Now Or Never

The Power of Drag: Queens and kings giving it all as their art is under attack

Drag has never been more popular. But with this increased visibility has come backlash, in the form of hate.

Meet the people behind the makeup, from communities big and small

A fabulous illustration of six drag performers, done in cartoon style.
Drag stars Benz Menova, Ra'Jah, Flo Mingo, Buster Highman, Cheryl Trade and Nimrat the Drag. (Ben Shannon/CBC)


Drag is everywhere — and it has never been more popular.

Across the country, performers are bringing their art to events like drag brunches, drag story time at libraries, and shows at local gay bars. But with this increased visibility and popularity has come backlash, in the form of hate.

In just the past few months alone, drag events in Windsor, PEI, Nelson, Calgary, Guelph — and more — have been cancelled or rescheduled due to threats of violence. And in Tennessee, a law just passed that bans drag shows in public spaces.

Drag is happening in communities big and small, and it's not going anywhere.

On this Now or Never, you'll meet the people behind the makeup. Find out why these drag artists do what they do, despite the controversy and the hate, and hear the surprising ways that drag has changed their lives.

A duo of images, one cartoon version on the left and one photo on the right. A drag performer in a blue kimono garment stands with hands on hips, smizing into the camera.
16-year-old Ra'Jah isn't going to let a drag show be cancelled without a fight. (Ben Shannon/Andrew Friesen/CBC)

When 16-year-old Ra'Jah heard a drag show and anti-bullying event was coming to his Sudbury high school, he was thrilled. So when it was cancelled by the school board, he wasn't going to let it happen — and threw his own drag show.

A duo of images, with an illustration on the left and the original photo on right. A drag queen in a short mini skirt and blonde wig poses fiercely.
Benz Menova is more than just a drag character: she's a way to be sober. (Ben Shannon/CBC/Quinton Cruickshanks)

Benz Menova is a flirty, fierce and adults-only performer. But she's more than just a bombshell: she's a way for Liam Ingram, the man under the makeup, to find the strength to stay sober.

A duo of images, with the illustration on the left and the original photo on the right. A drag king in an amazing fringe hat looks out into the middle-distance, looking handsome.
Buster Highman is a drag king and total daddy. But out of drag, they have another important role: mommy to an 8-year-old. (Ben Shannon/CBC/Drag Heals)

Being drag king Buster Highman has helped Marisa Rosa Grant challenge the strict expectations of gender they were taught growing up. Being Buster led them to finally find peace in their body, lessons they hope to share with their 8-year-old son.

A duo of images, with an illustration on left and the original photo on right. A beautiful drag queen in a marigold Punjabi garment stands smiling with her hand on her hip.
Nimrat the Drag unlocked her true powers when she started wearing traditional Punjabi garments. (Ben Shannon/CBC/@charcurterie_bored)

Four months ago, Nimrat the Drag performed on stage for the very first time in traditional Punjabi clothing— and loved it. While they're finding belonging with other queer South Asians in their community, Nimrat is still hoping for acceptance from their family.

A duo of images, with the illustration on left and the original photo on right. A drag queen in green from head to toe, poses in front of some very burly (and photoshopped) Rough Rider players.
After a long journey coming out, Flo Mingo stands tall. (Ben Shannon/CBC/Flo Mingo)

Flo Mingo hid who they were for 37 years: from their parents, their wife and their kids. When they finally came out and stepped into their 7-foot-tall drag persona, not only did Flo open up their world: she also saved their life.

A duo of images, with illustration on left and original photo on right. A queen in a glittery black body suit and silver mesh overlay poses with her eyes closed - like she's just too beautiful and just can't handle it.
Drag queen Cheryl Trade has conquered Lac La Ronge, Saskatoon and Vancouver. Next stop: LA! (Ben Shannon/CBC/Fernando Cysneiros)

From Lac La Ronge to Los Angeles! Cheryl Trade is originally from the largest first nation in Saskatchewan, and made a name for herself in Vancouver's vibrant drag scene, but right now she's packing up her wigs and chasing her dreams to make it big in the city of angels.

If you are a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and are in need of support, you can turn to resources like the LGBT Youthline or find a local organization from this list compiled by It Gets Better Canada