Unreserved

'I own it': Transgender drag queen Quanah Style on living her dream

Quanah Style is a Cree drag queen from Vancouver who was featured in the second season of CBC's Canada's a Drag. Style is also a proud transgender woman who documented her facial reconstruction surgery in a web series called Quanah: Trans Op.
Quanah Style in downtown Vancouver. (CBC Arts)

Quanah Style is a Cree drag queen from Vancouver who was featured in the second season of CBC's Canada's a Drag. She's a triple threat — she sings, dances and acts.

Style is also a proud transgender woman who documented her facial reconstruction surgery in a web series called Quanah: Trans Op.

Originally from Moberly First Nation, Style grew up connected to her Cree culture — she attended powwows and was always surrounded by musicians, including her father, Art Napoleon.

But as a young boy attending powwows, Style never felt she fit in with the male dancing styles.

"My mom said before I could speak, I was always doing the girls dances," explained Style.

"Both my parents are Cree, I had a very strong upbringing with our culture. I grew up going to sweat lodges and ceremonies … I always remember praying that … I would be put in the right body."

It wasn't until Style moved to Victoria at the age of 13 that she realized she was transgender. "I had an aunty who was gay and I got introduced to trans people and it really opened my eyes when I started understanding what that really meant," said Style.

"I think I was a little sheltered before, living up north."

Style described discovering she was transgender as "liberating."

"Before … I was a lot more reserved or introverted, whereas now I'm very loud and outgoing," said Style.

The inclusion of transgender women in drag is a hotly debated topic. In 2018, RuPaul Charles was criticized for saying that transgender women should not be allowed to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race.

"I think [Rupaul] ate his words after that because it was a hot topic, so many people were ... very upset about it because trans women have been an integral part of drag forever," said Style.

"I think that the artistry of drag is so dynamic and that should be portrayed in media."

When Style is performing on stage she feels "free as a bird," she said.  

"I grew up as a little boy who always dreamed of being a performer, who always dreamed of being on stage and being a fully realized woman," said Style.

"So to be living in my truth now, and when I get up there [on stage], I own it and I work it."

Style recently received a grant from Telus Storyhive to make a documentary about her path to learning female powwow dancing. The documentary is called Dance With Me. 

"When I was a little kid, I used to dance grass, which is a boy's [powwow] dance. And my sister used to dance jingle," said Style.

"I remember putting on my sister's jingle dress and turning on powwow music … [when] no one was around. I remember just turning on the music and I would dance around the house in her jingle dress for so long."

"I'd always be peeking out the window worried I'd be caught. I didn't really share that story with anybody until I got older."

 

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