Priyanka Opens Up About "Canada’s Drag Race," Representation, And The Drama Surrounding Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman
All hail our newly crowned sickening Queen of the North!!!!
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been, well, a shitshow! But there have been a few bright spots, and one of the those bright spots has been Canada’s Drag Race. The first season of the show — which is the first English-speaking version of Drag Race not to have Mama Ru as host — gave us big personalities, drama, laughs, and looks, looks, looks, and even more looks. It also gave us Priyanka — a former children's TV host-turned-superstar drag queen — who was not only the season’s breakout star and narrator, but also the queen who snatched the crown.
And the day after she won the crown, BuzzFeed spoke with Priyanka about everything, from Snatch Game and representing West Indians, to whether or not her father has met Priyanka yet and, of course, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman.
BuzzFeed: I wanted to start of by saying, condragulations. You've got us all saying your name: PRIYANKA! Has it sunk in yet that you won the crown?
Priyanka: It hasn't sunk in yet. I've literally been doing interviews all day, bragging over and over again that I am "Canada's first drag superstar!" And then when I hang up, it's like I forget it's happened. And then I take the next call and I'm all like, "Yes! I am the winner!" Then I hang up and it's, "Wait, am I?" It's like I still need all this reassurance. It's wild! This is so, so crazy to me!
The drag world is actually a small community and you've worked with a lot of the queens who appeared on the show — so aside from just knowing each other, you know each other's styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Was there any queen that you saw walk into the Werk Room, who immediately made you think, Oh shit! This is gonna be a tough competition.
Priyanka: The only person who I was, like, kind of nervous about when she walked into the Werk Room was Rita Baga, because I know how good she is at everything; she can sing, she can act, she can improv and her looks are amazing. And she was the only person that I was like, "Hmm...maybe I'll see her in the top? Everyone else: forgettable." [Laughs] But, in all honesty, as the competition went on, Lemon was a threat, Jimbo was a threat, Bobo was a threat. So it was a very tough competition.
Actually, speaking of Jimbo and Lemon. Was there anyone whose elimination surprised you when it happened?
Priyanka: I was the most shocked when Lemon went home, but I wasn't as shocked when Jimbo went home. I know that's an unpopular opinion. But I think at that point in the competition, it was just Jimbo's time. And my paper dress is ICONIC. So I mean obviously I was the obvious choice for the finale.
Funny enough, you led me into the next question. I wanted to bring up the paper dress that you wore for the Ice Queen Eleganza challenge. I do want to start off by saying you sold it... I mean you definitely sold it to me. But of all the times to wear a corset — with stuff glued on it — you wore it on the episode where Michelle Visage is a judge. And you know that the "corset/ bra and panties with stuff on it" is like a cardinal sin to Michelle. Were you scared that that outfit was going to land you in the bottom, especially knowing you had her there as a guest judge?
Priyanka: Well, you know, I showed that I had some charisma, uniqueness, and I just had to show that I had some NERVES. I showed up in an ugly ass corset with shit glued all over it and a paper-ass dress. And guess what? Michelle Visage put me through to the finale! What now?! Honestly, I came up with the design of that outfit — it's the fugliest thing I've ever seen in my life. But, let me just try to own it for a second.
I came up with the design of it thinking that it was gonna look different than what it actually turned out to look like. And then it wasn't until I was pretty much three-quarters of the way through me constructing the outfit, that Stacey came around and told us that Michelle was going to be there. If you watch the episode back, you can see that I don't even react when they say that she's going to be there because I'm like, "Oh, no, no, no, no! I literally made a panty, a corset, and a Bristol board–looking gird, that was straight out of a grade 5 science project. Well, at least my first two runways were good, because my path to the finale was well deserved!!! I hope. I think. I'm just trying to save myself here.
No, it certainly was. And actually I wanted to ask what your favorite challenge of the season was?
Priyanka: I think my favorite challenge of the season was the girl group challenge and the final "U Wear It Well" challenge. Oh, actually, I would say all the challenges that I won are my favorite. [laughs]
Well, let's talk about one you didn't win.
Priyanka: Oh! Are we talking about Snatch Game?
Yes, we have to bring up Snatch Game. My first question about Snatch Game is: Was it rough to rewatch it? Or did you skip it altogether and not watch it, 'cause ultimately you knew what was going to happen and you didn't want to relive it again?
