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Canada’s Drag Race S1:E1 (A Chaotic Eh-Laganza Eh-Xtravaganza)

It’s official: Canada’s Drag Race has kicked off and the premiere was everything we could have hoped for, plus fake blizzards with some cheese curds sprinkled on top. It was rife with Canadiana puns (I snorted water out my nose when Brooke Lynn Hytes looked dead into the camera and uttered the ridiculous line “My Caribouboos”) and had about as many emotional ups and downs as a feature length film.

Precedent for this season’s production value was set right off the bat with stunning shots of the werkroom. Of course, it’s just as pink and obnoxious as its American cousin, but there’s once key difference up here in the north: the main entrance sits in the centre of a giant sparkling red maple leaf, just in case you’ve forgotten where you’re at for the next 60 minutes.

As the queens entered, one thing became abundantly clear: this cast has personality. Don’t get me wrong, their looks were cute too, but the commentary, quick quips, cracks, and reads were already snort-worthy before they’d actually really done anything. Banter will clearly abound this season and I can already picture the epic tag lines and gifs we’ll all be quoting for the next year.

Priyanka made her name and face into a reveal to start us off and Ilona Verley followed up with a stunning monochromatic ice blue fantasy. Kiara strutted through wearing punchy pinks and blues, while Juice Boxx flew in on her heels in a dainty white number complete with feathery angel wings that were practically her height. We got bright custom regality from Anastarzia Anaquway, bright yellow from head-to-toe-to-train on Lemon (complete with a many-feet long train), and acid biker chick tease from Scarlett Bobo.

Both Kyne and Jimbo gave us black and white, but on two different ends of the style spectrum; Kyne’s a demur half-and-half catsuit and Jimbo’s more of a structured vinyl Micky Mouse, but freaky. Boa, meanwhile, drew immediate laughs dressed as a cow but with a whole-ass UFO on her head. Rita Baga and Tynomi Banks rounded off the group with sparkle and shine; while Rita gave us holographic neon space madame, Tynomi served body in a stoned catsuit that fit like a dream.

Now, the combination of Stacey Mckenzie, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, and Brooke Lynn might be a new one, but they’ve already got a dynamic that’s smooth and even. They co-hosted with a seamless stride that felt well-oiled but natural. What else would you expect from three professionals?

As quirky and playful as the entrance lines were, the first mini-challenge is where the chaos truly started. Still in their initial looks, the queens were tasked with climbing a faux mountain of ice, staking claim to the summit with a flag, and striking a triumphant pose for a photo. The catch, however, was that a high powered fan flicked on and blew an absolute blizzard’s worth of fake snow right into their faces before they could even get their proper footing. Hilarity ensued, with heels slipping, hair flying, queens getting tangled in costume pieces, and lashes flapping freely in the wind.

Honourable mention here must go to Juice Boxx. Having actually managed to navigate climbing up a mountain, posing in gale force winds, and scooting back down with grace despite her wings, poor Juice took the first tumble of the season, just… walking away. She played it off adorably, as usual, but you can’t tell me that shin wasn’t bruised!

Canada's Drag Race S1:E1 (A Chaotic Eh-Laganza Eh-Xtravaganza) 73

Kyne won the mini-challenge for posing like a broadway dame getting her big shot at success atop a frozen summit. The pit crew brought in a series of very large and very Canadian themed boxes, each one packed with materials relating to a particular stereotype or niche cultural reference. Kyne was tasked with doling these out and she did so with confidence and however she pleased, rather than listening to the whispered requests around her.

Most people found their boxes quite workable. Anastarzia fell in absolute love with a shining red fabric that spoke to her designer’s skills, Tynomi walked us through a draped wave of inspiration involving winter socks, and Scarlett saw possibility in piles of brightly coloured bandanas, but not everyone was so lucky. Juice struggled with cutting CDs into pieces and trying to make sense of her rather specific Much Music Video Dance theme (remember those?), while Lemon lamented slightly that her sports themed box would require a creative approach because, well, she doesn’t know the first thing about sports (hard same). Boa found potatoes in the bottom corner of her box (and they looked pretty real, if you ask me).

