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).
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.
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.