As we get closer to the end of Pride Month, The Sustainable Switch’s team will continue to post articles on interesting and important aspects of Pride. This article will include a Q & A session with famed Toronto Drag Queen Lucy Flawless.
In honour of Pride Month, Raquel Margulies carried out a physically distanced interview with Toronto drag queen and community member, Lucy Flawless. Lucy is a funny, kind and beautiful drag queen who originally hails from a small town in northern Ontario, and moved to Toronto in 2009 to pursue her acting education at York University. Lucy has proudly partnered with Toronto Drag Storytime, the Durham Children’s Aid Society, Youth Pride Durham, and all of the Durham Region public libraries to provide Drag Storytime to young children making sure to tackle socio-political topics through age-appropriate storytelling. To learn more about Lucy Flawless and the man behind her, check out the Q&A below.
Q&A with Lucy Flawless
Q: Tell us a bit about your origins and how you came up with your amazing persona of this wonderful warrior princess.
A: Well the whole, you know, “country Queen thing” it’s not an act. It’s just me living my best life. I actually grew up on a farm in Northern, Ontario, and then moved to Toronto in 2009 for theatre school at York University. Then, the first thing I booked coming out of school was a role in a short film and drag. That was the first thing I really did. I had been doing drag-type things, but wasn’t fully “out” at the time, but more on the lines of being queer and being an actor. I don’t want to say it was discouraged in theatre school, but I was definitely encouraged to do other things. I had done some drag things, and then once I started working after theatre school, I just kept getting cast in drag roles. That was, until the role that was the nail in the coffin. I was cast as a backup dancer for drag queen in a musical the year we did World Pride here in Toronto. So, by then I had a few little gigs and I had been in drag, but it was all just through an acting lens until I worked with a bunch of queens and was backstage, dancing with them and getting to know them. That’s when I was like, “okay, here’s this culture. This is for me.”
So at that point I was already doing all this acting stuff, and I was good at it. I wanted to do it. So I started teaching myself the makeup and just put in the hours, teaching myself. I also definitely used the time at home during the pandemic to keep practicing.
Q: Are you part of a drag family?
A: No, I’ve definitely got people I consider sisters, but I don’t have that typical kind of drag mother relationship. Yeah, so I would say no, but I do have a core group, but not necessarily a “family.”
Q: In terms of pronouns, how do you identify? Do you have a preference in and out of drag?
A: Yep! I do. So, when I’m out of drag I’m he/him and when I’m in drag, I’m she/her. I know that I kind of had to change my viewpoint on this, because for the longest time I was like, I don’t care. My joke was always, “call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for breakfast” kind of thing. But I changed that because people do care, and it is a big thing for a lot of people, so me being flippant about it probably doesn’t help the situation. If somebody makes a mistake and slips up, or does something, it doesn’t necessarily matter to me, but I’m trying to be more adamant. Even the term “preferred pronouns” is something I’ve been avoiding, it’s just better to respect everyone’s pronouns.
Q: Does Lucy Flawless bring out certain parts of you that maybe Eric hadn’t until you found drag? Do you feel that Lucy elevates your personality and your personhood as a whole?
A: Yes! Definitely. That’s the answer. One of the things I always say about drag is: being in drag is the world’s greatest icebreaker. Because people talk to you, and it’s giving yourself permission to be less inhibited. That’s what it’s been for me.
Q: How do you define drag?
A: Good question. My initial reaction would say, a performance that plays with gender. But it doesn’t have to be a performance truly. For me, it is just because I am a performer, but it isn’t necessarily for everyone. It’s performative, playful gender performance. It doesn’t have to be a man dressed as a woman, or a woman dressed as a man – the spectrum is huge. And you can do various states of drag. I just think as long as you are playing with gender, and there is a performative aspect to it in some way, then you are doing drag.
Q: When it comes to your drag shows, what are you hoping that audience members take away?
