When Rick Meyers performed in drag for the first time, with eyebrows three inches high and lips four inches thick, he said it was a “fantastic, freeing feeling.”
Growing up in Nanaimo, Meyers always wanted to be an actor and tell his story on stage, but always felt too afraid to do it as himself.
“I discovered once I did drag I could be any persona I wanted to be, yet I could still tell my story,” he said. “And that’s what I’ve been doing in Nananimo for a long time is I put on this costume and I tell my story.”
For the past 30 years Meyers has been performing as his drag persona Vikki Smudge. Now he’s drawing on those decades of experience to help mentor and coach the next generation of drag queens as host of Indie Entertainment and Volume Studio’s inaugural Vancouver Island Drag Race.
“I’m going to try and bring out the best queen in every girl,” he said, adding that whether they draw their inspiration from Carol Channing or Cher, “Whoever their inner diva is, I want to see them bring it out.”
Those interested in competing have until March 15 to submit an audition video to firstname.lastname@example.org introducing themselves and their drag persona.
“We are looking for personality and creativity and passion…” Indie manager Sydney Needham said. “We just want to nurture the creative and diverse individuals in our community.”
The competition takes place at the Queen’s starting with a live audition on March 23. The Drag Race will continue biweekly for five rounds in which the candidates are gradually eliminated until a winner is selected.
The winner gets to perform on the Nanaimo Pride Festival mainstage and also wins a two-night stay in Vancouver to march and perform at that city’s pride weekend as well. There will also be prizes for the runners-up.
The contest is planned to serve as an annual fundraiser. This year’s beneficiary is AIDS Vancouver Island Health Centre. Meyers said he’s been supporting AIDS causes since 1983, “when it was still called ‘gay cancer.’”
“It’s an important organization for me because I did live through the ’80s and I watched literally hundreds of my friends die,” he said.
Meyers said he never expected to see drag become mainstream, but he said ideas around gender fluidity are gaining momentum and expects the drag race will be a success.
“I never expected, growing up in the ’70s, when I came out that one day I’d be able to be married to my husband for 22 years either,” he added. “I didn’t think the world was going to be able to be like that and, wow, I have a lot more faith in humanity.”
WHAT’S ON … Vancouver Island Drag Race takes place at the Queen’s on March 23, April 17, May 1, 15 and 31.