Vancouver drag queen Venus becomes first Indigenous winner of “Canada’s Drag Race”

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      It’s been a busy week for Venus. 

      The Vancouver drag queen found out she won the fourth season of Canada’s Drag Race on Thursday night—becoming both the first Indigenous and the first West Coast performer to snatch the crown—then immediately boarded a nine-hour flight to London for the annual RuPaul’s DragCon UK on Friday. 

      “It was such a whirlwind, going literally straight from the finale to DragCon, travelling in a flying saucer across the world,” she says. “By the time we get to DragCon, it’s like 9:30am and I have to be ready for 10:30—so I put on my diamond catsuit, and I literally kept the face mask on the entire day. I had no makeup on underneath!”

      The crystal catsuit Venus wore on her season made a return at DragCon thanks to its face-covering convenience.
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      Even before her TV appearance, Venus was already a big name in Vancouver. She’s the drag daughter of Kendall Gender (another Canada’s Drag Race finalist); one of the organizers of Happyland Festival; and a founding member of non-binary supergroup Enby 6

      “I spent the last two years as a part of Enby 6—the best drag show in the city, thanks to the Georgia Straight and all your readers—and the five of them really helped me prepare for Drag Race,” she says. “I took all of them in my back pocket when I was on Drag Race. That show really taught me how to speak better, how to perform better, and how to not take myself so seriously, and have fun with different forms of drag.”

      The finale of Canada’s Drag Race season four saw Venus facing off against Toronto’s Aurora Matrix, Calgary queen Nearah Nuff, and Montreal-based Denim in a musical quest for the title (and the $100,000 prize). The competition awards one winner each episode, and this season had very even results: Venus, like Nearah Nuff and Denim, had a single victory (for the premiere’s three-look Ball challenge) going into the finale. But with consistent top placements, impeccable fashion, and a quirky sense of humour, she seemed like the one to beat all season long. 

      The final four were tasked with creating an entire song over the same basic beat—leading to Venus’ “K.U.N.T Manifesto”, referencing her former last name, Kunt. Her lyrics celebrate both her heritage—who can deny the power of, “Metis so I’m mighty”?—while reflecting that the entire experience “healed my inner child.”

      The finalists had some high-profile help with their singles, as Canadian legend (and BC’s very own) Nelly Furtado aided them through their recording session. While everyone was gagged that the show had bagged a genuine celebrity, Venus had the strongest reaction to Furtado’s announcement, falling to the ground in joy and shock. That connection also came through in her lipsync for the crown, as she poured her heart out to Furtado’s iconic “Try”.

      “That’s not something that I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to amp this one up.’ It was like, ‘Baby, this is Nelly Furtado!’” Venus enthuses. “This is one of my childhood icons. I literally dropped to my knees. You can see in that moment…I was like, ‘I can’t believe that this is happening right now.’” 

      Venus’s emotional authenticity was one of her greatest strengths on Canada’s Drag Race—and she’s the same way in conversation. From talking frankly about dealing with suicide ideation, to explaining how much it meant to her to be the first Indigenous queen to make it to the end of the competition, Venus’s willingness to sit with the big stuff makes her captivating to speak with. 

      She’s especially touched by young fans of Drag Race, and by parents who embrace their kids’ creativity—mentioning local drag kid Charlotte Couture as well as Coconut, a precocious performer she met at DragCon.  

      “Sometimes you forget the impact that you can have on people when it comes to the art of drag and just being an artist. There are so many young fans, and it’s incredible to know they feel some sort of connection to me,” she explains. “When I see a young kid and their parent is taking them to DragCon, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can only imagine how different my life would have been if we’d had this when I was their age.’” 

      Venus got into drag around 2016, after returning to Vancouver from a stint in small-town Manitoba. 

      “I made a promise to myself that when I moved back to Vancouver, I would find my queer community,” she recalls. “There was almost a renaissance of drag happening at the time in Vancouver…2017 to 2019, I have very fond memories. It was my heyday, of sorts.” 

      From Alma Be’s long-running Sanctuary at 1181, to Jaylene Tyme’s Legends at The Junction, to Eastside Studio’s Warehouse (now the Birdhouse), so many of the Vancouver drag touchpoints that Venus first connected to are still present today. 

      She gets emotional talking about some of the close friends she made during that era—from The Girlfriend Experience, who also competed on the same series of Canada’s Drag Race (and went home second), to Rogue, who spearheaded Enby 6. 

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      “Rogue is my best friend, and literally just moved to Montreal today,” Venus says. “There was a moment when I didn’t get on season three of Drag Race, because I was very close—and I was very sad, because I’d actually quit my job and didn’t get on. I fell into a very dark place, but Rogue lifted me up and was like, ‘You are a superstar. You need to believe that.’ ...I’m just so grateful for them, and for my friends who believe in me. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

      With less than a week of her reign behind her, Venus has big plans for the rest of her time as Queen of the North. She’s part of the upcoming Canada’s Drag Race national tour, jokes about bringing back “Two Girls No Tuck” (an iconic show she did with The Girlfriend Experience), and is eying up a solo production. 

      “My one-woman show is coming soon,” she promises. “I have big plans now that all of this has happened—give me a few weeks to get the ball rolling.” 

      But for now, she’s finally going to get some sleep.

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