New Doc shows us the brave new world of Drag Kids
In an era where RuPaul’s Drag Race is a cultural obsession, it’s not shocking to see drag queens in the media as fierce, bodacious, full-grown men in ultra femme threads. What we haven’t seen are the young lives that have been inspired by drag culture and bravely choose to step into their spotlight and claim their identities, despite all the challenges that come with growing up, period.
Drag Kids is a CBC documentary that’s going to give you a heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) glimpse into the lives of 12-year-old ‘hyper-queen’ Bracken, 12-year-old Jason (AKA Suzan Bee Anthony), 10-year-old Nemis (AKA Queen Lactatia) and 10-year-old Stephen (AKA Laddy Gaga) as they prepare for Montreal Pride - as well as the challenges, assumptions and expectations these budding drag stars and their families face for being extraordinary in an ordinary world.
I caught up with Drag Kids director Megan Wennberg for a Q&A and she spilled all the tea
Arianne: One of my favourite lines from the film is from sassy Susan Bee Anthony responding to a confused adult asking why they were wearing nail polish, stating ‘Because I can[…] I don’t care if you’re born in the 80’s - go get your groove back.’ It reminded me of growing up in a time and neighbourhood where being different was the last thing you wanted to be and most kids would wait till college to explore themselves. Is this a better time to be different, or are these kids just extra brave for being themselves with gusto (or both)?
Megan: I think it’s both. This is definitely a more accepting time overall, but it depends so much on where you live and who your community is. Suzan Bee lives in the US Bible Belt, and while she and her parents have found an extremely supportive chosen family who hold each other close, the LGBTQ community there is still very much under attack. Suzan Bee is incredibly brave to go out and perform as she does.
As mentioned in the film, sexuality and Drag are often psychologically melded together making it difficult for some folks to truly see these kids as they are and the amazing work they are doing. How is drag distinct from sexuality and why is that important for people to know?
Drag is a means of self-expression through many forms of artistry, from fabulous make-up to inventive wardrobe design to exhilarating performances. These are the elements the kids fell in love with. Drag allows them to be their biggest, boldest, most out-there selves. I wish I’d known about drag as a kid!
Who should watch this film? Who is your desired audience and why do they need to see these young divas do their damn thing?
Our desired audience is anyone who has ever felt different and craved the chance to express themselves and be understood. I honestly wish some of the people trolling the film would watch it to see that at its core this is a film about love and acceptance and finding community despite differences.
What has been the reception since the doc was originally released at Hot Docs? And in what ways has the documentary impacted the lives of the kids?
Showing this film to festival audiences has been so rewarding, and it was especially meaningful to be able to have all the Drag Kids in Toronto for the world-premiere at Hot Docs. They walked the red carpet, got on stage for the Q&A and received a standing ovation. I think it meant a lot for them to see how their personal stories have positively affected others, but most of all I think they were just so happy to get to see each other in real life again! The friendships that have developed out of this film will hopefully have a positive impact on these kids and their parents for years to come.
In what ways would the creators and kids who made this documentary like to inspire those who watch it?
The Drag Kids are fierce and fabulous and they challenge us all to think about what this could look like in our own lives, if we can be brave enough to follow our own wildest dreams.
Drag Kids airs on CBC Docs POV on July 25th at 9 ET/PT and will also be made available on the CBC Gem streaming service.
Additionally, it will diva drop on July 28 at 6 ET/PT on the CBC News Network.