A Vancouver-based drag queen has continued a herstorical streak. Not only was Ilona Verley the first Indigenous drag queen to compete on the Drag Race franchise, Verley became the first Canada’s Drag Race queen to get the Vogue treatment.
Verley, who was recently in Toronto for a screening of the finale of Canada’s Drag Race, was raised in Nlaka’pamux Nation and grew up in Surrey, and has said that it was their mission to provide representation for people who are either Indigenous, two-spirit, or nonbinary (or all of those).
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“They rise when I arrive in this | All Hail The Supreme Ice Princess” ❄️❄️❄️❄️ I AM SO EXCITED TO FINALLY TELL Y’ALL THAT I AM APART OF CANADA’S DRAG RACE SEASON 1! ❄️❄️❄️❄️ Drag has been my entire life for the past 5 years, full time & full throttle and I am so beyond happy to be able to know that all the hard work and ups and downs have brought me to where I’m meant to be! ❄️❄️❄️❄️ Hair is @ardawigscanada Photo by @thedragseries Look by @evanclayton Jewelry by @ampedaccessories Shoes by @etcetera__etcetera ❄️❄️❄️❄️ Eyes: @jeffreestarcosmetics Blue Blood palette @jeffreestar Dr*g Lord liquid lip @rouge.and.rogue Slayer lashes @litcosmetics I’m a star glitter Lips: @jeffreestar Titanic Brows: @anastasiabeverlyhills Dipbrow in Ebony
Although Verley was eliminated on the seventh episode, they went on to be featured in an August 31 article in Vogue.
Verley discussed numerous issues, including exploring Indigenous culture through style and how Vancouver designer Evan Clayton created their striking outfits. On the final episode of Canada’s Drag Race, Verley donned a ceremonial ribbon skirt and jingle dress that powwow dancers wear.
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“Not everybody wins, But everybody tries” 🥀🥀🥀🥀 Drag race has been my ultimate dream for so long that even now it’s hard to accept that it’s finally my reality! I did the thing, I made my wildest dreams come true. I went into this experience honestly being so thankful to finally be apart of the drag race family that I wasn’t really gunning for the top... I went in with a mission to do my best & to represent for queer indigenous people & nonbinary / trans* people; Growing up I had no one to watch on tv that was like me, so to be able to be my queer native self on a main stream media platform, that for me is way better than 100,000$ or a crown on my head! At the end of the day I’m extremely proud of myself for how far I made it & my heart is truly at peace! 🥀🥀🥀🥀 I wouldn’t have been able to have made it this far without the incredible people that got me ready for this journey so thank you so fucking much to each of you for what you did to make sure I was ready to be a drag race girl! My parents @daddydring @ilonasmom & @quanahstyle MY COUSIN AND AUDITION TAPE MAKER @heroesofhers My designers @evanclayton & @hauszuk My ride or dies @poutine_queen & @catherinelongxo My SOUNDING BOARDS @lunalaunch @rainemeadows @dck_whr And everyone else who helped me rhinestone and keep my head on my shoulders leading up to the race! 🥀🥀🥀🥀 Original Gown by @mistymeadows.gurl Altered myself & @arachnobite Jewelry & top by @ampedaccessories Hair by @awesomebitchwig Photos by @fcysneiros / @thedragseries Assist @japantara 🥀🥀🥀🥀 My time on the show might be over... (for now) but remember PARTY GIRLS NEVER DIE!
In an interview with the Georgia Straight’s sibling publication Now Toronto, Verley said that they learned about the term two spirit from transgender two-spirit drag performers.
Verley said they had auditioned in Los Angeles for Seasons 11 and 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race but didn’t make the cut, had met numerous Americans who didn’t know what an Indigenous or Native person was, and felt that Canada’s Drag Race was the right fit for them.
“Hearing from other communities and other kids how special and important it’s been for them to see me on TV has lit me up and made me more passionate to continue speaking on these important conversations,” Verley said. “In today’s world, there’s not enough talk about Indigenous people. Very often we get swept under the rug. I’m very happy that I’m in this position now and will talk about this, be proud of being Indigenous and inspire other kids.”
Unfortunately, Verley continues to face discrimination.
While on Vancouver Island visiting a fellow B.C. contestant, drag clown Jimbo, Verley stated on social media on August 20 that while with a friend, they were called a transphobic slur at a Burger King in Victoria (which Verley had stated on earlier that day that they “love…so much tbh”).
Undaunted, Verley continues to stand up for marginalized people and address issues of oppression and discrimination.
In an August 30 social media post, Verley paired the phrase “NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS” with an Indigenous dress, to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIW or MMIWG) in Canada.
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“NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS” 🦅🦅🦅🦅 If you are not familiar with the term MMIW I suggest you get familiar. Canada has a really bad problem with missing & murdered indigenous women not getting the media recognition they deserve. 1000’s of indigenous women have been taken from the streets and even their homes over the last half century. When are indigenous women going to stop being stolen on our own stolen land? Please invest yourself in learning how you can do your part to get involved & stay educated! 🦅🦅🦅🦅 I’ve never felt more powerful and beautiful than I did in this look. I worked with the amazing @teka_everstz & @i_am.pun on this piece to incorporate aspects of jingle & fancy as those are two very prominent First Nations female dance categories and I wanted this look to really pull from multiple aspects of the First Nations woman. We reworked parts of my *ex drag mother quanahstyle ‘s jingle dress (originally by @tajhouseoftalents who also provided the eagle feathers for this) into this look so I would have a piece of her with me while filming and could represent a part of her as my *then chosen family with the tootoosis family crest, as to me chosen family *has been as important as my blood family, my nlaka'pamux people. The pink hues in this look are to represent the divine feminine energy 2 spirit people hold as well as to visualize myself coming into my own as a trans woman. Embracing my culture as part of my art has been a scary journey but I know in my heart it is important to embrace what we can while we are able too. So much of the beauty in indigenous cultures has been lost thru the years so if incorporating jingles and ribbon work into my drag in a respectful way can keep these things documented so years from now people can still know what’s up, I think that’s pretty damn cool. 🦅🦅🦅🦅 Fabrics used were Twill & Silk With Metalic Leather, All the fringe was hand cut by mom and I as well as the braiding down the sleeves and the headband / bracelet. The longhouse paddles added to the chest piece were from my pipe carrier blessing when I was just a little baby! Thank you so much @thedragseries for capturing these powerful photos @voguemagazine