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Canada’s Drag Race finalists spill the tea on what the judges got wrong and why the Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman controversy is ‘crazy’

Reiss Smith September 3, 2020
Rita Baga, Priyanka and Scarlett Bobo

Rita Baga, Priyanka and Scarlett Bobo. (BBC)

Canada’s Drag Race will crown its first-ever winner in a matter of hours.

“Winning is what I came here to do,” says Priyanka, one of the three queens to make it to the end of the first northern edition. “I want to represent my people.”

It’s been a few months now since Priyanka, Scarlett Bobo and Rita Baga filmed the grand finale, and on Thursday night (September 3) they – and the rest of the world – will find out who has won.

Each has a strong claim to crown. Priyanka – who would be the franchise’s first winner of Indian heritage (she’s Indo-Caribbean) – has won plaudits for her looks and humour, and has largely impressed in acting challenges – just don’t mention her unfortunate Snatch Game turn.

Priyanka
Priyanka is a former children’s TV star. (BBC)

“Watching myself do Snatch Game was the most uncomfortable experience in my life,” the Toronto queen tells PinkNews. “I was so used to be good at improv, and good at character stuff, that being so bad at it – that was not supposed to be the challenge I was bad at.”

When she entered the show, Priyanka hadn’t come out as gay or as a drag queen to her father – he thought Priyanka was his son’s girlfriend. That’s since changed, and her father is “starting to get it now, he’s starting to see how exciting it is and how drag queens can be superstars”.

“It’s the highlight of my life,” she adds.

Priyanka, Scarlett and Rita sitting on a werk room table
The final three in the werk room. (BBC)

Rita Baga is a Montreal powerhouse, leading the scoreboard with three maxi challenge wins. She says it would be an “honour” to become the first Francophone winner — and to prove “officially that it’s not just Toronto’s Drag Race”.

“I think we’ve given you a good vibe of what Canadian drag is,” she adds.

Though Rita started strong, she found herself in the bottom two in both of the penultimate two weeks, something she said was difficult to watch back.

“It took me back to that dark place, because I was comfortable winning or being safe and then suddenly it was real,” she tells PinkNews.

“The minute I heard [“the time has come to lip sync for your life”], it took me back to a dark place – that and some of the girls’ confessionals! These girls are savage!”

Rita Baga
Rita Baga could become the first French-speaking winner of the franchise. (BBC)

Scarlett Bobo hopes to win to champion “an ignored part” of the LGBT+ community.

“There’s so many queer kids are just silly and artsy that are usually neglected,” she explains. “I get to represent punk, weirdo queers who also take up space in this wild, amazing community.”

Another Toronto queen, Scarlett is the underdog, having snatched her first and only win in the penultimate, but all-important ball challenge.

Though she’s never landed in the bottom two – the only finalist who can say that – she was consistently safe until last week, something that riled fans – including Priyanka.

“When Scarlett Bobo blew fire on the runway – the doll deserved a mention,” Priyanka says.

Scarlett Bobo eating fire
Scarlett Bobo wowed with her inventive runways. (BBC)

The judges’ decisions throughout the series have attracted much criticism, with viewers disagreeing with critiques and eliminations.

The queens themselves don’t harbour any grudges, agreeing between them that the judging was by and large fair.

“I got no bad critiques all season so I guess the judging was great,” Scarlett laughs.

“There may have been, one or two things that were like, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have said it in that way’. But we signed up to get judged. The judges were doing their job, which was to critique us.”

Rita says she’s currently rewatching season 12 of Drag Race US, and feels as though the comments from RuPaul, Michelle Visage and the panel are harsher than what they received from Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Stacey McKenzie and Brooke Lynn Hytes.

Scarlett agrees: “If you watch earlier seasons of Drag Race, Santino Rice is like, ‘That’s stupid, f**k that, it’s awful!’ And RuPaul’s screaming at the girls like, ‘Do better!’

“So compared to that I thought we got a very lovely Canadian critique. There’s just more eyes on us right now.”

Stacey McKenzie, Brooke Lynn Hyes and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman
Stacey McKenzie, Brooke Lynn Hytes and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman are the judges of Canada’s Drag Race. (BBC)

Criticism of the judges decisions turned into what Drag Race UK star Crystal described as a “racist pile-on” against Bowyer-Chapman, forcing him to quit Twitter.

For Scarlett, the negativity being thrown his way is “kind of crazy”, with all three in agreement that the panel did their jobs “just fine”.

Controversies aside, what’s certain is that Canada’s Drag Race has been welcomed by fans of the franchise as a breath of fresh air, a back-to-basics take on the TV behemoth that feels less produced, and more in line with the satirical spirit of seasons past.

For the finalists, the best part has been introducing the world to their country’s talent. “Finally Canadian drag is being looked at from around the entire world,” says Scarlett.

“I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it,” adds Rita. “And I think Brooke Lynn Hytes finally won the show.”

The finale of Canada’s Drag Race airs on BBC iPlayer Friday (September 4), with all previous episodes available to stream now.

More: Canada's Drag Race, Drag Race

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