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À Montréal, 50 drag queens donnent des spectacles

Painting the Town Gold!

24 Hours in the Life of Montréal
Published on
August 1, 2018
As often as five evenings each week, you can see Sébastien Potvin lugging two big suitcases down to his dressing room in a Village bar.

In his bags—wigs, tight, garish dresses, high heels and glitzy jewelry, everything he needs to become Barbada from Barbados, one of Montreal’s highest profile drag queens.

An elementary school music teacher, this young native of Beauport has been part of the drag queen scene for the past 13 years.

Sébastien pendant sa transformation

“I was 20 at the time,” he says. “Someone invited me to dance in a drag queen contest—then convinced me to take the plunge!”

His delight in being Barbada has evolved over time:

“I hardly spoke with the audience at the start—the MC did that. But now, I host events more and more often. I love playing with the spectators!”

Small World

Sébastien invites us to watch him from the third floor of Le Cocktail bar on rue Sainte-Catherine, one of the few Montréal venues presenting weekly drag queen shows. We step into an old building that has been converted into a theatre. Already preparing for the 10 p.m. show are two other queens—Ciatha Night and Ana LaSabrosa, who was a bit of a surprise.

“Ana’s a queen with a beard,” Sébastien said “It’s a new trend.”

While spreading out his makeup on the dressing table, Sébastien gave us the rundown on drag queens. “Back in the day of Guilda, Montréal’s legendary female impersonator of the 1950s and 60s, the point was to look as much like a woman as possible. When Mado [Lamothe] came on the scene, she added something funkier and clownish.”

Barbada de Barbade entre en scène

Sébastien regrets the fact that Montréal has so few stages where drag queens can shine. “There were lots 6 or 7 years ago. Now, there’s just Le Cocktail and Le Cabaret Mado in the Village. You can also see some acts at the Wiggle Room on Saint-Laurent. There are about 50 drag queens in Montréal who put on regular shows.”

Art of Transformation

It took Sébastien about one and a half hours of a well-established routine to become Barbada. First the makeup.

“It’s false eyelashes and brows that make a man into a woman. I cover up my own lashes and draw new ones. They totally transform me!”

A minute before stepping onto the stage, Sébastien puts some finishing touches on his costume, then slips on his wig and high heels. A last glimpse in the mirror. “Showtime!”