If you’re like me, you probably spent most of your quarantine watching both RuPaul’s Drag Race and Canada’s Drag Race and loving every minute of it. Drag artists have played a significant role in shaping both queer and mainstream culture for decades.
From activism to influencing makeup, dance, and fashion trends, drag artists continually prove to be a source of inspiration and entertainment. Drag queens serve as role models and inspiration for countless queer artists such as myself, and here at York, we are blessed with a truly iconic drag queen trio.
Drag queens Aurélie Talented (Stéphane Arcand), Aurora Matrix (Anton Ling), and STAR (Joshua Hughes) all started their drag journeys around the same time and have been performing together ever since. They are all theatre students, Arcand and Ling in third-year and Hughes in his fourth.
The trio are great friends, both in and out of drag, and have continued to perform virtually over Zoom throughout the pandemic. As a trio, they’ve been able to host some incredible Drag Nights in collaboration with both the York Federation of Students (YFS) and Winter’s College Council.
“Our first ever drag event with the three of us performing was at Winters College at the Absinthe Pub,” Arcand says.
In February 2019, Arcand organized a special event titled “Drag At the AB,” co-hosting the event with his drag sister, Aurora Matrix. The goal was to showcase other queer talent from Winters, and soon both Talented and Matrix jumped at the chance to have STAR to perform with them.
“That first show was a huge success and The Absinthe Pub was PACKED with a happy crowd,” says Arcand. “Our drag careers at York took off from there, and we’ve been doing YFS and frosh events ever since, like Drag Bingo or the Frosh Lip Sync Battle.”
STAR met Talented and Matrix in 2018 when she had started to experiment more with drag, from exploring wigs to trying out drag makeup.
Since their first performance, the trio has performed together all across Ontario and are referred to as “The Hole-y Trinity.”
From their early days of sharing each other’s Instagram posts and the beginning of sharing the stage together, Arcand remarks that “it started to become evident we worked best when we supported one another.”
“Especially during our first few months of doing drag, we always went out together and would go to open stages as a group. We often got recognized as a trio,” says Ling.
“We work together and get along really well, I’d say it’s a dream team,” Hughes adds.
“…if we weren’t listening to our lip sync songs to practice before the show, we’d be gossiping or checking on our makeup.”
This trio has now practically done it all. They started with performances at the Absinthe Pub, and moved on to open stages, performing at Laurier University and shows across the GTA, hosting their own Student Night shows in Toronto’s Gay Village at Church and Wellesly, and hosting their own Drag Anniversary shows.
“We would all take the subway together from the York University station, and if we weren’t listening to our lip sync songs to practice before the show, we’d be gossiping or checking on our makeup,” Arcand explains.
For Talented, she started to dip her toes in the metaphorical waters of drag makeup in her last couple years of high school. Once she got to university, she had the chance to explore the downtown scene and fell in love with the queer community at the local bars. It soon became a regular thing for her to go out in drag to open stage events and sign up for amateur competitions.
Arcand describes how lovely it is to see how the confidence she carries when she performs influences others, making them feel more confident and open to exploring a new side of themselves.
“Starting to perform at York made me realize I could bring the magic I felt in those spaces to a whole new audience,” Arcand says. “Whenever I perform with York, I always hear at least one person who’s experiencing their very first drag show. Being in someone’s first drag show can be a very heartwarming feeling, and I hope those people can leave a show with a new set of eyes to look at the world.”
For Matrix, York is one of the places where she started doing drag. Her first time hosting a drag show was at the Absinthe Pub and from there, she has received many opportunities to work with York and establish an amazing following in the community.
In Toronto’s Gay Village, Matrix had made a name for herself, and has been building momentum with her drag career. She started out going to open stages for new performers. Now Matrix is being booked at some of her favourite venues. She’s had the chance to perform at Pride events, private shows with big brands, and weekly bookings at bars where she once dreamed of performing.
“It’s always so amazing to be able to perform at my own university and see all of the people who come out to show some love and support my art,” Ling says.
For STAR, she began dressing in drag on Halloween, and has been playing with various looks since she was 16 years old. She started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2016 and was inspired to explore the world of makeup. She would dress up as iconic female characters for Halloween, including characters from American Horror Story, Stranger Things, Clueless, Mean Girls, Scream Queens, Heathers, and more.
STAR made her official drag debut during her second year of university when she was 19. For a few months in 2019, STAR would spend almost every week performing at open stages, and eventually landed her first paid gig at Woody’s — a popular Gay Village establishment — in July 2019. Of her many accomplishments, STAR has won the Crews and Tangos Star Search 2.0 twice, theMcLaughlin College Drag Race 2020, and recently “hosted a three-hour one woman show for my Drag Anniversary in February 2020.”
