When Canada’s Drag Race gave us Lemon, the world fell in love with her. This effervescent and (mostly) syrupy sweet queen found her footing in New York City drag, working under the tutelage of one of the biggest names in the Big Apple, Jasmine Rice LaBeija. Lemon’s aim for going out of her comfort zone and efforts in versatility wowed the judges, and showed us that this Canadian doll just might be poised for worldwide stardom post-Drag Race. I caught up with Lemon to chat about her New York City sensibilities (and drag mother), her thoughts on professionalism in drag, and what the Drag Race experience was like for this lifelong fan of the show.
Michael Cook: How did you end up making it to the cast of the first season of Canada’s Drag Race?
Lemon: It was definitely a winding path, Honestly, I was nearing the end of my student visa, so it was coming time for me to head back to Canada. I had a strange feeling that something big was going to happen, and then I saw the listing for Canada’s Drag Race. That was it-that was my destiny.
MC: You are Jasmine Rice LaBeija’s drag daughter, who is a New York City legend and one of the hardest working dolls in the city. How did you end up with her as your drag mother?
L: I think Jasmine Rice LaBeija is the best drag queen in the entire world, and I am not saying that because she is my mom. I have never seen a drag performer that is able to captivate an audience the way that she can. She is a Juliard trained opera singer, she is a ballroom legend, she is a pageant queen, and she is a New York city nightlife star. Honestly, I have always looked up to her. Actually, the coat I entered the workroom in is the first thing that I ever saw her wearing. I immediately fell in love and thought “that is my kind of queen”. She is just perfection and sells every little bit of herself so flawlessly. I love how confident, radiant and amazing she is. I used to always see Jasmine around, and we have many mutual friends and I just think she saw something in me that was similar. It was a natural family, she really feels like what a drag mother is. I was always looking for a drag mother when I started drag, and then Jasmine asked me; it was like, oh my god, this is perfect. That is exactly who my drag mother should be; it just happened naturally, I think that is how many drag families come about.
MC: New York City is a notoriously competitive place to work for drag performers, and to come up in the ranks in New York, you can most likely make it almost anywhere don’t you think?
L: Honestly, it was very difficult. It was a lot of showing up every day, it was a lot of not having enough money to pay my rent and choosing a new pair of shoes over dinner. I am happy with everything and I think one thing people need to remember is that the most important thing you can do, not just as a performer but as a human being, is to be nice to people. If you are nice to people and you make them feel good and you are kind, people are going to want to work with you and are going to want to hire you, It was easier for me to make it because I genuinely cared about the people that were there with me and that they were having a good experience as well. Drag queens sometimes focus on the shading and the funny little reads, and that is obviously a part of drag too,. At the end of the day though, these are your colleagues and they deserve your respect.
MC: Drag Race is a monumental achievement for people, but others have found out quickly that it was a step on the way to bigger things. What was the entire experience like for you?
L: You know, it would take me ten years to really go into depth about how much it means to me. I have loved Drag Race forever and it is such a big part of my life. I think a lot of the time when you meet queer people it is also such an easy thing to relate about also. I mean, if you meet a bunch of queer people in a situation and someone brings up Drag Race, it’s like you have all been best friends forever. I think that Drag Race has this power of bringing queer people together and supporting other artists. It is one of the only shows where it is a completely queer cast and there is nothing else; it is watching queer people be authentically as loud and as proud as they can be. I think that is magical and being part of it, I feel like I am part of this huge legacy now, and I am going to take the torch and run with it.
MC: Is there anything about the experience that you thought would be different before taking part in it, but now you have a completely different perspective on?
L: I feel that it is very much true to how it feels really. There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes with the people that you really don’t get to see. I have fallen victim to watching the show myself and thinking someone might be a mean person, but really it is a few moments in someones life under the most extreme stress that they have ever been under. So I think we deserve a little bit of leeway for some of the behaviors and the opinions. No one can understand how stressful, how intense and how scary the experience really is. I can’t understand how it was for girls on other seasons, and they probably cannot for us either.
MC: You are straddled between New York City and Canada; do you stay in Canada permanently or do you live in New York?
L: I want to be everywhere; I want to be an International girl. I want to be able to do shows for all of the people that I love. I have so much love for New York; you really do love what you got first, and I got New York City drag. There is definitely something magical about New York City drag. There is also something magical about Canadian drag and my Canadian sisters. I am really proud of my Canadian life and all of the luck I have been given just even being born here. I don’t think I’ll be stagnant forever, I will be in New York, I will be in Canada, I’ll be all over the world doll. Just wait for it..
MC: How have you managed to stay inspired and creative doing pandemic?
L: I was in New York for five years away from my family, so coming home to my parents, staying in my childhood room, our family dog, my brother and his girlfriend, just being together as a family has been great. My family is the coolest and they are a big proponent of making sure I am working hard and inspired by my art. They really support and push me in so many ways.
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