After five long weeks, The Search For Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017 has finally come to an end. Out of fourteen contestants only six remained: Cleopatra Compton, Eva Scarlett, ILONA, Jo Durée, Kendall Gender, and Molly Poppinz. The contestants brought their A-game to battle it out once more for that one in six chance of winning the much coveted title. Each contestant brought outstanding performances, but will it be enough to please the judges and the audience?
The winner of Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017 will also receive two tickets to the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 finale party, courtesy of TFD Presents, and a trip for two, flights and accommodation, to the party venue, courtesy of Celebrities Nightclub and Cruisey T. The panel of judges include Tommy D of TFD Presents, Raye Sunshine, one of Vancouver’s top makeup artist and drag entertainer, and Mila Dramatic, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2016 winner. A fourth member of the panel is guest judge and headline performer Thorgy Thor, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Eight. This is her first time to visit Canada. The event was hosted by Jane Smoker, Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2015 winner. Music was provided by DJ DomTop. The grand finale was held at Celebrities Nightclub, Vancouver’s premiere nightclub.
Press: Prior to the show, some of the contestants, panel of judges, and Thorgy Thor was interviewed by Outlook TV backstage. They were asked about their drag, their experience in the competition, and advice they’d give to would-be drag queens out there. So keep an eye on Outlook TV for that interview!
I have to give a big shout-out to master of ceremonies, Jane Smoker, for doing a great job at emceeing, and keeping the audience energy up with her antics and funny ad-libs.
For the grand final, the groups were all disbanded. Each contestant were no longer mentored by their coach, and were free to make decisions for each of the challenges on their own. As for the judges, about their expectations for the grand final, Tommy D was looking for that “superstar moment,” which he said he hasn’t seen yet. Mila Dramatic, who was also celebrating her birthday, was having goosebumps and was excited for the contestants, “everyone worked so hard it’s going to be amazing,” she said. Raye Sunshine, who was in drag this time and painted so beautifully, was pleased that after five weeks the contestants finally got smooth eyebrows. In response to the remark, Thorgy Thor said she shaved her eyebrows in the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She was excited to take part in the competition having recently hosted Miss Brooklyn – a pageant that’s been going on in Brooklyn, NY, saying, “having went from one pageant to another. I’m so fucking excited to be here. So thank you guys for having me.”
First Runway Challenge
For the first runway challenge, the grand finalists were asked to serve their best drag. A question and answer will follow, where each contestant will be asked two questions. First they were to plea their case as to why they deserve to win the title, followed by a question that is unique for each of them.
Molly Poppinz was wearing a lovely Star Trek-inspired look. If not, tell me what it is. Her makeup was gorgeous. She had very long straight blue hair, short leather skirt, knee-high white leggings, knuckle leather gloves, and platform shoes. The pale blue t-shirt she was wearing needed something sparkly because it looked too plain. I wish it was something else all together. When asked why she deserves the title, she replied jokingly, paraphrasing, “I think that I should be Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar because I’ll always be so Canadian.” She continued to say that she had an awesome time in the competition. She’s humbled that she got so far in the competition, having survived six weeks (five), and that she’s just having fun. Basically, she didn’t answer the question. And when asked what’s the most helpful tip the judges gave her in the competition. She thanked Mila, her mentor, who was being so supportive of her, for seeing something in her and took a chance. Again, she didn’t answer the question.
Kendall Gender was lovely, but her makeup was a bit subtle compared to the other contestants. Her yellow and white two-piece outfit was gorgeous. It was very tropical and vibrant. Her flowery headdress on wavey black hair was so pretty. Although she wore a similar design in her week two solo performance, also with a yellow top, but made from different material and her pants was black, it was well constructed and distinct enough. Almost like BenDeLaCreme or Bianca Del Rio, same silhouette but different material. For her Q&A, she joked that what they need to figure out is how she’s going to keep her answer under sixty seconds. For her fist question, she said, “I started drag, give or take, about three years ago. And I entered this competition for the first time. And I was not ready. I was lost and confused. And every time I look back at pictures of myself from this competition, it makes me breakdown into tears,” she took a brief pause and continued, “because that girl was broken. That girl was lost, that girl was confused, that girl didn’t even know how to block her damn eyebrows.” She said she’s honored to have gone through what she had for the past year and changed everything about herself, and standing there, loving herself. She concluded, “This is my year! I have busted my ass off in the past year.” For her second question, she was asked to name three qualities a VNDS winner should have. She said the VNDS winner should be an inspiration, honest and believes in himself, and should be Kendall Gender. Well played.