Priyanka: You know when a car accident happens on the highway and everyone drives slowly just to see what happened, like you can't not watch it? It was that. I was watching it being like, "This is a train wreck!" But I kind of love how bad I am because I found it so funny. Like, what an idiot.
Would you go back and redo Miss Cleo if you had the chance, or would you go back and do one of your backups?
Priyanka: You know what? I would love to go back and make her funny, but I think I just need to put her to rest and let her be, and just move on with my life.
There has been a lot of heated debate about the judging this season, but it has been primarily focused on Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and he has received a lot of hate from the fanbase — so much so that he was bullied off Twitter. I wanted to get your thoughts on that? Because I think if anyone is allowed to have an opinion on him as a judge, it's you.
Priyanka: Right, because he crowned me! In all honesty, I think that people just have a hard time trusting new judges. There is no rapport built up with them. They don't really know them. Also, people on Twitter are mean to Black people, and because Jeffrey's Black, they are even worse to him, which is absolutely awful. Did you at all see that Widow Von'du got bullied off Twitter as well?
I read her tweet where she talked about being bullied and I was shocked to hear that the fanbase was attacking someone as talented as her.
Priyanka: Like what the hell is going on on this day? And I think that people just need to know that if you want to support somebody, that doesn't mean you have to throw hate somewhere else or tear someone down who isn't the person you're the fan of. I think by the fans really attacking Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman it was their way of saying that, like, they love Jimbo. If that makes sense?
Toxic fanbase aside, this has been a great year for queens of color on the Drag Race franchise — all four titles have gone to queens of color [with Season 12's Jaida Essence Hall winning the crown, Heidi N' Closet winning Miss Congeniality, and Shea Couleé winning All Stars 5]. What does that mean to you? And how do you feel to be representing Indo-Caribbeans, as well as other people of Indian descent?
Priyanka: I think it's so cool. I think I'm one of the first Indo-Caribbeans to win something so big. So for all the people from Guyana, Trinidad, and India, just like watching me, single-handedly annihilate the last episode of Canada's Drag Race, I just hope that it inspires them to follow their path of life and be passionate about what they want to do. And, you know, having a creative job as a West Indian person, it's so hard to justify it to your parents, and I am so thankful for my mom — that she's like, "As long as it makes you happy. I don't care, just go and do it. Because I don't want you to be in a job that you hate." I'm happy that I can inspire West Indian people to do more creative jobs, to follow their dreams more.
And have you received a lot of positive feedback from the community?
Priyanka: Oh, yeah, it's been wild. People are telling me that I'm the reason they have better relationships with their parents and with their families. Or that I have encouraged them to come out and find their chosen family. It's been crazy. And I'm so happy to take that on. Like, I will gladly be the mascot for that. If they need me for support. I'll be there. Whatever you need, mama's got you.
Now, I think another big question everyone has is: Has your dad finally met Priyanka? And if so how does he feel about your drag?
Priyanka: So my dad has not met Priyanka, yet. He has seen photos, he has seen some footage, and he knows I've won $100,000. But, he hasn't come to a show yet. He grew up in Guyana, where it's still illegal to be gay. So we're still having a hard time processing all of this, and understanding that a boy can dress up as a girl and that's okay. Also, that it could be a full-time job and that he can still be his son, I think he's just still processing it all. Some days he is accepting, some days he is more quiet about it. I'm just letting him process it, as any parent should.
And you have a crown to prove that you're good at what you do!
Priyanka: I have a crown to be like, "Whatever, dad! Look at me now."
Alright, final question: What did you learn most about yourself doing the show?
Priyanka: I think I learned that I was too quick to judge people. And that whenever you meet somebody new, it's important to get to know them before you make judgment on them. I fell in love with so many of the other queens on the show, but when I first saw them on day one, I was so quick to say like, "Oh, her dress is ugly, and she has a bad personality, and she's the villain of the season, nah, nah, nah." But then I got to really know them, now we're all great friends and I learned to just not be such a ~Judge Judy~! But, what did you learn from this season?!
I learned a lot about Canada, surprisingly. And I also learned that you don't have to pay taxes on what you win in Canada!
Priyanka: Yup, I do nooooot!!! [Laughs]