Arts·Canada's a Drag

Meet Duke Carson, the hard rockin' drag king sliding into the hearts (and pants) of Calgary

Detailing semi trucks by day, making more spaces for drag kings by night. Watch Canada's a Drag Season 2 now.

Detailing semi trucks by day, making more spaces for drag kings by night

Duke Carson getting ready for a show. (CBC Arts)

Duke Carson 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.​

Duke Carson is the reigning champion of Alberta's Next Drag Superstar competition, which is significant for two reasons. First, Duke is the first winner from Calgary, a city that up until recently seemed to drag behind (no pun intended) Edmonton in this regard. And second, he is the very first king to take the crown.

"There's so much media attention on drag queens right now, and it's an incredible thing and every one of those queens deserves it," he says. "But there never really has been too much of a focus on drag kings. We struggle to get a lot of the same opportunities and shows and things that queens do."

For the Calgary drag king scene, Duke Carson has done wonders changing that.

Watch the episode:

Episode 4 8:31

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Trevor Anderson
​Episode Cinematographer: aAron Munson
​Episode Editor: Sarah Taylor Bao
Episode Sound Recordist: Philip Dransfield
Packaging Editor: March Mercanti 
Titles Designer: Hope Little

With the Fake Mustache Drag King Troupe — Western Canada's largest and longest-running drag troupe — Duke has been performing since 2014, drawing inspiration "from the late and great 1980s music scene, and the raw, sexual power behind it." In the process, he's played a pivotal role in building spaces for Calgary drag performers of all kinds.

"We have kings, queens, bio queens, hyper queens," he says of Fake Mustache. "We try to be the safest space for shows that we can be and just be welcoming to any and all walks of life, because drag is so different to everybody and you shouldn't have to limit it to just a drag queen or just a drag king show."

Duke Carson does his best Thor in downtown Calgary. (CBC Arts)

A heavy duty mechanic apprentice by day, Duke works on "pretty much anything that comes through the shop doors with a diesel engine in it" when he's out of drag. The job also clears his commitments for the night — even if it's not exactly a schedule for the faint of heart.

"On weeks when I have multiple shows, I'll do a show and then sleep for five hours, and then do a full day at work and do a show again," he says. And then it just repeats. "But it's worth every minute of it. It really is."

What's also worth every minute is the platform Duke is giving kings in a drag world still unfairly dominated by queen culture.

"There are a ton of drag queens that operate solely alone on being a drag queen," he says. "Being a drag king is every bit as valid as being a drag queen — it's just not perceived that way." Yet.

Follow Duke Carson on Instagram

Meet the other 12 kings and queens in the second season of Canada's a Drag here.

About the Author

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since way back in 2016, with highlights including co-hosting weekly live talk show State of the Arts, writing the regular LGBTQ-culture column Queeries and playing integral roles in the launch of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.