Jo Durée is like the Nicole Kidman of drag, radiant and owning it! She had great makeup and gorgeous blonde hair. She has gone back to her trademark look, Queen of the Viking. She wore a similar outfit in week one’s first runway look, come to think of it, it’s the same hair and floor-length skirt, but this time with a gold breastplate, cape and fur, and gold forearm guard. It was a polished look nonetheless. She said she deserves to win the title because she has showed so many sides of herself since week one – full slaytina, blood, characters and divas, and she hoped that for the grand finale she gives everyone a winner. She continued on to say how thankful and appreciative she is of her time in the competition. For her second question, she was asked what makes her deserving to carry the title being someone who is very new to drag. She replied, “I started drag in April last year. And I’m proud to say that I feel like I’ve already found my place in drag.” She further explained, “I had such a steep learning curve but I managed to keep up with it, and I hope to continue to keep up with it, through and past the competition.” She said she’s very open minded about learning.
Cleopatra Compton was so regal in her silver sequined gown and white ostrich feather costume, and with perfect accessories to complement it. She had great hair and makeup. She’s like a period European aristocrat going to a ball. She got emotional in her Q&A. Trying to hold back tears, she was so thankful to everyone. She said she fought so hard and have gone through so much bullshit to make it to the grand finale, and said, her voice cracking, “I’m just so blessed to be here in the top six with my sisters.” To which the audience broke into applause. For her second question, she was asked to share one experience she had during the competition that she will take with her for the rest of her life. Without skipping a heartbeat, she replied, “When I lip sync for my life last week. And did the death drop and hit my head right there.” She pointed down on the stage floor, and continued in a preacher sort of way, “And I had an epiphany.” The audience again broke into applause in cheers. “I found diamonds!” she exclaimed, followed by something inaudible.
ILONA’s makeup was perfection. Although her blue outfit was reminiscent of her week four’s duet performance costume. Only difference is, this time it’s long sleeves and one piece (I think) instead of a skirt and open jacket. She added fur on the hem of the skirt, across the chest, and around the bicep. The fur also matched the color of her hair. She also had fur on the strap of her high heels. It was another very well put together look. For her first question, she replied, in a very determined tone, that she deserves to win the title because, “drag is my literal life. I do not have a day job. This is what I do 24/7. I am so passionate about this as an art form. And [I] know where I wanna be, who I am and who I want to be. This is what I love to do.” And said she’d make good in representing Vancouver in Montreal, should she win the title. She concluded, “I will use this title to the fullest.” The audience cheered and applauded. For her second question, she was asked, that if she wins the competition and go to Montreal, what outfit would she wear and what song would she perform to represent British Columbia. She said she don’t like to get too ahead of herself, so she haven’t really thought about it. But said that if she wins, she’d do something she never has done before. “I do a lot of gimmicks, so maybe ya know, maybe I try refine that. And do something that, you know, is still me but has a ‘wow-factor’ without having to rely on dancers and things like that. And just do it myself, and really just kill it. And bring the best look I can.” That is basically her strategy throughout the competition.
