‘It feels like a dream’: Canada’s first drag-artist-in-residence takes the stage in new program

In a fierce first for Canada, Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre has crowned its inaugural drag-artist-in-residence.

Drag performer Ruby Chopstix was chosen for the one-year residency earlier this week and said they still can’t believe they were selected.

“It feels like a dream to be honest,” said Alex Nguyen, who performs as Chopstix.

Nguyen began performing in 2018. Now, they said they are excited to take the stage as the face of the resource centre, which will include putting together a project of their own.

“It can be a fashion show, poetry piece, a drag show of its kind, and we’ll have a showcase later on in the year,” said Rainbow Resource Centre development director Evan Maydaniuk.

Nguyen is Vietnamese and said when they were growing up, they didn’t really see themselves — or Asian people in general – represented in media much. In this role, they hope to change that for others by putting on a drag show that will highlight diversity and representation in drag and queer communities.

“My idea is going to be based around a lot of representation and just making sure that a lot of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) and underrepresented communities can really shine,” they said.

Chopstix will also work with the centre’s youth program as a role model and community advocate. Nguyen said they hope their new platform will pave a way for people to pursue their dreams.

“As long as I can inspire at least one person to pursue what they want to do, especially in drag, especially if it’s an Asian person, that would just make me so happy,” Nguyen said.

Maydaniuk said he curated the residency to showcase drag as an art form and support local performers.

“It’s a way for us to show that Rainbow Resource Centre stands by queer and trans artists and we want to uplift drag as an expression of queer and trans joy,” he said.

According to Maydaniuk, one of the driving forces behind the program is the mistreatment of drag artists, especially drag bans and anti-trans legislation in the U.S.

“It’s been a very difficult year politically for our community,” Maydaniuk said. “Drag artists have found themselves being the scapegoat for a lot of hatred, hateful rhetoric towards our community.”

But Nguyen said that won’t stop them or Chopstix from coming out on top.

“I’m gone be resilient,” Nguyen said. “No matter what, all the hate that’s going to happen – drag will exist.” 

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