As the second season of Canada’s Drag Race continues to be much-anticipated, judge Brooke Lynn Hytes is dipping her toes into newer icy waters, dropping the aptly titled single Queen Of The North. Giving icy goodness (which eventually turns to a post-apocalyptic fantasy) Hytes is joined by Priyanka, who was crowned the first winner of Canada’s Drag Race last year. I caught up with Hytes recently to chat about her music and if she might have caught the music “bug”, her experience on Canada’s Drag Race and returning for Season 2, and what the past year might have taught her the most.
Michael Cook: Your single ‘Queen of the North’ is absolutely stellar. Tell me about the video.
Brooke Lynn Hytes: I actually recorded the song after taping Season 1 of Canada’s Drag Race in 2019. Honestly, I have never had any plans to make music, it was never something that I was ever really interested in. My manager came to me with the song and he thought it was super catchy and that I should record it; I like to tell people he forced me to do it (laughs). Then the pandemic happened; I actually forgot about it a little bit since we were focusing on other things. He came to me again in 2020 and suggested we do a video for the song. By that point, Priyanka had been crowned the winner of Season 1 of Canada’s Drag Race, so I thought we should get her in the video. After she won, everyone started calling her the Queen of the North, and I was like “wait a minute, that’s my title. We can call her something else, we’re not passing that along every year” (laughs). I love her so much and she is so much fun to work with, and has such great energy. She does a lot of music herself. She recorded a track in Toronto and when we filmed the video, she was going to be in Los Angeles at the same time; it all came together so beautifully
MC: So do you think you have the music “bug” now?
BLH: Let’s just say that I don’t plan on releasing a full length album anytime soon. It is fun content though. I think the part of this that I enjoyed and vibed with was creating the video concept and coming up with the looks, was really fun for me, I am a very visual person. that is the part that I would like to do again. Maybe I will do a single in a year or so, I’m not making any promises right now; we’ll just have to wait and see really.
MC: You are returning as a judge on the second season of Canada’s Drag Race. What is it like to be returning to the judges panel after a super successful first season that garnered so much buzz?
BLH: I am very excited! I had a lot of fun, it was great. We’re all judges at the end of our day, whether we are sitting on our couches at home or sitting on the judges panel on Canada’s Drag Race, so it was like, “I can do this, for sure”.
MC: Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is not returning due to other commitments, but he got a fair share of backlash from the Drag Race fandom, which is notoriously very opinionated. What has the experience been with the fandom from your own perspective?
BLH: I have to say, during my season, I got off pretty scott-free. I had some negativity of course, but I did not have the amount of negativity that I think a lot of the girls face now, and I was very lucky about that. The first time that I did experience that was on Canada’s Drag Race as a judge. I feel like whenever you level up and get put into a different position, people are going to come for you. “Who does she think she is, she’s not qualified”, all of that. That was my first personal interaction with the negativity, and the fanbase not liking you. It was not everybody, but it was more than I experienced on my actual season. It is a really hard thing to deal with honestly and it kind of took me a minute. I actually had to take a step back from social media in fact, since I had never experienced that before and didn’t really know how to deal with it. When you’re a contestant you can clap back at people, when you’re a judge you are in a different position and you cant do that. You are in a position where you just have to sit there, and ultimately now that it has passed, I can look at it and see a great learning experience.
MC: What do you think that part of the experience has taught you?
BLH: It has helped me develop a thicker skin honestly and that everyone’s opinion is not valid to me and I don’t have to take it to heart. At the end of the day, whenever someone spews negativity or bullies someone online, it is about them. It is never about you as a person, they are probably going through something and having issues and are projecting that onto you. It was a hard lesson to learn but but it was one that I was very glad that I did. The thing is, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but what I don’t understand is when you @ them or go to their personal page, which is like you are directly going up to the person. My issue is when you are notifying the person that you don’t like; literally going out of their way to say these things.
When stuff like this happens with the fan base it just hurts the show. They are seeing all of this happen, and then they get on the show and they are just terrified. They are in their heads because with everything they say or do they are thinking that they could get “cancelled” or the fanbase could come for them. They are not able to be authentic and live in the moment because they are worried about what is going to happen after that. I think that it will effect the show because we don’t get really great reality television that way. Great reality television comes from people being real, in the moment, and just themselves. That was one of the great things about Canada’s Drag Race Season 1, the queens were just so unfiltered and authentic. I really hope it continues for Season 2.
MC: Queens from all over Canada were showcased thoroughly throughout Season 1. What do you think you got to showcase on Season 1 that people were not aware of prior to the show airing about Canada’s drag scene?
BLH: I just think we’re really great performers; Canadian drag is not really always about the look. Because of the pageant culture in the Staes, I feel like it is a little bit more looks based, now everywhere of course, just in general. I think in Canada it is more performance based. We had some really great performances and some great personalities; I think it is the unfiltered-ness that made such great television and made everyone just fall in love with it. There was definitely that Season 1 sense of chaos. I heard time and time again that it was very reminiscent of early Drag Race. it was more raw and the queens were more raw. I think queens go on Drag Race now and the queens have teams putting them together and they have “packages” almost like a pageant. I think our girls were a little bit more raw and unfiltered and people really enjoyed seeing that nitty gritty.
MC: As the world opens up, what do you want to do?
BLH: I am so looking forward to getting back to working, to normal life. I want to be so tired I could cry again. This was a lovely reset, but I want to get on planes at five am to go to a gig and then be getting on another plane at five am the next day for another gig; I miss that. I hope I am able to return to that kind of life. I love being busy and having things to do and having a full schedule, that is what I am hoping for.
MC: How have you stayed creatively inspired during the past year?
BLH: I do pretty good alone, I am sort of an introvert to begin with. People sort of take energy from me instead of give it. This year has been a bit if a refueling for me, which has been nice. I have been taking a lot of time working on my physical and mental health. Exercising every day, getting the blood pumping and working on my body. That is a huge way to get me inspired and motivated. The past couple years have been so crazy and chaotic, and when you are home you dont want to exercise because you’re exhausted and there is always something else to do. That is how I have kept inspired. During the last half of the pandemic. I also started to reinvent my makeup a little bit and change my look a little bit. That is another upside to the pandemic, you just have time to sit with yourself and really fine tune things that you maybe didn’t have time to fine tune before or that you didn’t even you could because we were so busy.
Follow Brooke Lynn Hytes on Instagram