Can you briefly describe your work? My drag persona, Blue Wild Rye is an embodiment of the innocence and freedom that I lost to trauma. They perform both emotionally charged burlesque number and high energy lip sync to pop songs. I am active on Instagram as blue.wild.rye.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a drag artist and performer? I became a drag performer the long way around, trying my hand at figure skating, singing, and even playing in orchestras. Most of the drag I had seen was performed by cis white men and I did not think that I would have a place in that world until I saw the Fuck Shit Up cabarets at the Gladstone Hotel. I then took a burlesque class, knowing that the performance genres were related and quickly became a regular at open stages in Toronto. My first booked gig was for the Trans Day of Remembrance celebration at The 519, and that crystallized my motivation for performing. I have a story to tell and feeling to share for which drag is the best language.
Where are you currently living and how long have you lived there? Tell us what you love about the community where you find yourself, and what you would change? I have been living in downtown Toronto for nearly three years now. I moved there to attend graduate school. It took me a while to find a community there, as I was exclusively attempting to socialize with the students in my program and hiding who I am in hopes of getting accepted. It’s only through doing art that I’ve connected with the queer community, in particular, the Queen West drag scene. I love how accepting everyone is. I love how differences are celebrated. I love how anyone who considers they might want to get on stage is encouraged to give it a try. The only thing that I ever think I’d like to change is how late events are scheduled for, and how even much later people show up for them!
Do you identify as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, biromantic, queer or something else, and what does this mean for you? What other identities are important to you? I identify primarily as queer, as this encompasses both my gender identity and romantic orientation. For me, queerness is a form of freedom and rebellion. Queerness is disturbing the status quo and constantly re-inventing itself. Outside of queer spaces, or when I don’t want to have a conversation about it, I use the words bisexual and non-binary. I define bisexual to mean that am I open to dating people with the same gender identity as myself, and people with a different gender identity. I am out in all parts of my life, but not always actively. The information is out there on my social media for anyone to find out, and I’ll answer truthfully, but I rarely go out of my way to come out, because I don’t want to take the burden of doing so constantly. I also identify as a person of colour, and use the labels “mixed” and “black” to describe my experience respectively as I perceive it, and as strangers do. I am 27 years old and use they/them pronouns.
I often find myself forgetting how few people of colour are in this community, and I do know this does not reflect the demographics of Toronto. As someone who was raised in the colonial white culture, I haven’t found a place in communities of colour.
What guides your creative work & performances? My creative work is something that I find myself doing because I have to, because the ideas would just keep bouncing around in my head and stop me from engaging with anything else until I can release them out in the world. I am guided by my feelings, and I try to get the audience to walk a mile, or at least dance a number in my shoes, and experience what I have lived. I usually create my numbers by starting with a theme or a concept, then I choose music and a few central props or actions for the number. The costume has to accommodate and work for these elements, and the choreography is often tied to the space in which I perform, meaning that it is most often improvised.
What does a typical day look like for you? I am a full-time graduate student, and a typical day for me consists of doing research or teaching-related activity during regular work hours, and art in the evening. There usually no difference between weekdays and weekend days. I would never get anything done without a deadline, because I usually think that I could improve my work if I just had a bit more time, so I know that a number is ready for the stage, when I am on stage ready for the number.
Do you have any advice for the younger you, as either a queer person, or as an artist, or both? If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell them to focus on what feels meaningful to them today. There are so many problems to solve, so much entertainment to consume, so many ideas to explore, and not enough time to get to everything. There is no right way to live, and there is no point in trying to care about something just because other people say that one should.
What feels urgent for you? Right now, what feels meaningful and urgent to me is community building and ending isolation. So many of the tragedies going on in the world today, from climate change wars need global and systemic solutions that can only be implemented if people who care about making the world a better place get together and care for each other first and for everyone else after.
What’s the last thing that you were hugely excited about? The last thing that I was hugely excited about was the House of Kings Open Stage show at Glad Day, which usually happens the first Wednesday of every month and is one of my favourite events in the city, because there are always such wonderful performers bringing original and elaborate numbers to the very unlikely venue that is a bookstore on a mid-week night. I also really love the audience for those shows, because it is young, diverse, and very welcoming.
Tell us a bit about an artist that you admire? An artist that I admire is Jacklynne Hyde. They supported my drag from the very first day and my desire to impress them was a major motivation to keep going through all of the problems someone faces when doing performing arts. I admire Jacklynne both as their drag persona who unapologetically exists as their best and sexiest non-binary self, and as the artist behind the drag who is caring and witty. They’ve recently relocated to Montreal.
What are you working on for 2020, and what is next for you? This year, I will keep seeing where art takes me. I am still exploring the different aspects of drag, and I am not ready to settle in a niche. In February, I’ll be performing at NerdGirl Burlesque at See-Scape on the 8th, at Showdown at the Dance Cave on the 14, and at Fuck Shit Up at the Gladstone on the 25.