In “God’s Child”, Willow Pill gives holy mother

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      It’s the opening night of God’s Child—Willow Pill’s first-ever solo tour across North America—and the Hollywood Theatre is rammed with fabulously-dressed gay people. Girls in pastel-pink skirts and see-through pleasers. Guys in enough clashing patterns to decorate a big top. Colours and ruffles and over-accessorizing abound.

      Pill, winner of Season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, cultivated fan-favourite status as a softly-spoken oddball. The years after her win were difficult—not least because her sister died while the show was airing—and she has publicly discussed how jet-set shows took their toll on her. So now she’s doing things her way. 

      From the moment she appears on stage, wearing a blond crop that mirrors her childhood haircut, and launches into a (deliberately) off-key version of “Amazing Grace”, it’s clear this isn’t your typical show. 

      God’s Child is never happy being just one thing. There is standup and storytelling—slightly clouded by first-night nerves, but full of Pill’s droll, biting humour. There are drag numbers with varying levels of irreverence. And there are the interstitial videos, not an afterthought but a feature, which Pill has lovingly edited herself. She has a background in video production; and from the first horny religious Sunday School send-up stylized as a YouTube poop, it’s clear she’s put her skills to good use. 

      Pill’s chronic illness, which defined her storyline on Drag Race, definitely gets space. There is a particularly camp number celebrating her pediatric kidney transplant (and the fabulous Satan she meets while under anesthesia). But the more surprising revelation, and what’s at the core of her story, is Pill’s relationship to religion. 

      She grew up evangelical, in a small town, where her father was the preacher. Her queerness was apparent from a young age; he wasn’t a fan. At the same time, she was diagnosed with cystinosis. She prayed to get better; she prayed not to be gay; she prayed that her dad would die. “That made it pretty awkward,” she deadpans, “when he did.” 

      Flanked by two dancers, and joined occasionally by a crew member solving problems like a dropped mic or a too-tight corset, God’s Child serves as more than just an excuse to wear some beautiful gowns and tell fisting jokes. It’s a reconciliation of trauma. It’s a celebration of claiming your identity. And it’s a reminder that spirituality is a personal project. 

      There are definitely some technical difficulties, which will undoubtedly get ironed out as the tour continues. But there is something magic about Pill at the end, overcome with emotion, throwing artificial flowers into the crowd. Tonight, we’re all God’s children, and she’s giving holy mother.