TV

“Canada’s Drag Race” Judges Spill All the Maple Tea on the New Season

"It was much more emotionally draining and taxing than I ever could have imagined."

Thailand, the U.K., and now our Neighbors to the North—RuPaul’s Drag Race is taking over the world!

Last year, OUTtv, World of Wonder, Crave, and Blue Ant Studios announced that Canada’s Drag Race, a Canadian version of the Emmy-winning competition series, was headed our way with Drag Race Season 11 queen Brooke Lynn Hytes as a permanent judge.

It was also announced that fellow Canadians Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Stacey McKenzie would be joining Brooke on the judges’ panel. The three squirrel friends recently spoke with NewNowNext about their time on set, what the hardest part about judging the queens was, and which Canadian celebs they hope will appear on the next season.

WOW/Crave

Hey, everyone! How’s it going?

Brooke Lynn Hytes: Good! How are you doing?

Oh, I’m good. Thanks for asking. I’m super excited for Canada’s Drag Race.

Brooke Lynn: Us too.

First question, for Brooke Lynn, how did this come about?

Brooke Lynn: I don’t know the exact origins of it. I know that it’s something that the wonderful people at World of Wonder have been working on for a while, they were just looking for the right partner to partner with up in Canada. And I know I asked about it in August of 2018, was when I was like, “Hey, you know what would be great? I know this is a pipe dream, but if we could do a Canada’s Drag Race one day, I would love that. It would be so amazing, I would love to be involved somehow.” This was right after I’d filmed Season 11. And then I just left it alone and forgot about it, and went on with my business. I think it was right after the finale, a couple weeks after the finale, I think, when they messaged me and they were like, “Hey, would you like to be a judge on Canada’s Drag Race?” I think I almost fell off my chair; I couldn’t believe it. It was something I hadn’t really even thought about again since I had said it. I had just been so consumed with the show airing and all my stuff. And then this opportunity literally just landed in my lap. I could not be more grateful and excited for it.

Brooke Lynn, you competed on Drag Race. Jeffrey, you’re part of the family. Stacey, how did you become involved with the project?

Stacey McKenzie: I got a phone call. I thought they were just calling me to be a guest judge. I didn’t expect that. It was via phone call, and the person who was calling me, they were saying I would be a great addition to the judging panel. I watch Drag Race, but I never thought anybody would even think of me to be a part of it!

Brooke Lynn, have you worked with any of the queens before who were competing?

Brooke Lynn: Yeah, I had worked with a lot of them, actually, because I work a lot in Canada, and I used to be a drag queen in Canada. So I knew a lot of them from my time in Toronto, and going up to Vancouver, and Montréal, and working in all those places. But that really didn’t conflict with any of my decisions. I was there to judge them, and I was very impartial. In fact, I think I might’ve been tougher on the people that I did know. When you know someone, you know what to expect a little bit, and if they don’t deliver, then you’re like, “Ooh, come on, I got to do something.” But I just judged on what I thought. I didn’t let my friendships with any of these people get in the way.
 

And Jeffrey, you’ve been on Drag Race. You’re going to be on All Stars this week. What was the biggest difference between being on Drag Race and then on Canada’s Drag Race?

Jeffrey: The biggest difference was being the one that has to make the decision as to who stays and who goes—that’s usually up to RuPaul. But this decision was now on the shoulders of myself, Brooke Lynn, and Stacey. It’s a democracy, but at the end of the day, we really tried to be unanimous about it. And on some days, I was leaning towards one queen staying over the other, and Brooke Lynn and Stacey are maybe feeling another way. We just have to recognize, at the end of the day, we were looking after the best interests of the queens, and they’re all winners. But it was much more emotionally draining and taxing than I ever could have imagined, sending queens home week by week. I know that they’re all going on to fame, and they have their own platforms on a level that didn’t exist prior to the show, but it was hard. It was hard because you fall in love with them week by week, and you know how hard they’re working, how desperately they want to be there, and they were all so insanely talented that it really did come down to splitting hairs at the end of the day, when it came down to deciding who stays and who sashays away.

Were all three of you usually in agreement on who should go home?

Jeffrey: It totally varied. Some days, it was unanimous and we all agreed, hands down, the deliberation really didn’t take very much time. And other days we were in meetings, like you’re taking an hour to go over it, and it’s like Brooke Lynn and I were speaking about it earlier, to have like a Venn diagram, whole charts on a blackboard of all of the queens, and all of the pros, and all of the cons, we were tracking their progress throughout the season, wins or losses. It was totally varied, day to day.

Us Americans, when we think of Canadians, we think, super-nice, they say “sorry,” hockey. What do we get wrong about Canada and Canadians?

Brooke Lynn: That’s so offensive. Why the fuck would you say that? [Laughs] We are all those things! We’re all very polite and everything, but also like this is a show about drag queens, and drag queens are narcissistic egomaniacs by heart. You have to be a narcissist to do this job, and you have to be a bit of an egomaniac to be a drag queen, in my opinion. So you think that, and then you put 12 of them in a room together and then dangle a hundred thousand dollars in front of their faces. Of course, the claws are going to come out. And I mean, that’s what we love about the show, that’s what makes good TV. They’re also just lovely human beings, and there are some really, really beautiful stories that got told on this season that I cannot wait for everyone to see.

Yeah, Canadians have a reputation for being nice and polite, but when I was watching the “Meet The Queens” videos for the queens, I was like, “Oh, they seem kind of cutthroat.”

