Rachel Jean Harding says aside from a little padding, there’s nothing false about Drag Idol.
Five years ago, Zone 216’s DJ, Fabian Fitzpatrick, a huge fan of the Idol television series franchise, wanted to put off his very own version of the competition. But with a twist. Instead of pitting wannabe recording artists against one another, he wanted to do something different.
“I thought it would be cute to do a Drag Queen version of Idol,” he says.
In order to give local drag performers a stage without the pressure of a having to put together a full show, he founded Drag Idol in 2003. It was the beginning of what has become one of the club’s most anticipated annual events.
The night is organized into themed rounds, and broken up by non-competitive numbers from other local drag performers. The contestants have had time to select and prepare a piece suited to each category, and every round one contestant is eliminated.
Though the show is hosted by Fitzpatrick, and there is a panel of judges—last year’s panel included filmmaker Mary Sexton, Idol 2005 winner Jessica Lopez, and local scene star Felicia Cox—who offer commentary, it is ultimately the audience that decides the winner. Between rounds, audience members are invited up to the judge’s stage to cast ballots, and each round one participant is eliminated.
The event has become so popular that it attracts a different crowd to the club than usual, says Fitzpatrick.
“Its funny… the biggest part of the audience for the shows have been straight people who have come out in huge numbers, for a lot of them it’s their first time in the Zone,” he says. “It makes it all the more fun, and a completely different kind of night.”
I spoke with local makeup artist Patrick Blackburn, who has performed at drag competitions in other cities and is entering the local competition this year for the first time. He says a good drag performance requires time, practice, and drive.
“You have to be high energy to get ready for drag,” he says. “It’s a lot of work, stuffing things away, adding, and of course walking in heels… getting mannerisms right … maintaining wigs…”
What’s the payoff?
“I enjoy drag mostly for the reactions and entertainment,” he says. “And doing charity work. Donating the money to needy causes.”
Those who were in attendance last year will remember the climatic win by Doris Douche over the previous year’s runner-up, Lola. Rumour has it Lola—who has been dubbed Lola Lucci (a joke about her runner-up status for several years running)—will be returning to the competition this year, along with some fresh faces.
As well, this year I’ve been informed the ante has been upped with the introduction of a new category called “On The Spot”. The final two contestants will have only a matter of minutes to choose from a list of songs to perform.
Sure to be a fun night.
Drag Idol takes place Sunday July 29 at Zone 216. $5 w/ all proceeds awarded to the Kings & Queens of the festival, 11pm, Zone 216.