The inaugural season of Canada’s Drag Race was narrowed down to three finalists: Toronto queens Priyanka and Scarlett BoBo and Montreal’s Rita Baga.
When the finale aired tonight (September 3) on Crave, one of them was crowned Canada’s First Drag Superstar and claim $100,000 plus a year of hotel stays (COVID-19 permitting, we assume).
The competition featured the usual reality TV ups and downs, with respected Toronto queen Tynomi Banks and big-on-social media queen Kyne bowing out early. Both Scarlett BoBo and Rita Baga have been doing drag for nearly 15 years, while Priyanka—voted by NOW Toronto readers last year as Toronto’s best drag performer—is a relative newcomer who earned a rep locally as a hard worker.
Well-known in Quebec, Rita Baga heads into the finale with three wins, including two difficult design challenges. She had a strong run until the final two episodes when she landed in the bottom, sending home the two most popular queens on social media: Lemon and Jimbo.
The ensuing backlash led her to take a break from social media. Several of the show’s contestants, as well as streaming platform Crave, have spoken out against online harassment in recent weeks. The show’s judges, Stacey McKenzie, Brooke Lynn Hytes and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman in particular also became the focus of fans’ ire.
Meanwhile, Scarlett BoBo was frequently at the centre of shady (and confusing) work room fights. She never landed in the bottom, but the growing anxiety emanating from this top Toronto queen’s perceived underperformance led to raucous, hilarious, head-scratching moments. She finally pulled off a win when it really mattered: in the second-to-last episode.
Priyanka won twice and landed in the bottom twice, delivering memorable lip sync performances to Céline Dion’s "I Drove All Night" and Allie X’s "Hello". Her confessional asides were among the show’s funniest and most helpful to viewers tasked with navigating a season brimming with shade.
Ahead of the finale, we caught up with the Canada’s Drag Race finalists for a three-way interview about fighting on the air, the judging backlash and their best and worst moments.
Is this the top three that you expected to be on the show?
Scarlett BoBo: I really had this feeling that this was going to be the top three. I knew that Priyanka was going to bomb every challenge [laughs]. I’m kidding! Priyanka has that personality and drive that she was going to make it to the end. And Rita is literally a Canadian icon. When I saw Rita walk into the work room, I was shaking a little bit. Rita is such a household name—not even in just Montreal, but all of Quebec.
Rita, you organize a big drag competition every year. Can you tell me about that?
Rita Baga: Before Canada’s Drag Race, that was the biggest drag competition in Canada. Now I’m no longer able to say that. I’ve hosted plenty of drag competitions in the past decade, but the biggest was MX Pride Canada, which was throughout the entire country. We wanted to have people from every province. We have a small portion, which is a pageant, where you have to perform two different songs, have three different outfits. It was cute. We were supposed to do one this year but the minute I got the call from Drag Race I was like, “Okay! My time to shine now!”
How integrated is the drag scene between in English and French Canada? Obviously, the country has a reputation of having separate pop culture spheres. What’s the dynamic like in the drag world?
Rita Baga: I do feel there’s a separation, though I must say it’s not the case for everybody in Montreal. We have a huge English community in Montreal. But there’s something different about the culture [in Quebec]. It’s like we’re our own little country in a big country but at the same time you can combine these two. It’s a whole—with a “w.” Just making sure because sometimes my accent makes funny sound.
Scarlett BoBo: Makes funny sound?
Rita: Makes funny sound? Oh, whole, I dunno! Yeah, so it’s different but it’s comp-le-ment-ary. Is that how you say it?
Rita Baga: Wow, that was a nice and long word!
We love long, hard words in English.
Scarlett BoBo: Big, long, thick, hard words.
Priyanka, you’ve been doing drag for the shortest period of time of the finalists. What’s it been like going from zero to 100?
Priyanka: I had a lot of prove. Like you said, I’ve been doing drag for the least amount of time but I had all these accolades going into the competition: Queen of Halloween at Woody’s, Miss Crews & Tangos, NOW Toronto’s best drag performer. To walk in [to Drag Race] and completely shit the bed, then it’s like, the voting was off. Maybe Tynomi Banks should’ve won NOW Toronto’s best drag entertainer? I felt a lot of pressure to be good but I also wanted to have fun. Luckily, Bobo and Rita made it such a fun experience that took the edge of the competition away until those couple times I was in the bottom. I was like, I need to send somebody packin’.
All your reputations preceded you in different ways. Was that an advantage or disadvantage going into Canada’s Drag Race?
Scarlett BoBo: Both. I’ve also won Miss Crews & Tangos and Woody’s. I’ve toured the world already, I’ve toured Europe and I’ve done an album. I’ve done all this stuff already! I was like I’m gonna make it to the top three because I’m amazing and blah blah blah. And getting in there I was like whoa, whoa, whoa! This is not what I thought it was going to be like. It’s a lot more work than I ever anticipated.
Rita Baga: I did feel when I entered the room that some of the girls knew me. Obviously, I worked together with Kiara for years. At the same time, it wasn’t an advantage or disadvantage. Some people knew what I was capable of and some did not. The biggest challenge was to prove to myself that I was able to not only host a competition, but compete in one.
Priyanka: Your reputation is something that gets you on the show. But then you have Tynomi and Kyne who were early outs in the season and to see them go home made the competition feel that much harder. I thought Kyne was going to be there until the end. I thought Tynomi was going to be there to the end. The people we thought were our competition were actually not our competition. It’s the people who we didn’t even see coming. It was really cool. I loved this mindfuck!
There were a lot of design challenges this season. How do you feel Canada’s queens showed up for the design challenges?
Priyanka: Why y’all lookin’ at me for? At least I recycled! How about we let the other two who actually won design challenges talk and I’m just gonna take a little break here.
