After being a competitor (and finalist) on both the first iteration of Canada’s Drag Race and Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. The World, Rita Baga is the template for what would be considered the “perfect choice” to host one of the newest international installments of the RuPaul’s Drag Race empire, Drag Race Belgique. (Drag Couenne was recently announced as the winner of Season 1). I sat down with the Montreal, Quebec queen and we dished about Drag Race Belgique, she spoke openly about her run on Canada vs. The World, and she spoke with me about what sets the dynamic queens on Drag Race Belgique apart from other franchises.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on Drag Race Belgique. You have gone from a contestant on Canada’s Drag Race & Canada vs The World to hosting Drag Race Belgique. How does that feel?
Rita Baga: Surreal. I am very excited to be given this opportunity. It is really a dream come true. Before I was chosen to be a participant on Canada’s Drag Race Season 1, I wanted to host a franchise knowing that there would be a Canadian edition. Brooke Lynn (Hytes) got the gig, so I became a contestant but it feels surreal. Before all this I was hosting competitions in Montreal and Quebec City, so to have this chance to do it on a way larger scale is incredible.
MC: In addition to Brooke Lynn Hytes hosting Canada’s Drag Race, other RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni like Nicky Doll and Jiggly Caliente have gone on to be part of other franchises (Drag Race France and Drag Race Philippines respectively). Have you heard from any of them as you step into a new franchise yourself?
RB: When it was announced, I got many congratulations messages from different Ru-girls, including Brooke Lynn and Nicky (Doll) as well, we knew each other a little bit before prior to this summer where we were working together on a show here in Montreal. I didnt want to ask them how to do it, because I wanted to do it my way. To offer something that will be in my mind close to what RuPaul does, but in my own way. I didn’t want to copy the way Brooke Lynn or Nicky does her thing. In the end, we all do something different and that’s what makes it cool and great, is to have different versions of it around the world as well. It’s not a unique model or template that we have to duplicate.
MC: What type of knowledge and experience do you think the competitors on Drag Race Belgique will be able to gain from you? You are a true professional in every sense of the world…
RB: Thank you so much for the kind words. I think anything regarding anything theatric or anything regarding comedic timing, that is my forte’; just acting in general. I am way more known for my acting skills than my fashion skills, and I am okay with that as well! Just to be willing to give it a shot and to be one hundred percent willing to do something, that is what I want to offer the girls. You must try something different, being willing to be different and another version of yourself is what makes you a great Ru-girl in the end.
MC: During your time as a competitor on Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. the World, we really got to see another side of you as both a competitor and as a queen in general. What was that experience like for you?
RB: Oh it was one hundred percent different. The first time around, we were clueless about the competition, it was the first edition. We didn’t know what the set was going to look like, what the judging panel would look like, and that has changed a lot since the first season. Between my season and the last season we filmed earlier this year, I had about fifty different opportunities in terms of being present on tv in Quebec, I had my own tv show as well. I think I made peace with myself in general, I was no longer scared of being in front of cameras. I was also on Celebrity Big Brother, so I was also used to being surrounded by cameras 24/7. I think I am less shy in general and I am also more aware and less scared of the public opinion. We only have one life to live, so I am going to life mine to the fullest; at least that is my motto.
MC: As someone who sits on the Drag Race Belgique panel, what make the queens on the inaugural so special and so unique?
RB: They’re all special. I feel for now, maybe because it’s the first season, that they are more authentic than girls from any other edition. When we look at other franchises, I feel like some of the participants want to look like the American ones. It’s easy to compare them with the “OG” Ru-girls or girls from the latest edition of the American version Drag Race. In Belgium, I feel like what you see on tv is the most real and authentic version of what you can see on a a Belgium cabaret stage. There is not a big difference, it’s a more elevated version of themselves on the show. It is very close to the Belgium scene and the face that they are careless about shaving their legs or chest and stuff like that, it’s so European and so Belgian in general. I feel also in terms of having the hourglass silhouette, the big pads, small boobs, big waist, it is less common in other franchises I think. Like the Canadian version, the more seasons it’s going, the more it gets close to the American version.
I feel for now, the France version is somewhere between the two. We have the avant-garde, fashion, mod that is typical of France, but you also can see a bit of an Americanized version of the drag. I feel now that Drag Race Belgique is very raw and authentic. It is the first season, so things may change we never know. I do like it very much, I feel like the girls, they all knew each other prior to the show. It’s a small country and they work in the same cabarets on the same stages and they share the light.
MC: Our world today is feeling so polarizing, and doing drag is most definitely a political act in so many ways. What do you think each of us can do to push back on the anti-drag rhetoric that is being pushed on our own community right now?
RB: I think we have been more vocal when fighting for our rights was an every day issue. Now that we have gained some compromises or reached a certain level of equality regarding some issues, I think people are a bit more quiet than they were. I think it is time now to stand up again and be more vocal. Use our platforms and our privileges to let people know that it is fun to do drag, it’s entertaining, it’s colorful, everyone wants to do hire a drag performer for their event. If you want to be a real ally though, you have to stand up on a regular basis and let people know around you that the fight is not over. It is an ongoing fight.
We are going back to a conversation point of view in certain countries and certain states in the US. It is something that we have to worry about and we have to do something and we have to stand up. We as drag performers have this duty and we perform with that duty in mind all the time. We also need to be able to count on our allies more than our chosen family. The people who are watching the franchises all around the world, the fans, these are the people who have to stand up and be by our side; it’s their time now to be by our side.
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‘Drag Race Belgique’ airs on WOW Presents Plus