Eva Scarlett looked like a playboy pinup girl … a very expensive playboy pinup girl. I have to say that this is her signature look. In fact, I’ve seen it before … it’s her exact same outfit in last year’s VNDS grand finale, when she made everyone cry with her very moving performance. If I haven’t seen VNDS last year, I would say it’s a similar design but with different material and some modification. Aside from that … it’s a very polished look. I can’t say anything about her hair and makeup other than it’s perfection. Oh, and lastly, it’s the grand finale, and no nails still? I have to ask her sometime why she don’t like to wear nails. For her question, she said, sounding a little unsure, that she think she deserves to win, but not because she’s different. Struggling to find the words, she said, “I have the fire in me. Like honestly? I’m here, I want it. And … I feel like I’m just ready. I have the face. I have everything.” Feeling nervous, she took a moment to regain her composure, and she continued, “honestly, I think I would bring a lot to Vancouver as the Next Drag Superstar. I feel like I would be able to do much and do as much as I need to, to be everything that’s needed as a Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar.” For her second question, she was asked what would she want to accomplish in her first year if she wins the title. She said, “one of the things I wanted to do is have my own show. Have something that is dinner-oriented.” To which the audience cheered in agreement. She continued, “so yeah, have a dinner show. Have people come to see glamour, or literally have anything food-oriented, whatever. That and honestly, do as much as I can. I will do anything.” Well, at least she knows what she wants. And a dinner show could work here, I mean, “The Robbie Turner Revue” show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle was a big hit.
My top three picks for the look challenge are: Cleopatra Compton, Kendall Gender, and ILONA.
My top three for the question and answer portion, based on who answered the questions best, are: Jo Durée for her grace and humility, ILONA for her resolve, and Kendall Gender for being so candid
Candidate Announcement for Emperor 46 and Empress 46
During the intermission, Sienna Blaze, reigning Empress, accompanied by Jaylene Tyme, announced that Tommy D and Jane Smoker were both running for Emperor 46 and Empress 46. They looked like the bride and groom standing side-by-side on stage. Good luck to both of you!
For the next challenge, the contestants were asked to perform using their musical instrument of choice.
Molly Poppinz performed “Going To Hell” by the The Pretty Reckless. Her musical instrument of choice was an electric guitar – she brought a real one for her prop. She had a mic and stand setup in the middle of the stage. She walked onto the stage wearing a nun’s outfit, with the electric guitar strapped across her chest, and a huge crucifix dangling on her neck. I was already having visions of “The Sound of Music.” It was a nice start, then she upped the energy, took off her nun costume to reveal a devil’s outfit and dreadlocks! It was fantastic! Her devil’s costume was perfect, well constructed, and she was amazing! It was the most polished performance I’ve seen from her.
Kendall Gender performed “I Will Be” by Christina Aguilera. It’s a very sentimental song for her. Her musical instrument was a piano. She had a partner on stage, Vancouver designer, Evan Clayton. Her hair was gorgeous, but her makeup was very subtle. Her contouring was hard to notice. I like her gem encrusted bustier, but I didn’t like her draped skirt that was too long and crumpled. The denim jacket she wore didn’t go with the look. She’s been wearing denim jacket so much in the competition, maybe it’s her thing? I like her performance. It was very heartfelt, and I thought she was able to channel the strong emotions she has of the song. She worked the stage as she emote, and interacted with her partner. Costumes aside, it was a good performance.
Jo Durée performed “Diamonds” by Rihanna. Her musical instrument was a bedazzled piano. And just like Kendall Gender, since the piano was propped flat on a support and high up on stage, the audience down below can’t really the keys or them pretending to play. I think side view and at an angle would’ve been better. She didn’t change her look much from the first runway challenge. She took off the cape, the breastplate, and forearm guard. She sat on a chair while playing the piano for her entire number. I like that she was showing a lot of emotions on her face, and her lip sync was great, but her hands didn’t move much either. I like the effect of the light reflecting from the disco ball above, it added a nice effect to her stage visual. But that’s all to the lighting guy’s credit.
Cleopatra Compton performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by Bette Midler. Her musical instrument was a bugle … actually, a trumpet. A bugle don’t have finger buttons. Instead of bringing a real trumpet … what she had was a cutout pattern of a trumpet from a golden cardboard. She changed her hair and wore different earrings. Her outfit reminded me of an old western saloon girl. Her solo performance was high energy, lively, and very energetic. Her choreography was great. Her facial expression when she pretends to blow the trumpet was very amusing.
