World's top drag queens flock to Montreal for Pride

Thursday's Drag Superstars show featured stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race strutting their stuff and encouraging fans to "celebrate their individuality, together."

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A quick stroll through the crowd of thousands at Montreal’s Parc des Faubourgs on Thursday night provided some interesting sights, including a life-size cutout of Beyoncé smothered in red kisses, a five-storey inflatable dog and a fabulous fountain illuminated by rainbow projections.

But the cardboard Beyoncé, the dog and the fountain weren’t the true sights to see. Rather, it was the people — men and women of all ages, genders and orientations, each wearing an outfit more eye-popping than the last.

“I don’t feel gay enough!” said Michel Clark, decked out in a monochrome dress, ice-blue six-inch heels and fairy wings.

From preteens with fully painted faces to octogenarians with hair dyed all the colours of the rainbow, people came dressed to the nines for the fourth edition of Drag Superstars, Fierté Montréal’s most anticipated attraction.

The three-hour event features a selection of popular drag queens from the hit reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race as they strut their stuff in front of a crowd that keeps growing every year. This year’s edition boasted fan-favourite queens such as Latrice Royale, Naomi Smalls and Detox.

For the queens involved, the event is a reminder of how far the show has come since it debuted in 2009.

“The show, and drag itself, have become so much bigger in the past decade,” said Manila Luzon, who competed in the third season of Drag Race, as well as two seasons of the spinoff RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. “And the bigger it all gets, the more people are able to express themselves and their individuality.”

For Luzon, this expression is what made her fall in love with drag in the first place.

“Drag allows people to celebrate their individuality, together,” the performer said. “We are all unique in our ways, but celebrating together makes us all the same.”

Luzon’s sentiments were echoed by many of the attendees.

“RuPaul’s show helped open a lot of doors that were closed to a lot of people,” said Naomi Côté. “And it created safe spaces, like the one we’re all in tonight.”

“I’m a non-binary person from a small town where I’m the only queer person I know,” said Taylor Linloff. “I feel seen for the first time ever.”

Linloff travelled from Nova Scotia to attend the event. They credit RuPaul’s Drag Race with widening their perspective of queer identity, and for introducing them to a slew of other issues.

“It’s not just a show about beauty and humour,” Linloff said. “The show also tackles issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.”

Drag Race’s real-life implications became evident when host Sasha Velour, a gender-fluid visual artist who won the show’s ninth season, opened Thursday’s event with a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which sparked a revolution for gay rights.

“We had to fight for the right to exist,” Velour proclaimed.

It was a poignant and fitting beginning to a night full of music, lip-syncing and impeccable style with some of the world’s most flamboyant drag performers.

Fierté Montréal still has a few tricks up its sleeve before it wraps up Sunday, including a comedy set from Margaret Cho on Friday and a performance by pop star Ciara on Saturday. On Sunday, the Pride parade will begin at 1 p.m. downtown. The 2.7-kilometre route runs east along René-Lévesque Blvd., from Metcalfe to Alexandre-DeSève Sts.

dsucar@postmedia.com

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