’t Jasmine [from the BBC] the best?
She lives five minutes away from me, which I didn’t realise, so we’re going to grab a drink soon, aren’t we Jasmine?
I’m going to send her some money to buy a big bottle of tequila, and I want you guys to drink it all tonight.
Okay I’ll send you our details over Twitter – keep an eye on your mentions.
Yes, I will!
So, it’s been less than a week since you conquered and took home the crown and the one hundred thousand dollars – how does it feel to be Canada’s First Drag Superstar?
All the cute boys want me, finally. This is the real prize, finally finding love! No, I’m just kidding. It means a lot for a brown person to wins this crown. People are like, ‘Oh, brown people can do it too?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah that’s right, you can do it too.’ I think that’s why this win means the most, for Priyanka to win Canada’s Drag Race, in a country that’s so accepting to other races. Not only did the girl named Priyanka win it, but she was pretty damn good! I mean, like, we could talk about Snatch Game and the other improv challenge where I was a pregnant smoking teenager but otherwise, I turned it.
I don’t think you should’ve been in the bottom for that challenge…
Thank you! Y’know what? You’re the first interviewer to say that to me, so thank you I really appreciate that.
And I’ll repeat it! You shouldn’t have been in the bottom for that challenge.
I think I did… safe. Lemon was the clear winner because she’s such an icon. Bobo being in the top was garbage, and Jimbo was amazing too but that look, like… Why are you wearing a circus tent on stage with jewels glued to your face? I’m not happy about it. But it’s fine! You know what, this is the thing. Although we can say I shouldn’t have been in the bottom and all that stuff, look at the lip syncs! They were so good. The Hello one? I practiced for I Drove All Night, that was gymnastics, cirque-du-so gay, but for Hello I was like, ‘I’m so bad at drag. I’m ugly and disgusting. I hate myself.’ I was like, ‘Just breathe in, breathe out and act like you’re drunk at the bar at 3am and something will happen.’ That’s what I did.
You’ve kind of changed the way people say hello now.
Yes, it’s the reach! It’s the pageant. I also wanna talk about Ilona pushing me.
What? Drag is not a contact sport!
Drag is not a contact sport!
Ilona, keep your hands to yourself! Don’t touch me bitch!
Well there’s my headline: ‘Priyanka sends threatening message to Ilona Verley: “Don’t touch me bitch.”’
Don’t touch me bitch! ‘Former washed up kids TV host says, “Don’t touch me bitch!”’ No, it’s fine. I really love her. I got to spend a lot of time with her and she’s cooler than we all think she is. She’s a sweet angel. Kyne on the other hand… No, I’m kidding, she’s such an easy target that one.
When you won, was there any part of you that thought, ‘Fuck, now I can’t redeem my Snatch Game on All Stars?’
Yes! As a performer, you want to know why you did bad at things. Like… WHY WAS I SO BAD? WHY? I just need to figure it out. The call is coming from inside the house, that’s for sure. I can redeem myself still for, maybe like an online series? I’m getting a lot of emails about playing fortune tellers in TV shows! I wanna figure out how to make it good or… just give it up. My other choice was Miranda Sings but I was so focused on doing a West Indian character that it bit me in the ass. But then we wouldn’t have gotten I Drove All Night! Sam what are we supposed to do about that?
I need to be loved. If I don’t feel loved I’m gonna make you love me. That’s why I keep asking, ‘WHAT’S MY NAME?’ I need reassurance or else I feel lonely.
Well in that case, I’m glad you failed.
You’re glad I was hot garbage?
Otherwise, that wedding dress couldn’t have been flung off the stage the way it was.
It was a very sensual lip-sync Priyanka.
You wanted to open me up! Can I say that in an interview?
Yeah, why not?
I need to stop – cancel the interviews!
Give yourself some credit, you’ve just had a near-death experience…
Here’s the thing… Let me tell you something about being sensual during I Drove All Night. It’s a song about creeping into your lover’s room, like the same way I’m about to show up to Adam’s [PR] house. It’s a show about creeping into your lover’s room, waking them up, driving all night to see them, is that alright? You wake them up from their sleep just to make love to you. Okay, come on.
Have you done that before?
Yeah, I have, I have. I’m like, whenever I date somebody I’m a little bit stage five clingery, so I definitely can relate to the song.
That’s a really beautiful story.
I just love love! And I need to be loved. If I don’t feel loved I’m gonna make you love me. That’s why I keep asking, ‘WHAT’S MY NAME?’ I need reassurance or else I feel lonely.
Do you feel assured now with one hundred thousand dollars, crown and sceptre?
When is the money being wired to me? I feel very very very very very very very very good about myself right now. But honestly, after Thursday’s episode, it was mental. It was like taking those like paddles to your brain because you’re so used to being on TV every single Thursday. Now what?
Shea Couleé declared this period of Drag Race as “the Melanin Dynasty” – what kind of message do you think the winners of the franchise this year sends to queer fans of colour?