ILONA performed “Diamond Hard” by Kerli. For her musical instrument, she went back to her roots, choosing a hand drum. In drag competitions, it has been her trademark to go the extra mile, and this is no different. Her vision was very elaborate and well put together. Her huge gray curly hair was so gorgeous! Her makeup was amazing! She wore a red costume with long strips of drape fabric, almost like a kimono. Underneath she wore a red leotard under a red corset, if I’m not mistaken. For her prop, she had a huge red cross with a platform. She was assisted by fellow drag queen, Coco Klein, all dressed in black from head to foot, with her head completely covered by a black veil. She blended in the black background, so all eyes where on ILONA. It was a great spectacle .. with her huge red crucifix on the stage. She took elements of the music video of the song and really made it work for her performance. She started off standing on the platform in front of the cross, then she stepped down, and reached for the hand drum. As she was lip syncing and beating the drum, her cloaked extra grabbed the ends of the long fabric draped on her back, walked up to the cross platform and thrashed it at arms length. Coupled with the intensity on ILONA’s face, it was a very captivating performance. It was by far the most show stopping performance yet in the competition.
Eva Scarlett performed “Chandelier” by Sia. Her musical instrument of choice was a piano. At this point I was thinking … pianogate, ala kimonogate in RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Eight. I was wondering why not a harp, flute, violin, harmonica … heck, why not even a jaw harp? Why did all three of them choose a piano? Song choice maybe has something to do with it? So many questions. Her makeup and hair where unquestionable. She has perfected that. She didn’t try to look Sia because that’s week four. However, she wore a black suit. And since the background is sort of black, she tend to blend in. For her whole performance, she just sat there and barely moved from neck down. She tried to emote but she kept looking up, so it was hard to see her face. She didn’t try to connect to the audience. Coupled with her black wardrobe, she was almost unnoticeable. Within the first minute of her performance, I could hear the audience talking louder and louder.
My top three picks for this challenge are: ILONA, Cleopatra Compton, and Molly Poppinz.
After the break, Thorgy Thor performed a couple of numbers. Although I meet Thorgy Thor in last year’s RuPaul’s Drag Con in Los Angeles, and at the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Eight Finale red carpet (yes, I needed to drop that info, lol), this would be my first time watching her perform live. I must say, I saw a lot of Robbie Turner in her, but crazier – in a good way, but not as crazy as Katya. Lovely lovely, I enjoyed it very much.
For the final solo performance, the contestants were asked to give it their all.
Molly Poppinz performed “Trophy” by Charli XCX. I like her overall look. Her hair and makeup was great, and costume was great. It reminded me of the movie “Finding Susan” or Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” performance on the MTV Music Video Awards… it was very 80s Madonna. Unfortunately, her performance consisted of running around the stage, jumping up and down, jumping off the stage, and flailing arms like she’s being attacked by bees and trying to get away from it! She grabbed a tiara and placed it on her head, but it only added to the whole mess. I would’ve preferred her second performance was her final. I don’t know what she was thinking … if not for her great look, I would’ve thought she had a relapse … back to week one Molly.
Kendall Gender performed “Where Have You Been” by Rihanna, in her two-part finale performance. The first part was a reenactment of the hilarious airplane scene of the movie “Bridesmaids,” right up to the part where Annie Walker, her character, was ushered out of first class. She had her whole crew up on stage. I like it that her cast knew their parts and played it really well. She changed her hair, which was great. I like her blue dress, white boots, and white scarf. She looked like a stewardess, but the character she played, Annie Walker, was a passenger in plain clothes. Anyway, she exited the stage, the white backdrop was removed, and her crew … disembarked. After a brief moment, the lights went dim, two of her backup dancers in skimpy attire walked up on stage, and she followed in a new attire. Her top was a see through body-fit renaissance-inspired shirt and fringe skirt. Her scarf was a nice touch. Her makeup now work with the dress, pale blue fabric and eyeshadow. I like her performance, great lip sync and choreography. She had great energy. Then her crew fired confetti and glitter at the end of the performance. It was great. But what I don’t understand is the connection with her dance number and her Bridesmaid bit. Ok, she’s been promoting “Gender Airlines” but the Rihanna song didn’t make sense. The two acts back-to-back didn’t made any sense to me. There was no continuity. She didn’t need the first act. Her dance number was great, but it came across as a typical club gig lip sync number.