Brooke Lynn: Oh yeah. I mean, let’s not forget, this is the largest prize in Drag Race herstory. This is a $100,000 dollars, but in Canada, we do not tax prize winnings. So they legitimately get a $100,000 dollars.

CNW Group/Crave

Oh, wow.

Brooke Lynn: So, yeah, the claws come out.

What’s the drag scene like in Canada? Are there a lot of pageant girls? Are there a lot of comedy queens?

Brooke Lynn: Actually, the thing that I find Canadian drag lacks the most is pageant girls. We don’t really have a pageant scene in Canada. There’s not a lot of those big, international pageants that you have in the States that create those types of drag queens. There are some, but there’s just not a lot of them. So I think that’s really the only genre that Canada doesn’t have a lot of.

And a question for all three of you, do you remember either the first drag queen you ever saw or the first drag show you ever went to?

Jeffrey: The first drag queen I ever saw on film was RuPaul in To Wong Foo… playing Rachel Tensions. From there it was Divine in every John Waters film that I was obsessed with, and then in real life, the first drag performer I ever saw was actually a drag king, at a show in Vancouver when I was a teenager.

Brooke Lynn: The first drag queen I ever saw was definitely on Church Street, probably when I was about 15, 16. I used to go to the National Ballet School of Canada, which is right down in that neighborhood, and I would walk through it every day. I don’t remember what her name was, I don’t remember the day I saw her, I just knew that was the first time I like saw her trek through.

Stacey: The first drag queen I ever saw was RuPaul in his video for his song “Supermodel,” I use to practice my walk to it every day! The first drag queen I ever saw in real life was Romel, a local Canadian who can kill a runway! He was so believable as a girl I was shocked when I found out he wasn’t and even more shocked with his killer runway walk. The first drag show I ever saw was in Toronto on Church Street which I happen to come across by walking around, I was intrigued by them, their confidence and their walks were so beyond it was inspiring to watch.

WOW/Crave

I saw Michelle Visage is going to be a guest star on the show. Are there any other familiar faces that we should look out for?

Jeffrey: Crystal from Drag Race U.K.

Brooke Lynn: We have Crystal, we have all the celebrity guest hosts, we have Amanda Brugel, Deborah Cox, we have Allie X, Tom Green, and Elisha Cuthbert. So yeah, we have a really amazing variety of talent coming on.

Jeffrey: Michelle DuBarry, the world’s oldest performing drag queen will be there.

But was there a Canadian celebrity that you would love to get that you didn’t?

Brooke Lynn: My dream one is always going to be Céline Dion. We’re holding out for Season 2.

Jeffrey: Pamela Anderson would be such a dream to have on the panel.

Stacey: I would looove to have Jim Carey, or Dwayne Johnson.

You don’t have to get specific if you don’t want to, but do you have a favorite moment from set, maybe a favorite challenge or something that fans can look forward to?

Brooke Lynn: For me it was Snatch Game.

Jeffrey: For me it was the finale. Having the queens who’d worked so hard over the course of the season, and had grown so much, and to see how they had taken all of our guidance and critique through the course of the season, and evolved into versions of themselves that I don’t even think they could recognize. They were still so authentically themselves at the core, but they had blossomed. It was such a beautiful thing to see.

Stacey: Otherwise from working with the queens and having some great moments with them, I really enjoyed the connection me, Brooke, and Jeffrey had. Brooke does this funny voice that has me rolling each time and Jeffrey is always trying to cleanse the aura of our set.

If I were traveling to Canada and I wanted to catch a great drag show, is there a certain night in a certain city, or some show that you would recommend?

Brooke Lynn: Oh gosh, off the top of my head, Saturday night at Cabaret Mado, cabaret lounge in Montréal. One of the best drag shows the country, in my opinion. And that’s where one of our contestants, Rita Baga, performs. And then also in Toronto, we have Crews & Tangos, where there’s a drag show literally every night of the week, seven days a week drag show at Crews & Tangos. And right across the street from that is Woody’s and Sailor, and again, you will find a drag show there I think five or six nights a week. So those would be my top recommendations, but there are many, many more that I do not know about.

Brooke Lynn, you were on Drag Race, but what was the most surprising thing about judging this series that was unexpected, that you didn’t see coming?

Brooke Lynn: I guess I just didn’t realize how hard it would be to send people home every week. A part of me thought it would be kind of fun, and then it happened, and I was like, “Oh, this is, I hate this. This is horrible.” I just felt for them, because I know how hard it is to get on the show in the first place, how much money to spend, and how stressful it is, and how badly you want to be there. And then have to say, “this is not your time,” was really, really hard. I didn’t expect it to hit me as hard as it did.

Stacey: The surprising thing for me was how well the queens took our critiques—they were willing to learn how to better themselves and their craft, egos were put aside which was refreshing.

And what about the lip syncs? What can you tease about those from the season?

Brooke Lynn: Oh, geez. I mean, all I’m going to say is we’ve got some talented queens in Canada who know how to turn out a performance.

Stacey: Don’t want to give up the goodies, I will say you have to watch and see, our Canadian queens brought it hard!

Jeffrey: I don’t want to give anything away. I am such a super fan who does not like any spoilers at all. I’d like everything to be a brand-new surprise as I’m watching the show, so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else. Y’all are in for a treat. These queens, they did not come to play, they came to slay.

Canada’s Drag Race premieres Monday, July 27 at 8/7c on Logo.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer