After my performance as American Horror Story’s Elsa Mars at the Great Hall with Illuminair Entertainment on Sunday April 19, I trucked across town to legendary drag bar Crews and Tangos to witness one of the most turnt out drag pageants Toronto has seen for a while. Organiser Matteo Cassano ( aka Heroine Marks) showed us all that he is an organizational force to be reckoned with, and the contestants showed us that Toronto oozes talent like a showgirl queefs glitter. I managed to steal a few moments from crown winner Scarlett Bobo‘s busy schedule to find out what makes one a winner.

JV: Congratulations on your coronation as Miss Crews and Tango! How does it feel?

SB: Yaaay! It feels amazing!! All these people are congratulating me and what not and it’s so wild to think, oh ya, I WON!!! I’m really proud of myself and the package I put together. I worked so hard and I’m so happy it paid off! I’m super excited to be able to be the face of Crews and Tangos for a year and to have creative control over events and what not that I’ll be doing over my year in reign.

JV: What can you tell us about the work you had to put in before the pageant? Who was in your team, how long did it take to prepare your package, etc?

SB: OH BOY! All of the work. People don’t realize how much work you put into a pageant package. Many, many tears and fits and meltdowns. I started pageant prep, i.e. hair, ideas, theme, costumes, talent, rehearsals and so on and so forth in late February, early March. I had the most amazing team to work with who made everything so smooth. Ala Mode completely took over and organized the crap out of my package. Micheal DiFruscio was my incredible costume designer who created and designed my amazing and gag worthy reveal gown. Remember that!? That was definitely the highlight of my package and the winning moment for me.

JV:How long have you been performing as a drag queen?

SB: I’ve been performing for seven years as a drag queen. More so in the last three years when it started becoming more of my career and not just a hobby.

JV: What got you into the craft? Why do you do what you do?

SB: I kind of fell into it really. I did it as a joke as a “sexy nurse” eight years ago and then did random shows around the city (Ottawa). When I moved to Toronto I put away drag for a while then ended up working at a drag bar named Zelda’s, and one thing led to another and before I knew it I had a wig on and I was hosting the Friday night shows.
I do it for many reasons now. It brings me so much joy mainly. I love being on stage. Sometimes I want to murder people on a bad day, but I can be on stage and completely forget what was wrong with me. I’ve met the most incredible people during my travels, at shows and just in general as a performer, and it’s amazing to see everyone’s different reaction on what you do. It’s just a great experience at any given time.

JV: What do you love most about being a performer?

SB: Being on stage. I love the lights and the glamour and doing whatever I want to do. Drag has no rules so when I put my make up on and get on stage, I feel on top of the world. No one can take away that feeling and adrenaline rush you get when you hit the stage.

JV: Who *is* Scarlett Bobo?

SB: Who isn’t she!? She started off as a busted dumpster baby in the alley’s of Ottawa, until she rolled into the back streets of Toronto’s west end scene where she was welcomed with open arms. That was until she tripped and fell at the door steps of Crews and Tangos in the village where they decided to put up with me.

Scarlett BoBo is a mash up of Hollywood Glam and Trash Couture. I love old Hollywood movies and the look of pin-up, but I love standing out and putting my own twist on everything I do and wear, and how I act. Scarlett is definitely a part of Matty, just a much more eccentric and fabulous version. Scarlett says everything that Matty wishes he could. When I’m out of drag I tend to be a touch more of an introvert, but Scarlett brings out confidence I never knew I even had. It’s a fabulous transformation.

Photography by Krys Cee

Photography by Krys Cee

JV: What are some of the major challenges you’ve faced during your career as a drag performer?

SB: There have been many times where I thought I would stop doing drag, or thought that I wasn’t good enough. There was that ONE TIME Zelda’s burnt down during Crews and Tangos Drag Race the year I was a competitor and I lost all of my drag. That was just awful. I do struggle with dating sometimes. It’s hard to date someone when you are constantly getting attention from other people. People say that they can handle it, but tend to get very jealous when I’m on stage or meeting new people. It’s also hard because the norm in the gay community is to date someone who is very masculine and only looks a certain way, and for people who are more on the feminine side, if it’s drag or not, it tends to be difficult. I’ve struggled with being bullied like many people have, that can damage your self esteem a lot. When someone or a group of people are constantly telling you you’re not worth it and you aren’t going anywhere, it eventually wears you down and it can be tough. It takes a lot of inner strength to pick yourself back up and overcome that.

