Guizo of Montreal: This k.d. lang-impersonating drag king has definitely seen it all
Watch the latest episode of Canada's a Drag, where our country's drag performers sashay into the spotlight
Guizo LaNuit is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all 21 episodes here.
Fifteen years ago, transdisciplinary Montreal artist Alexis O'Hara gave birth to the character Guizo LaNuit — the centre of the latest episode of CBC Arts' docu-series Canada's a Drag — during cabaret performances, but didn't give him too much consideration. "It started as a lark," she says.
But Guizo had stamina, and O'Hara performs as him regularly to this day.
"Originally he was a bit more sexy and sexualizing and objectifying," O'Hara says. "But very quickly I was like, 'Oh, that's not the drag king that I'm interested in doing." So he's like a little more...tortured, vulnerable, philosophical, seen it all, jaded. Definitely a feminist."
O'Hara says she first became aware of drag when she was watching Julie Andrews in the film Victor/Victoria.
"Basically seeing her dressed as this man and passing — that was a thrill," O'Hara says. "I think it was the first time I kind of had the idea that such a thing could exist."
That drag genesis evolved into what O'Hara now sees as "a means to tap into aspects of my personality that I cannot otherwise embody."
"When I am 'Alexis' I can feel constrained by the limits of my identity as a public and a private person, my morality, my susceptibility to the opinions and judgment of others," she says. "As Guizo, I am free to explore an ideal of masculinity that 'Alexis' cannot access: calm, confident, aloof, vulnerable yet immutable. Guizo doesn't have to try to be anything — he simply exists. He is in touch with the awkwardness and evils of the world. He is resigned to his sorrow. He is at peace."
More generally, O'Hara has grown to view drag as "basically anything that you put on yourself in order to enter society in a way that you would otherwise not be able to enter."
"When I am Guizo...I am still me with these radical beliefs, and I try to use the medium of comedy to give dignity and power and the right to be ridiculous to all characters, including this obviously queer motherfucker."
Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Directors: Juliet Lammers and Lorraine Price
Packaging Editor: Chanel Klein
Titles Designer: Hope Little
Archival Footage: Deborah VanSlet
Special Thanks: Michael Venus, Jess Cohen, Claire Sanford, Julien Fontaine