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Canada's Drag Race S1:E1 (A Chaotic Eh-Laganza Eh-Xtravaganza) 74

Now, we all expected to be the very first reveal of the Canadian runway to be exciting, but this setup surpassed all of my expectations. Something about the towering, glowing faceted wall inset with subtle maple leaf detail screamed glamour while still sticking with that almost dorky prevalence of blatant Canadiana at all turns. The judges stomped first, with Brooke Lynn in a patch-worked mini-dress made of denim scraps like an edgy homage to the classic “Canadian tuxedo”. The week’s resident guest host– a title this spinoff has given its guests on top of judging alongside the regular threesome- was Canadian actress and model Elisha Cuthbert, who looked stunning in a sparkling pink number topped with a big shoulder bow.

Even though it happens so often, design challenges are nearly always a tough go when they’re the first hurdle of the season, and this was no exception. Boa’s Anne of Green Gables inspired outfit looked a little more like Tinkerbell in space, but something about it worked well enough to win the judges’ appreciation. Scarlett put those bandanas to good use making a bra she said would get her dates at the Calgary Stampede and Tynomi turned those socks into a stuffed stole reminiscent of the foxtails in old Hollywood films… but woodsy. Kyne’s golden bell bottoms did scream disco, but the glittery balls stuck to them also betrayed her by falling off and hindering her walk. Kiara’s scarecrow-esque wheat fantasy earned her plenty of praise for its sleek fit and unique concept, but Lemon’s tongue-in-cheek take on sports equipment missed the mark on shape despite some cute detailing.

Priyanka’s coastal couture was impressively detailed as well, from the fishing net on her shoulder to the crab’s legs on her shoes, while Ilona’s sleek catsuit contrasted with the swaying movement of the strappy choker-slash-harness she made from strips of leather. Starzy turned that fabric she adored so much into a stylishly cropped puff parka and Juice pranced out in a cutesy pink two-piece that, despite looking slightly unfinished, definitely sparkled in the stage lights thanks to those CDs. Jimbo, of course, grabbed attention with a unique concept creating a Pride inspired rainbow dress and masquerade mask entirely from colourful zippers. In the end, it was Rita who came out victorious, winning the maxi-challenge thanks to her “Quebec-froid” concept that included a blanket cape with a collar made of mittens, which revealed a shiny blue dress that played off her frosted makeup, headpiece, and detailing.

Kyne might have had the most tension with the judges during critiques but, in the end, it was Lemon and Juice (lemon juice!!!) who were up for elimination. Before they got down to it, however, Juice suffered an on-stage panic attack that had everyone in the room expressing care and concern. She was even rather kindly wrapped in a robe… by a PA wearing a full parka and toque on the job. This begs the question: how cold was this set? Just how authentic a Canadian experience were they trying to have here? Half-frozen or not, Juice waded through her feelings with class, cracked a few jokes, and rallied quickly.

I’ve never known a bubbly song like Carly Rae Jepson‘s “I Really Like You” to cause anxiety, but this showdown on the runway turned it into a neck-and-neck display of personality, hair flips, splits, and charm that had me gnawing my fingernails off. Though the judges appeared slightly pained at having to choose either queen to cap off the episode, it was Juice Box who ultimately sashayed away. She did so with a giggle, a good attitude, and some affectionate name calling the likes of which I was surprised they were allowed to put on Canadian TV!

The season will surely be a little less sweet without her, but Juice is a force who will absolutely hair-flip her way into new and exciting things in no time flat.

Written By

Courtney Conquers is a drag artist and archivist, writer, consultant, public speaker, and live show videographer. She is best known for her work as part of the queer media collective Drag Coven (she's the short one who films the videos). Courtney has a Master of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from Carleton University in Canada and is an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in drag and queer spaces. She also regularly promotes, coordinates, talent handles, and casts drag events throughout North America. When she’s not traveling for her own gigs, assisting other drag performers, holding a video camera, or writing about drag and queer fem issues, Courtney can usually be found knitting in obnoxious colours. 

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