A: It’s all about entertainment and storytelling, and a bit of like the escapism of theatre. I firmly believe in seeing a piece of art and engaging with it. Maybe it helps you escape with your everyday activities, but I would hope that you would think about it afterwards, think critically about the material in front of you. Not just escape for the hour and a half and then leave and forget about it. Something was being said for a reason.
So, first and foremost, is entertainment. I always say that as an artist, and all the art I do, I feel like I’m a storyteller. That’s for sure where it comes from. I want everyone to leave a Lucy Flawless show happy, horny and hungry.
Q: Do you have any tips for audience members at drag shows? Any big do’s or don’ts?
A: I definitely have a few, but I’m interested to see if those will still be valid with post-pandemic shows. A lot of it is like touching drag queens; don’t touch a drag queens face ever. Now, if we’re masked and walking through the bar, you don’t touch someones mask. So the whole culture of drag shows is changing, because now you’re at a table a certain distance away. There’s a velvet rope in front of the stage where the queen is. So I would say, with these new types of drag shows, a big no no would be: don’t show up and just drink water all night. If you’re going to come out and support the queens, the queens are there to support the bar and the community. If you’re going to go and take up one of these tables, you should spend money at the bar and tip, because it’s the restaurants, performance venues, and performers who have been hit really hard by COVID.
Q: What do you love the most about drag culture? Is there anything about Canada’s drag culture that really stands out to you?
A: I would have to say that my drag experience in Canada is pretty limited to Ontario. So, I can’t speak for the whole country. I have worked in Calgary, that’s the only other city in Canada, but mostly Ontario. What I love about drag is that to me, it’s all-encompassing theatre arts. Like yeah, I was a theatre artist, but I was mostly just like an actor, dancer, director, devisor, and collaborator. But with drag, theatre artists are actors, dancers, makeup artists, costume designers … they’re everything! Even their own publicist. It’s like, oh my god, I’ve got to take on essentially every job in the theatre, when theatre school only actually taught me to do one.
But that’s what drew me to drag. That was my thing. I don’t want to just be an actor, or just a choreographer or just a painter. I wanted to do more. And drag’s been perfect for that. And the culture – I love watching drag. Personally, I feel like once you’ve been to a drag brunch or drag bar, when you go to a regular one, it’s like where are all the drag queens? It’s just not the same.
Overall, I think my number one favourite thing is the art form, and all the variations that come with the culture, because I can go on stage and do my thing, and watch someone else come on stage after me who is doing something entirely different, in a fully different way. And it totally changes the room for the next 20 minutes. Then someone else comes on and the whole room is taken to a totally different world, and it’s so cool how the atmosphere can completely change just by the music and visuals, it’s really magical. It can be really cool, and I love that.
Q: Shania Twain actually reposted one of your Shania drag performances. Was that a highlight moment for your career? Or has there been another moment that has been particularly meaningful or impactful for you?
A: That is definitely a highlight moment. The only thing about that specific one is that while it was cool to come in contact with her and stuff, but it was a social media thing. Highlight moments I think are on a stage somewhere, whereas this was just like I got a shout out from Shania. And now she knows who I am, after years of putting in this work and developing this as part of my stage persona, and it really paid off.
As far as top moments, my go-to is Pride Toronto 2018. It was my first big, busy Pride. The one before I had done a few gigs, but this was me, on the Dundas Square stage, on the Saturday night of Pride doing a competition called the Empire’s Ball, and that was the first ever Empire Ball. I was on a team with 3 of my best drag sisters, and I was first on my team. It was the biggest audience I’d ever performed in front of in my life. It was insane. It was all of Dundas Square. Everyone on my team was so great and we won the competition! I just always think “damn that was such a lovely moment.”
Do you have any advice for up and coming drag queens?
The piece of advice I give to anyone who asks for it is: practice makes perfect. I can’t stress that enough. You can learn everything you could want to possibly learn from somebody else, like makeup, but you have to learn to practice on yourself in the way that works best for you. You just have to do it to get better at it. Practice. Practice. Practice. And then have fun with it and do what you wanna do!
To learn more about Lucy Flawless or want to see her perform, check out her social media and website below.