Are you a queer artist? Head to Vizzy to apply for a grant for your art. Through the Vizzybility Project, you could win brand support worth up to $35,000 to get your name out there. Applications are open now until June 14th.
“What’s my name?!”
If you didn’t answer “Priyanka“, by the end of this article, you will. This YTV-star-turned-drag-queen-turned-social-media-sensation has a lot going on, and you’ll be seeing her everywhere. With a new song, new partnerships, and events coming up, Priyank isn’t slowing down any time soon.
We had the chance to sit down with the legend herself and chat career, her time on Canada’s Drag Race, and an exciting new partnership with Vizzy.
For people who don’t know, tell us what you do?
Priyanka: Oh wow! So I am a drag queen, surprise surprise. I used to be a kids television host, working on YTV’s The Zone in Canada. And then I was being, you know, the Hannah Montana of Canada for two years [laughs] and quit my job to go on Canada’s Drag Race to then win! I became Canada’s first drag superstar, so that’s what I do as my full time job now. My full time job is being an entertainer, which is a dream come true. I’m able to take my art and pay my bills with it – lucky me!
I have to ask – what was your favourite moment on Canada’s Drag Race?
My favourite moment on Canada’s Drag Race.. [laugh] I have so many. I’ve worked so hard at being a performer, and I think it was that episode where I was in the bottom for the second time. That for me in real life was shocking. I was like I need to quit, I need to never do drag again, I am garbage! But there’s something about that episode that just feels so much like me being the real me. The entire world got to see how hard I work and how much you really have to pick yourself up off the ground to make your dreams come true. That lipsync – Hello by Ally X – emcompasses that for me. You can get shot down and be good still. And I went on to win that lip sync!
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the industry you’re in?
The advice I would give anybody is the same advice I give myself – don’t do drag if you want to be famous, do drag because you want to share your art. Not because you want Instagram followers or comments. It’s about what you’re creating to share with people.
I love it!
And also… if you want to do it, just do it. I was just shooting YouTube videos and editing them myself before Drag Race. If you really want to make it happen, you can make it happen. Don’t wait for somebody else to grant you the keys to your dream.
That sounds so good! It’s an Instagram caption waiting to happen. Now, a bit of a loaded question for you. What, if any adversities did you have to conquer, and what do you attribute your success to?
I mean, it was really weird being on YTV because we were cast like the Spice Girls. There was a Philipino guy, there was a brown guy, which was me, and I was flamboyant. There was a blonde girl and a skater boy, so there was meant to be somebody for everybody. I remember I was in an Uber with an executive and they were telling me “you’re amazing on this channel. You were made for this, but you have to be careful because there’s people fighting against you. There’s people saying that you don’t fit the brand or are too flamboyant for. And this was six or seven years ago, so not that long ago. I think realizing your role and understanding something like your skin colour or sexuality is tacked onto you was really hard. On the flipside of that, you have a network that takes a chance on you and people fighting for you, so kids growing up can have that representation that they never had before. Then I go on Canada’s Drag Race and be that representation myself? Those issues I had in my career are not the issues I have now, because it’s so much more open to have this representation and diversity.
It’s wild because five or six years ago doesn’t feel like that long ago to have those issues, so this is eye opening.
And I was oblivious to it too! My mom was always telling me I would get any job I wanted, no matter what my skin colour was. My mom was like “who cares?! Go get your job?”. So I was blind to it, and didn’t look for how race played into it. But now that I’m helping artists get their start I’m seeing how hard it still is still.
So on the note of helping artists, and efforts to help artists that are struggling – let’s dive into your partnership with Vizzy. I got to try some of the drinks and, oh my gosh, so good. But what inspired you to work with Vizzy?
I feel lucky to have a brand partnership that doesn’t feel like “oh, I’ll just post on Instagram and get them exposure”. We really are working together. I know what it’s like to be underrepresented, so I’m so excited to team up with Vizzy and Queer Collective to start a Vizzybility Project, where we give out grants to queer people to create their art. Like, am I the Mother Theresa of Drag?
I feel like I’m Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny, or even the Tooth Fairy. Now I get to be like “don’t worry kids. It wasn’t easy for me growing up, but here’s money to make your art”. That’s iconic behaviour.
So how does this partnership work?
You get to apply through a short video and tell us what this money we would give you is going to do for you and your art! For example, Vizzy is helping me make my art by giving me a grant to shoot my music videos. So now, I’m giving you [applicants] a chance to do this and make your art. PLUS, I, Queen P, give you the ultimate meet and greet because I’ll meet with these artists and help with their projects, help them think bigger. I get to encourage them and help them think bigger, because if I didn’t have that encouragement in my life I would not have been as successful.
That’s incredible! It’s so much more than your name on this brand, you’re at the grand level helping these artists.
Yes! And another cool thing is that we brainstormed all of this together. It wasn’t them telling me what they wanted to do, it was them asking what we do to give back to the community and bring more representation. And we put the ideas together and made a great plan, so people like me, and trans people and queer people can be seen in a normal light.
So what does inclusivity and pride mean to you and how is this partnership a part of that?
My life is so weird, with the kids TV and coming out late and navigating as a new gay man in the Toronto scene. Seeing white people only date white people and being told to my face “sorry, I won’t date Indian guys, sorry you’re too femininie”. And then just pretending it wasn’t actually happening, then going to drag and being in a bubble avoiding all of that. But even on stage, you can see exactly what I went through in the Toronto gay scene happening in the crowd in front of you. You can be performing a Beyonce megamix and seeing the way people look at black people or the more feminine guys in the front who are living their best life in the front and can’t believe he’s at the drag show… and you have somebody judging him for that. So inclusivity and acceptance is so important to me because as a performer you see it [the opposite] all the time. It breaks your heart. I want to help to normalize skin colour, femininity, masculinity, and all these avenues of what being a human is. So, let’s represent. I’m going to partner with Vizzy and give people some money and get it out there. And for a brand to head that is what inclusivity is – it’s a big brand trusting people of our community, and making people not in the community see how normal we are.
So I have to ask, what is your favourite Vizzy flavour?
Girl! There is a photo of me holding one of the Vizzy cans, and it’s like if Vizzy was my drag daughter. Like, we are the same person, the can is me. I love the blueberry pomegranate one.
It’s so good! Now the last question. June is Pride Month, of course, so what events, virtual or in person, are you looking forward to? And where can I tune in?
I’m launching this incredible Vizzybility Project, and I feel like I’m dreaming. The fact I can do this for people like me and really help them make their art, like it’s the best prize ever. And it all stems from my tagline “what’s my name?!” Because with Vizzy, we will just have artists yelling out “what’s your name!” And even if you aren’t famous, if you’re yelling your own name, people will believe it. I’m also hosting the Toronto Pride Parade – I remember being on a float for that parade for the first time and now I’m hosting it? It’s completely wild. And then! Also! I’m coming out with a music video on my birthday, May 28th, and two more over the summer, all powered by Vizzy. I’m giving people grants to fund their art, and Vizzy is giving grants to fund my art. We’re all working together to give people that freedom to feel bright and bold, like a Vizzy.
It sounds like this birthday is going to be the start of an incredible year.