There are a couple of things I need to address here, okay? The message that it sends is that it’s so normal, that for the biggest show in the world, a queen of colour can take the crown, no big deal. That’s what the LGBTQ2+S community is all about. Anybody can take it. We’re all seen as equal and we’re all accepted. The cool thing about Shea Couleê, Jaida Essence Hall, Heidi N Closet, Monet X Change, Yvie Oddly and myself is that they’re all well deserved crowns. It’s not like, ‘Oh, they just threw it to her because she’s Black,’ or ‘They just threw it to her because she’s brown.’ It’s like… ‘Oh she is that bitch.’ Sorry ‘bout it.
And what do you think your win will mean to queer Indo-Caribbean people?
I’ve already gotten so many messages from people like, ‘Wow, you did it.’ People use it as like… People that aren’t white in general are so worried about being judged. For example, I came out to my dead and I came out to him as a drag queen, but I know that the first thing he thought was, ‘Oh god, what are people going to think?’ We live our lives as West Indian people being like that. In India, they have such a hierarchy with the rich and the poor, and it’s all about family values, hooking your son up with the best bride… It’s all about that. It’s a pride thing, where everyone wants to be the best. I think, for me, winning Canada’s Drag Race is that you can be gay, you can dress up as a girl and be the best at that. For them to see that, they’re like, ‘Okay, well if they can do it, then I come out to my family and be successful at being a brown person.’ My mom was very like, ‘When you walk into a room, don’t let them tell you that you can’t because you’re brown. You’re just as good as the white person.’ I’m just here to make everyone feel accepted and welcome, and to find a boyfriend. Is that so hard?
Earlier, you celebrated your win because you can now find love – have you received many propositions? Spill all the T.
Yeah, a lot of propositions! Except… this is the thing. I’m an old school girl, so let’s set up the scene. We’re at a party, I walk in… Oh, and here’s the other thing, do I want him to know that I’m Priyanka from Canada’s Drag Race? Or do I need him to just be like, ‘Who’s this cute boy in the room?’ What do you think? Both? Because if you don’t watch Drag Race, then what are you doing? What’s wrong with you? Are you dumb?
Hate it. I just want it to be love at first sight, then they look at me and hold me softly… You know when they kiss you, and then hold the back of your neck? Oh baby! [Orgasmic sounds]
You’re in the race too baby! Don’t worry. The next season of Canada’s Drag Race is going to be just a dating show for me.
Flavor of Priyanka?
The antics! The COVID that we would all share… It’s bad. It’s a bad idea. Cancel the season before it starts.
I’m just here to make everyone feel accepted and welcome, and to find a boyfriend. Is that so hard?
I’d at least want to see the pilot…
Okay, would you be a contestant on it?
Yeah, I’ll give it a go.
Hot. Instead of roses like The Bachelorette, what would I give away?
I Drove All Night CD singles?
Vinyls! No, it would be like a bouquet of flowers, because of the wedding dress.
You have such an incredible online presence, you literally swat the haters away like flies – how did you get to this point? Where you’re just so comfortable?
I literally save the tweets because, here’s the thing, the fans only turned on me when I won the makeover challenge. Before, they were fine. I was Priyanka, ‘Wow, we love you doll, great lip syncs, wow wow wow.’ Then when I won… Jimbo’s fans are very hateful. When I won the makeover challenge over Jimbo, everyone was like, ‘Jimbo was robbed!’ Somebody called me a p*ki in a leotard.
Who the fuck?
I saved that guy’s tweet because I obviously knew that I was going to make it to the top three. I just think that it’s very important not to tolerate it, but also deliberate in a way with some sparkle and shine over it. Because the minute that you sound too defensive it makes it like, a little too serious. It’s fun to swat away the haters and joke about it, because like someone to sit there and tell you they hate you… That’s funny! Like wow, you’re actually doing that? Like, huh? Like, you’re sitting there typing, ‘I hate that girl Priyanka on Canada’s Drag Race, she screams all the time, she is so annoying!” My ex-boyfriend in college said the same thing. Relatable content. So, it’s important to do that but it’s also important to stick up for your other sisters too because, if my fan is hating on Kyne and I don’t stick up for Kyne, that means that I’m also hating on Kyne too. We have a responsibility to stick up for each other.
What advice would you give for future Drag Race contestants who may receive their fair share of negativity online?
Here’s my advice: the hate is never going to stop. It’s only going to get worse the more popular the show gets. To just touch on what I said before, don’t respond to everybody. I think it’s really important to praise the people who are saying good things about you. We get lost in the bad comments. It’s easy to praise the people who support you because it’s easy to give attention to those who hate you. If you want to call them out, be funny about it, but only if your mental health can take it. I can handle it because sometimes I live in a little bit of a bubble. Also, it’s important to stick up for your other sisters because it’s your responsibility to make sure that you don’t tolerate it. The minute you tolerate it, everyone will keep doing it. So, that’s my advice. I also want to tell the contestants of Canada’s Drag Race season two, if it gets picked up: you’ll never be me.
What a great line to end it on.
Lemon just said, ‘No one would want to be.’
The entire first season of Canada’s Drag Race is now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.