Scarlett BoBo: I’m still gagged over that win. I was living for my look for sure. The first [design challenge], I was shocked I ended up making chaps. The second one was nice because I had Rita being like, “Shut up and just do it!” What about you Rita?
Rita Baga: I’m just trying to remember my first thoughts when we were told we would begin this whole journey with a design challenge. The challenge was you have to create something out of a box. I won that one and it gave me the confidence to think outside of the box. On the second one, it was really fun to create a collection and work together. They don’t do that often on Drag Race – create a collection. By the last one, we were exhausted. “Guess what? For the last challenge before the last step you’re going to make another thing all by yourself!” But, it makes good TV.
Can I get your takes on the judging? Obviously, that’s been polarizing among the fandom, and some of the queens I’ve interviewed had critical things to say as well. Do you feel like the judging was constructive?
Priyanka: I feel like the judging was very constructive. The reason why there was so much backlash was because the world doesn’t trust the three of them yet. You know Jeffrey from his acting work, you know Stacey from America’s Next Top Model, you know Brooke Lynn from being a competitor. There’s not a mom in the house to be like, “Let’s listen to mom!” To the world, it’s like [the contestants’] brothers and sisters are just judging them. “We don’t like them! Everything they’re saying is wrong! They could’ve said it better!” The silver lining about all the backlash—I know there shouldn’t be one—is that people are rooting for us so hard and they want us to do so good, so when someone says something mean about us the Drag Race fandom has had it.
Rita, did you feel like you became a better queen through the judging?
Rita Baga: They gave me good criticism. I don’t necessarily agree with everything they said. They have their conception of what good drag is and I have mine, which is okay. When [RuPaul’s Drag Race judge] Michelle Visage was there, she said something about the padding. She said, is it mandatory nowadays? No. But does it help the people watching at home to get this illusion on Drag Race? Yes. Those nuances help us and the viewers at home have different takes on good drag. The judging parts and runways are long so they cut very important parts sometimes. But in general I agreed with most of the things they said.
There were a lot of intense arguments and a lot of shade in the work room this season.
Scarlett BoBo: I don’t know what you’re talking about. [laughs]
I know you’ve made up and are friends again, but the fans don’t see that. So when there’s this bullying and negativity online, do you think the fans are picking up on this focus on fighting?
Priyanka: First of all, I want to say the three of us queens handled that online bullying very well, so round of applause! Thank you! We are sisters. We stick up for each other.
Secondly, if you go back and watch, all of those arguments ended with a laugh. Every single one. We wanted it to be in the show because after the cameras cut we were like, “Pfffff, gurl.” When Rita and Jimbo had their fight, it wasn’t a fight. It was just Jimbo being Jimbo and Rita being Rita and us all laughing about it after. I don’t want to say it fuelled online harassment. Any reality TV show star faces online harassment. I’m very happy and proud to be part of a show that stuck up for us.
Scarlett BoBo: We are with each other for so many hours of the day and we’re only seeing each other all day. We’re tired, we’re stressed out, we’re cranky. There’s so many emotions. If someone looks at you the wrong way, you’re like [growls], “What are you looking at?!”
Priyanka: Imagine being hangry and being with your best friend. It’s the exact same thing. Didn’t you like watching us argue with each other, Kevin? Wasn’t it fun?
Priyanka: What was your favourite argument of the season?
I think Scarlett versus Ilona Verley.
Scarlett BoBo: [laughs] We were fighting about nothing. We were just fighting about fighting. And fighting to get the last word. “Well, no you! No, you!” I think that went on for 20 more minutes.
Scarlett BoBo: I didn’t like the exact words I used when I was arguing with BOA. I was very steamy and very upset and I was throwing words out of my mouth. Watching it back I was, like, “Urgh, I didn’t really mean to say it like that.” I was just mad and yelling words.
Priyanka: I’m gonna say watching my Miss Cleo [on Snatch Game] was cringeworthy. I’m gonna say when Kyne told Elisha Cuthbert that she likes her outfit was cringeworthy. I came up in drag competitions so to talk back to a judge is like, huh?! You don’t do that. But I like that Kyne sticks up for herself because that’s what you should do. If you have a storyline to explain about your outfit, you explain it. You make them get it.
Scarlett BoBo: Actually when [Kyne] said, “I forgive you Brooke Lynn.” And we’re like, but she didn’t say sorry!
Rita Baga: Even though for some viewers at home it was one of the cutest moments on Drag Race, watching the part where we have to speak to our young self. I hated it. I don’t like to talk about very emotional stuff. When they told us we were about to do that, I was like, “Oh no, I don’t want to do it.” Watching back this episode last week I was uncomfortable. I saw myself being uncomfortable, too. I was like, can it stop already? And it was so long. That was the most cringe-worthy for me.
What moments were you most proud of or that felt good watching back?
Rita Baga: Winning the first challenge. It was the start of a great journey. One the first week, I watched this episode here in my camping space and my boyfriend made a little surprise. He rented a giant screen and he put it outside of the RV. We were with our closest friends and we watched it on the screen and it was magical. It brings an automatic smile on my face.
Scarlett BoBo: It was a toss up between the girl group challenge and the pageant. I really liked the pageant because it’s hard for me to do glamour. I feel uncomfortable in very glamorous situations. Watching it back, I was rewinding the runway like, “Oh damn, I do look really good.” The girl group challenge – that’s what I do best. I shot out of that group like a rocket and was bouncing around the stage. I could tell I felt very comfortable and very confident.
Priyanka: My duct tape umbrella dress moment. I looked like the girl from The Ring but I served it like I was Naomi Campbell. I gotta say, I am more than proud of myself. You’re wearing garbage but you look good, bitch! You did it. I would say that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.