Jo Durée performed “Kingdom Come” by Demi Lovato featuring Iggy Azela. She didn’t change her hair and makeup for her last number. She wore a bedazzled black leotard, thigh high boots, and a black cape – without any fur on the shoulder. For a prop, she had a red chair with long back rest … like a Viking King’s throne. She had four backup dancers, dressed in black two-piece costumes and thigh high leggings. She started off walking from the center aisle in the audience. She got on stage, took off her cape, and did a high octane dance routine with her backup dancers. She sat on the chair a few times, but briefly, as her backup dancers gathered around her. She stood up and did more intense choreography. Then each of her backup dancer pulled a fabric under the chair and started thrashing it … albeit, briefly. Then she sat back and it was over. It would’ve been great if it was not a hip-hop dance routine. If it was more of an interpretative dance. I actually like the idea of the fabric attached to the chair … but, the effect would’ve been better had she did some intense choreography while on the chair … like with her hands waving in sync with the flow of the fabric. And maybe her dancers moved forward, like redirecting the flow to the audience. That … would’ve been hypnotic! It wasn’t a bad performance. Just like the performer before her, it seemed … typical.
Cleopatra Compton performed “Put The Blame On Mame” by Rita Hayworth. Her new brunette hair was gorgeous! She had great makeup. Her red strapless sequin gown, black and white feather boa, and long sheer gloves was amazing. It was her best look for the entire competition that evening. She was serving Jessica Rabbit to the max! Her performance did Rita Haworth’s performance of the song in the movie “Gilda” (1946) a lot of justice. She even took one of her gloves, just like in the movie. That part alone was a very sexy move. She was serving inescapable temptress and vulnerable damsel at the same time. It was a short performance, but I think everyone held their breath for a whole two minutes!
ILONA performed “Kill V. Maim” by Grimes. After her second number, I was curious how she’s going to top it. She had a wicked outfit – black leotard with metallic strap across her chest and waist, metallic thigh high boots, black fingerless gloves, and … black wings! She had a platform set on stage. She wore short gray hair and applied patches of red blood makeup on her face. She made her intro standing on the platform. She turned around to face the audience, and did her … thing. First, it’s always crazy to watch her lit herself on fire. This time she was on fire twice, her boots and the wings! She took of her hair revealing a freshly shaved head (which she did during the break!) and she painted it with red. I was worried her hair might caught on fire before she took it off. The fire only engulfed the left wing but it didn’t light up properly on the right. Her accomplice, Coco Klein, did all the work on the pyro. She lit herself on fire last year, that was a shocker, but it didn’t help her win the title. She also had helpers dropped black balloons with “Vote For Ilona” stickers on them during her number, which annoyed one of the judge.
Untucked: Speaking of, I think the best spot for the judges is at the front row, not way at the back, because they will miss all the details that are visible up front. In competitions, judges are usually seated very close to the stage. So I can understand why they sometimes have to walk to the foot of the stage to take a better look.
Back to ILONA, I think her performance was radical, and I like it. I didn’t mind the pyro because it was different! One of the judge didn’t like it because it wasn’t new. Some of the contestants repeated some of the things they did in the past VNDS cycle or even past weeks – like Eva Scarlett’s first runway attire, or Kendall Gender’s white backdrop in her opening act, it was a similar setup she did in week three, and a lot of the other contestants reused elements of their previous outfits, not to mention the hip-hop choreography with backup dancers. So I’m not sure where that tirade was coming from. ILONA produced very unique looks that were so polished, very well put together, and are so professionally done! None of the top six contestants was able to top that, none! Even though I thought she was repeating the same notes, it was minor. Notes like, cramming too many things in a performance (like Kendall Gender’s two-part act) and issues with being relatable and song choices. I think she could’ve omitted the balloons in her act, because it was a lot for a small venue. It irked one of the judge because it blocked the view and …. some of the audience were popping it. Hilarious really. Her song choice could’ve been better. It was hard to enjoy because the singer’s voice was like a chipmunk. I didn’t understand anything in that song. It was high pitched so it got a little annoying for me. Lastly, her wings was hard to see even on first row because it was black against a dim lit background – again, black on black. It was not a bad performance, and I didn’t think she deserved the wrath she got from her critique. From my point of view, her notes was not so different from the other four, except Cleopatra Compton.
