How COVID-19 is impacting the lives of drag queens

By | September 11, 2020

WINNIPEG — Pride Week is coming to a close this weekend, but this year there won’t be any big parties or parades.

Winnipeg Pride has gone digital this year due to COVID-19.

“It’s very similar to what you’d see on the main stage: two days, eight-hour programming. Exactly as it would be at The Forks, just watching it virtually instead of being there in person,” said Barry Karlenzig, who is the president of Pride Winnipeg.

With that, it means fewer opportunities for drag performers in the city to make money.

Pride weekend is usually the weekend for drag queens with shows every day, plus countless parties.

For queens like Lady Fortuna, online Pride is a big change.

“Pride weekend is usually a very big weekend for queens to make a little side money,” said Lady Fortuna.

Performances this year are being held at two venues, at reduced capacity and with COVID precautions in place.

“When it’s barely full, obviously you’re going to see the result in your tips. Just not as much. People are still scared and I can see that.”

With the normal events being cancelled, it is a major economic hit for performers, but queens are doing what they can to adjust to the times.

“Learning how to live stream and if they don’t live stream you have to film a recorded video, and learning video editing. It’s a big learning curve,” said Lady Valenciaga, who is a drag performer.

Local groups and performers have been putting on digital shows, and using PayPal to tip performers.

But for some performers, there isn’t as much of a payoff.

“It was just so much work for me. It didn’t really have a lot of payoff, and you also don’t get a lot of money,” said Ruby Chopstix, a drag performer.

However, there is some good news for performers in the future as Pride Winnipeg was able to move the date for Canada Pride and it will be held in Winnipeg in 2022.

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