SPOILERS AHEAD FOR CANADA’S DRAG RACE
RuPaul’s Drag Race has finally ventured north in search of Canada’s next drag superstar on the inaugural season of Canada’s Drag Race. The first season has introduced us to the judges’ panel—RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 queen Brooke Lynn Hytes, Canadian cutie Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, and fashion icon Stacey McKenzie Bowyer—as well the 12 contestants who are competing to snatch the crown.
In the first two episodes, we saw Juice Boxx and Kyne sashay away from the competition, and in the most recent episode, it was time for Nassau native Anastarzia Anaquway to say goodbye. The pageant queen made her mark on the season by being the first and only Bahamian contestant to appear in the Drag Race franchise and getting personal when she told her harrowing story of why she chose to flee her home country.
Anastarzia spoke with NewNowNext about her pageant past, how she was almost Morticia Addams on the runway, and what it was like lip-syncing to Deborah Cox in front of… Deborah Cox.
Hi, Anastarzia! First off, I want to know, what was it like when you got the call that you were going to be on Drag Race?
Oh, child, I lost my shit completely. I was at work and I had to run away from humans. I shouldn’t let anybody see my true emotions because my mom always said, before she passed away, she would always say I would be a star. She died when I was 9. So, then I’m standing here 28 years after she died, her words are coming to fruition. And I’m standing here like, “This shit is not real.” I totally lost my shit.
What are your drag beginnings? Where were you performing?
I started back in 2002 on the little island of Nassau, which is in the Bahamas. And I started because I was heavily involved in performing arts while in high school. Outside of school, there weren’t too many avenues for adults to get into the arts. I was in fashion until one night there was this tall, tall drag queen, and I fell completely in love. I was like, “Oh, maybe this is something I can do.” So, that winter, which was my second time in drag, I entered a competition, The Stars Bahamas, against eight other competitors, and I won. Listen, the feeling that you get when you win a pageant, it causes something. It causes you to want more. It causes you to want to come back and do it again, and again, and again. And 18 years later, I’m still competing in pageants because it’s what I absolutely love doing. The scene in my country has changed so much because back then, our makeup was shit poor. It was horrible. Companies like MAC and Sephora, they came around and we started to work with these companies to hone our skills.
Is there a drag scene in the Bahamas? I wasn’t aware.
Oh yeah, there certainly is. We started back in 2002. There were those like Victoria Diamond, there were girls that were there before us, that actually paved the way so that we could do what wanted to do. It was because of them that we started doing drag. Because, until I met Victoria Diamond, I didn’t even know drag was a thing. My introduction to drag realistically was Victoria Diamond. … For years, we were very private about it, but I look on social media now, and they’re very much out there, and it looks like they’re open with it.
You’re a pageant girl. But, when I was talking to Brooke Lynn, she said that Canada’s pageant scene was lacking…
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a scene, which is why all of my pageant experience is pretty much in the United States and the Bahamas. When I first moved to Canada, we did have somewhat of a pageant scene, because I did five competitions. I did five pageants and won them all here. There once was a thriving pageant scene; it’s just that it no longer exists.
When you were performing in Canada, did you perform at clubs?
The thing is, I’ve never been a part of the Canadian scene. Again, I travel to the U.S. to do all my drag. Because Church Street is pretty much the center of the drag scene. I did, however, spend two years with Club El Covento Rico, because I won Miss El Covento Rico. And during that year, I did shows at that club. But, outside of that, it’s pretty much just been the U.S.
Did you know or had you worked with any of the queens that were on the show with you?
Oh, for sure. All of the Toronto queens. We all know each other because I worked with many of them in the past.
Was there a certain queen who you were especially gagged to see when you walked in the workroom?
The two queens that totally gagged me when I walked in, not for the fact that they were there, I wasn’t gagged by seeing any of the Toronto queens, because it’s Drag Race. You will see some of them, because they are the big things in Toronto. The one that gagged me was Ilona Verley. When I walked in and saw the bitch ring in her nose and this cool look, I was like, “Oh shit, this bitch is somebody to look out for.” And then when Jimbo walked in the door, I completely lost my shit. Those two definitely did it to me.
For this week’s episode, when you had to do the “Canada Gay M.” morning talk show, I would think as a drag queen, since you perform at night, you don’t really get to see that much morning television. Is that true? How was it doing that challenge?