“I also want to give Aurora and Aurélie a shoutout for pushing me and truly letting me get my start in drag, without these two I would not be the STAR I am today. I’m forever grateful and thankful for my sisters,” Hughes says.
At York, Matrix found a community that she says is incredibly super supportive and loving. According to Matrix, Winter’s Frosh made the university feel like home to her, and since, she has met so many incredible people and formed connections she never thought possible.
“York has become such a safe space for me to calmly walk the campuses in six-inch heels and a blonde wig getting to Drag Bingo or Drag Night.”
Likewise, Talented has found that as a theatre student, she has been lucky to be surrounded by other queer talent and has forged bonds with other classmates who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community. “It is very comforting to have people around you who can understand the same parts of your lived experience because it serves as a reminder that you aren’t alone in your journey.”
Talented hopes that the social groups at York, such as the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay at York (TBLGAY), can help other queer students gain a support system to find likeminded individuals. This organization has been involved in producing some of the drag shows at York, which serve as a great opportunity for queer students to socialize and connect with one another.
STAR is both happy and thankful that York is a safe space for her to perform and be her authentic self. “The world has come a long way and there is still so much room to grow and learn, but I am glad that in 2020 I am so safe and accepted at my school,” Hughes says. “York has become such a safe space for me to calmly walk the campuses in six-inch heels and a blonde wig getting to Drag Bingo or Drag Night. Which I am so thankful and happy for.”
When I asked the queens what they love most about being a drag queen, I was met with unique and heartfelt answers. Arcand has found that some of his favourite things about being a drag artist is that he doesn’t need to conform to any standards of gender or beauty. Drag is an art form that knows no bounds and is consistently flipping the gender binary on its head. “It’s a performance of gender that simultaneously critiques and pushes its very limitations,” Arcand remarks.
“Drag says ‘screw fitting in, I just want to have fun’.” He adds, detailing that you can express your drag in any way you see fit, no matter what you are born with. “If I can have a full beard and still look like a beautiful goddess, then the options are endless,” Arcand jokes. Ultimately for him, it’s about having fun exploring the multiple layers of what makes you, you.
Ling finds that being a drag queen is his creative expression. “I feel like when I’m in drag, that’s when I’m truly expressing myself in the purest form,” he details. Ling loves how extravagant the art form can be and that’s what makes it so fun for him.
For Hughes, what he loves most about being a drag queen is being authentic to himself. He finds the transformation satisfying, and has noticed he has “become a hundred times more confident in everything” he does because of drag. “I am so glad I named myself STAR because I truly believe that I am a star and I am so happy that I believe it myself,” Hughes gushed, going on to detail the various acting performances he’s been lucky enough to do in drag.
Most recently, STAR produced her own short film in drag where she recreated the first five minutes of the 1996 film Scream. “Ultimately what I love about drag is everything. I truly think deep down in my soul that I was meant to do this as a career and cannot wait to see where I will go and what I will do next,” says Hughes.
“We are more than the gender we are assigned — we are humans free and capable of expressing ourselves in fantastic and exciting ways. Society may see it as a drag, but to me it’s just fun.”
For the trio, expressing themselves through drag goes far deeper than the surface.
“We are more than the gender we are assigned — we are humans free and capable of expressing ourselves in fantastic and exciting ways. Society may see it as a drag, but to me it’s just fun,” says Arcand.
Ling shares his drag aspirations. “Being an Asian drag queen also allows me to be a role model for queer Asian youths. Growing up, I didn’t have anyone who was like me to look up to, so my goal is to be that person for the next generation of queer Asian kids.”
A fan of the trio, Natasha Lee, tries to go to drag shows at York as often as she can. Lee has been watching the trio since they first started together at York. “Watching them perform together is always a great time, they feed off of each other’s energy and you can tell they really love to perform, the shows are always super exciting and fun.”
Chloe Currie, another avid show-goer, has attended most of the Drag Nights at the Absinthe Pub and a couple of YFS Dirty Bongos, which feature Talented, Matrix, and STAR.
Currie has been able to see all three queens perform numerous times both on and off campus, mentioning that her favourite places to watch the queens perform is Crews & Tangos, The Drink, and Woody’s. She raves that all the queens are extremely talented and fun to watch, and she always enjoys watching them perform both individually and as a trio.
“I love that drag invites people into a world that is so colourful and fun. I’ve never experienced anything quite like a drag show. It’s funny and extravagant and glamorous and ridiculous and I just feel so at home every time,” Currie says.
Lee adds that “STAR, Aurélie, and Aurora Matrix aren’t just phenomenally talented drag queens, but they are really sweet people!”
You can follow them on Instagram at @auroramatrix, @aurelietalented, @theequeenstar.