WATCH: Kid drag queens sashay their way into the spotlight

Published 2019-07-04 03:26

New documentary follows four kid drag queens as they prepare to slay on Montreal stage

Have you ever dreamed about being someone else for a day?

For some kids, it’s just a dream. They stuff it away in a closet and forget about it.

But for others, it’s more than a dream. They reach into that closet and pull out a wig.

“Drag is just self-expression, it’s an art. You are the canvas.” - Bracken Hanke, age 12

In CBC’s new Drag Kids documentary, we get a glimpse into the glamorous lives of four of these dreamers — also known as kid drag queens — as they meet other drag kids for the first time.

Four pre-teen kids dressed in wigs, makeup, and costumes appear cheeky to the camera

Clockwise from top left: Nemis Melancon-Golden, a.k.a. “Lactatia”, 10; Jason Kerr, a.k.a. “Suzan Bee Anthony”, 11; Bracken Hanke, 12; and Stephan Hirst, a.k.a. “Laddy GaGa”, nine, star in the new CBC documentary Drag Kids.

Brought together from around the world, the four work with a choreographer to prepare a fierce performance for Montreal’s 2018 Pride festival. 

Their colourful journey is studded with high heels, makeup and car singalongs. It’s also fraught with hardships, from backstage meltdowns to the hate and harassment that comes with being a kid who likes to dress up.

The four drag kids eat yogurt together on a bench

The four bond throughout the film as they meet other drag kids for the first time. (CBC)

After all, drag queens — especially kid drag queens — are still a rare breed.

But what is drag, anyway?

Traditionally, “doing drag” has referred to dressing up like the opposite gender.

Drag queens are men who dress up as women, and drag kings are women who dress up as men.

Often described as a “transformation,” getting into drag is a process of becoming someone else.

Drag performers use makeup, costumes and will even act differently to build a new character and persona.

Rupaul looking very tall eyeing down the camera with a massive blonde wig standing next to a giant lipstick prop

RuPaul, one of the most iconic drag queens of all time, first rose to fame in 1993 with his smash pop hit Supermodel. (VH1)

Then, they hit the stage. Whether lip-synching to Whitney Houston at Pride or hosting a charity brunch, drag queens like RuPaul are known for their ability to mesmerize and entertain a crowd.

And until recently, that’s what people have understood drag to be.

Now, a new generation is putting drag through another kind of transformation.

A new kind of drag

Even in the last 10 years, the way people talk about gender has changed a lot.

Rather than just male or female, more people are viewing gender on a spectrum.

Kids have more freedom to define what gender means to them, however masculine or feminine it may be. Some people may avoid gender labels entirely.

With this, drag has also changed. In the Drag Kids documentary, the four stars show that drag has become less about transforming from a man into a woman, and more about just transforming.

Bracken Hanke, 12, who identifies as female and dresses in drag to exaggerate her femininity, believes it’s a form of self-expression like any other artform.

Bracken with cartoony eye makeup and a nylon cap puts on makeup in the mirror

Bracken puts on makeup in preparation for a performance in the Drag Kids documentary. (CBC Docs)

“Drag is just self-expression, it’s an art. You are the canvas, you do your own thing. And you perform,” said the Vancouver native.

But perhaps the bigger reason that drag is evolving, and why kids are starting to participate in it, is the massive success of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Now in its 12th season, the nine-time Emmy award-winning reality-TV competition follows a dozen or more drag queens as they sing, dance and act their way to become the world’s next drag superstar.

A large group of colourful drag queens in elaborate outfits and wigs pose for the camera in a line

The cast of RuPaul's Drag Race season 10. (VH1)

And kids are watching, too.

Nemis Melancon-Golden, 10, who has appeared on panels for RuPaul’s annual drag convention (DragCon), cites RuPaul’s Drag Race as a big part of his journey into drag.

“I feel like I was always doing drag, but I never understood the concept until watching Drag Race,” said Nemis, from Montreal.

Bracken shared a similar story.

“I used to sneak into the living room when my mom would watch it. That’s how I got interested.”

Regardless of how they got the drag bug, each of the four drag kids stress how much it has helped them grow, and how it can help other kids, too.

The perks of doing drag

“It’s helped me to be myself,” said nine-year-old Stephan Hirst, who is from Spain.

Stephan in a long blonde wig sneers at the camera on stage

Stephan performs a Lady Gaga song on stage in the Drag Kids documentary. (CBC Docs)

According to Bracken, being in drag can also give you permission to try out things that you might otherwise be afraid to do.

“Drag has helped me express myself in a way that I’m not able to in my everyday life … to walk my way down the road of self-discovery and figure out who I am as a person.”

If you’d like to see more of their journey, the Drag Kids documentary will be making its way onto CBC Docs POV and Gem July 26.

Was this story worth reading?