Child, you know good and well, we are people of the night. [Laughs] I’m not going to up watching Good Morning America or Canada A.M. You know good and well we ain’t going to be doing that. Of course, growing as a child, you probably [watched] some news media and stuff, but that’s all. It was difficult as hell. Because we’re sitting there, and the teleprompter comes on and the words just start scrolling, and it’s like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. What’s happening right now?” And then, the thing is, names are coming up and it’s like, “Oh shit. How do you pronounce this?” It was crazy.
Reading a teleprompter is harder than it looks! You weren’t too excited to record your part of the rap battle with Ralph. What was that recording session like?
I grew up in the church choir. And so I’m accustomed to singing, and the new people will be like, “Yeah, we need you to rap,” and I’m like, “Do what?” Girl, despite the color of my skin, I cannot rap, let me tell you now. It was a challenge. I love that I got to do it though. Now, I’m playing with some stuff, and I’m like, “Oh, I could do this on the show and under the pressure.”
— Canada's Drag Race (@canadasdragrace) July 17, 2020
When you performed the actual rap battle, there were so many girls on stage. What was that like—doing the actual battle there in front of the judges?
Oh, that aspect of it was fun. Because even though we were in a competition, we’re drag queens, and the stage is our home. So child, when that music got started, I think we all just kicked into gear.
I really liked your Cousin Itt runway. I loved the Addams Family movies growing up. When you said it was like going back to your childhood, were you referring to the Addams Family or Chun-Li?
I was actually referring to both. Listen, we grew up watching the Addams Family, and we grew up playing Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. So both characters really took me back to my childhood. Now, the gag is, Chun-Li was a very, very last minute thing. I’m the type of person, if it’s not done right, I’m not doing it. My first look was actually supposed to have been Morticia Addams. But, I didn’t have sufficient time to complete it. I thought about it like, “Yeah. No. I’m not putting that on.”
And then the judges said that they wished it was Morticia. So, did you have regrets about changing?
When she said it, I gagged. I don’t regret changing. Because, I think if I had worn that dress on stage, they would have torn me to pieces. As a pageant person, the last thing you want is to be torn to pieces, because you pride yourself on being polished all the time. I think the decision for me would have been to just get rid of Cousin Itt. If I could change something, I would have just taken it off and done Chun-Li.
Like every other gay man, are you a big Deborah Cox fan? How was that seeing her?
Let me tell you something. My career as a drag queen was built on the butt of Deborah Cox. When I first started drag, almost every song I did was from Deborah Cox. So to be there and see her… I’m not a crazy person that just starts screaming when you see somebody you adore, but, it was definitely a moment for me.
ROYALITY HAS ARRIVED
— Canada's Drag Race (@canadasdragrace) July 17, 2020
That must have been pretty nerve-wracking to do a lip-sync in front of her.
Especially considering the song that we were doing! I just kept saying in my head, “Why do we have to do this song this week? Why do I have to do this song this week?” Because the song in essence is… Oh, I can’t say that word. An F.U., that’s what the song is saying, and I’m like, “Oh.” This is exactly what I want to tell the judges. Why would you make me do this song this week?
What is your favorite Deborah Cox song to perform?
I love a lot of her ballads. The other day, I was just listening to “My First Night With You.” Listen, I can go on and on with the list. Do I have a favorite? I can’t say that I do, but I love when she does her ballads, they just get me.
When I talked to Kyne last week, she said that she knew that she was going home when she was performing the lip sync. Did you feel that way? Were you surprised by your elimination?
I was not surprised by my elimination in any way. And I relate to Kyne 100%. Waiting for the lip sync, I knew I was going home, way before it.
You said you spend a lot of time in America. Who were some of your favorite American Drag Race queens?
Child, listen, this is so extensive. There’s a drag mom that passed away. There’s my drag mom that passed away, Tanisha Cassadine. And then, we have the greats of U.S. pageantry, Tommie Ross, Raquell Lord, Jasmine Bonet… The list just goes on and on. There are so many of them that were trailblazers, that paved the way for us. And I have drawn inspiration from all of them.
Canada’s Drag Race is available on WOW Presents Plus and premieres Monday, July 27 at 8pm ET on Logo.