Bidding wars for tickets, inflated prices and sold out shows in a matter of hours are considered a typical Wednesday in Toronto.
While Coldplay, Lady Gaga and U2 have long had that kind of cache, Toronto drag queens are now getting the same royal treatment, and they say they have one queen to thank.
“It did become more popular when RuPaul’s Drag Race hit the airwaves because it exploded all over,” said longtime Toronto drag performer Donnarama.
“In terms of who’s changed in the audience, (there’s) definitely a lot more inclusion.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race – a popular reality television show currently streaming on Netflix – features drag queens vying for a cash prize and the title of America’s Drag Superstar. Its host and creator, RuPaul, just picked up his second consecutive Emmy for best host of a reality or reality-competition program.
Toronto drag performers say where once they were confined to performing only in bars in the city’s gay village, they’re now being asked to make appearances across the city and at corporate events.
Audiences have shifted too. Drag performers say along with those from the LGBTQ community, straight men and woman are flocking to see the shows.
“I love when straight guys come up to meet me and want to take a picture with me,” Donnarama said. “You want to reach a mainstream audience, especially in a city like Toronto and Canada. We want to bring everyone together.”
Pride Toronto’s own Drag Party event for Nuit Blanche, featuring three queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, sold out in less than 24 hours. On the event’s Facebook page, fans are begging for the event to be moved to a larger venue and $30 tickets are currently being re-sold online for more than $100.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Pride Toronto festival director Collin Joseph. “We’re surprised the demand has been as high as it is.”
Drag is also morphing into new forms as fans clamour for more glamour.
Toronto District School Board kindergarten teacher JP Kane brought the idea of Drag Queen Story Time to the city a little over a year ago. The family-friendly event features drag queens reading stories out loud to a captive audience.
Kane says it’s now being performed across the city in libraries and yoga studios with plans to expand to the Art Gallery of Ontario and Royal Ontario Museum.
“It’s becoming more and more popular and going beyond the demographic it was meant for,” Kane said. “I’m finding I’m meeting kids as young and six and seven who know who Bianca Del Rio is and other drag performers and that’s kind of amazing.”
Pride Toronto’s sold-out Drag Party starts at 10 p.m. Friday at 99 Sudbury Street.