JV: Tell us about some of the highlights of your career as a queen.

SB: There are so many things I’m so proud of in my career right now. Obviously being crowned the new Miss Crews and Tangos is major. I am definitely still on a high.I’ve been working extremely hard on my upcoming mini album. I’ll have an EP out in June with seven original songs I wrote with my co-writing partner Quanah Style, and my producer Matt Silver.

I currently have two songs on Itunes right now. “Still Fucking Going” feat. Allysin Chaynes, and my latest single, “Break My Heart” just came out. I just finished working on the music video for Break My Heart with some of Toronto’s best and talented performers. My two videos, including Still Fucking Going, were both directed and produced by the AMAZING Nancy Boys. Jo Primeau ( fellow competitor Juice Boxx), and Alex Castor.

I frequent New York City to do shows and network myself. I love NYC because the sky is the limit. You can do whatever you want, the queens are the best in the business and it’s just such a party. The biggest highlight I have to say would be spending three weeks in Europe doing shows. It’s an entirely different world out there and it’s so amazing. The people and queens I met were so incredible and welcoming. I performed in Paris and Amsterdam and I made memories that will last me a lifetime.

JV: What are your main goals as a drag performer?

SB: My main goal right now is to perform as hard and as much as I can. I love performing and I’m not stopping anytime soon. I’m going to be pushing hard for my EP and upcoming album, #BoBoSexuality. I have a bunch of Toronto Pride events I will be attending this year to promote the album and myself. I want to make it back to Europe again before the year is up and celebrate with my sisters on the other side of the world!

JV: What are you most grateful for in your life right now?

SB: My support group and the friends and family I have around me. All of my #BoBoSexuals. I could not be here without the encouragement and love that I have from all of the amazing people I surround myself with. Cheesy right!? And my CROWN! I’m so happy to be able to show off my crown and bask in the glory haha!

JV: What advice do you have for fresh queens aspiring to a career in drag?

SB: RUN!! Before it’s too late! Ha! Just kidding, sort of. I would just say to work as hard as you can, stay true to yourself and don’t try to be other people or be a bitch, just have fun. So many people take drag so seriously. Take yourself serious in a professional matter, but at the end of the day I’m a man in a dress. Let’s have a little fun with it!

The one thing I notice with new queens, especially with drag race on the rise, is everyone wants to be someone else. No one has their own looks anymore and they lose themselves in trying to be someone else. Be yourself and you’ll get a lot further. Trust me. Also, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Ever.

JV: What are your top five queenly products?

SB: Top five things! Oh gosh! Just five!??
-Basically anything from MAC. Ruby woo, Diva, Russian Red, Every eyeshadow. Does that count as one?

Velvetine liquid lipstick from Lime Crime. BEST. Lasts all night long!

Pinky’s Nails of course. Can’t leave the house without a fresh pair of claws.

-My Make Up For Ever Flash Pallet!! Best for ANY face you want to throw on.

Karma Cream from LUSH! You gotta make sure your skin is silky smooth hunty and smell good while you’re at it.

JV: What do you have in store for the LGBT community during your reign as Miss Crews and Tango?

SO MUCH! As Miss Crews I have a handful of fundraising events I get to throw throughout the year to raise money for various charity organizations. I want to raise the most money in a year than any other past Miss Crews, and won’t stop until I do. I have a few charities that hit close to home that I want to work closely with over the year. I will be a part all of the major holiday events including Pride, Halloween, and the NYE extravaganza!! As my first order of business as Miss Crews and Tangos and my first charity event coming up, I am going to have a panel of comedy queens help me with…The Roast of Scarlett BoBo. What better way to settle myself into the crown! Expect a lot of wild, silly and amazing events to come while I am your reigning queen!!

JV: I’d wish you good luck keeping that crown girl, but it doesn’t sound like you’ll need it!

Header image by Krys Cee

About the Author

Judy Virago is a transgender writer and performer living in Toronto. A background in theatre, activism and government social policy has informed her interest in transgender rights and visibility. She is the co-founder of the queer art collective The House of Filth and was voted "Runner Up" for Now Magazine's Best Toronto Drag Queen 2015. She takes her inspiration from fierce, fabulous creatures who have soared to stardom, fallen from grace, and clawed their way back to the top.