Eva Scarlett performed a slowed down remix of “Crazy In Love.” She changed her look to something completely new … dark and naughty. Her first outfit was a black trench coat, which was a clue for a reveal. She had two backup dancers wearing black pants and black button-up shirt with white bow-tie. Both dancers were holding a white feather fan. They covered her with the fan while she removed the jacket. She walked through the fan … revealing an S&M vampress burlesque Betty Page, with both nipples exposed. Well there were chain links, but her nipular area was very exposed. Her deep red lips dabbed with red glitter and her fangs was cool. It added to the drama of her performance. As if it wasn’t enough of a statement, she was holding a whip… or a stick. She toyed with her backup dancers like a true dominant woman. It was sexy, but it wasn’t so captivating. I’m glad she did something very edgy, which I think is a bit of a departure from her usual acts. It’s actually amazing to see her do something different.
My top three picks for the solo performances are: Cleopatra Compton, ILONA, and a tie between Kendall Gender and Jo Durée. I thought Cleopatra Compton’s performances were the most seamless and finale-worthy. No matter how brief, it was the most entertaining.
Untucked: Based on all three performances and looks for the evening, including the question and answer portion, my overall top three contestants and my reason are as follows: ILONA – her look was the most polished, she served three different amazing looks, her musical instrument performance was the best … period. Her last performance, even though it was a bit overwhelming and chaotic, it had the most spectacle. Her question and answer, even though the question sort of set her up, was answered very well. She was very sure of herself, direct and determined; Cleopatra Compton – I wasn’t expecting her to skyrocket in the finale, but she did. She served three unique looks, and they were all very glamorous and fitting for a finale. She aced both of her performances, don’t forget all the judges praised both her numbers! I think ILONA beat her by a hairline. I honestly believe she could’ve won this year, if we only look at week five. Her Q&A could be better, but she handled that well enough with humility and candor; and Jo Durée – even though her outfits sort of had a similar template, they where all still well put together. She looked very polished, considering how new she is in drag. Her last performance was very good. And she handled her Q&A very well.
After the break, Thorgy Thor performed another number. She performed the song “Circle Of Life” from the Lion King, the one Kendall Gender performed in week three. It was an interesting version and entertaining to watch.
The six finalists were called back to the stage. They all changed outfit for the final judgement. They were joined by the judges and James of Celebrities Nightclub. Jane Smoker asked the contestants to step forward when their name is called. Molly Poppinz was called first. She is not Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017. Cleopatra Compton was called next. She didn’t win either. Eva Scarlett was called next. She too didn’t won the title.
The last three remaining contestants where asked to move forward. Jo Durée was called to move forward. Obviously surprised, she took her bow and collect her flower bouquet and made her exit.
Top two came down to Kendall Gender and ILONA. Jane Smoker passed the microphone to Tommy D to announce the winner. The tension in the venue while waiting for the announcement of the winner was so intense. With the two contestants holding each other’s hand, overwhelmed with emotion, Tommy D declared Kendall Gender the winner of Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017. She was stunned and had to kneel on the floor, as ILONA held her. She cried, trying to hold back tears, as she was handed her bouquet of flowers and while James crowed her. She walked to the center of the stage and let out a victorious scream.
Congratulations Kendall Gender! Winner of Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar 2017!
What a night!
What a grueling five weeks! And my work isn’t done yet. Next order of business, photo releases! VNDS2017 had a strong top six, and any one of them could’ve taken the crown. Kendall Gender won, and that’s that.