Looking at performers, terms, and the show.
Like many other Saskatchewan locals, my eyes were opened to the drag scene thanks to the show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. Yes, I watch for the shade (contempt/disgust), the reads (savage and hilarious insults), and the tea (gossip), but also for the sheer talent the queens exhibit and the inspirational stories that surface throughout the show. There is a wide-spread misconception that drag queens are very surface-level and “fake”, but if you really take the time to watch the show, you’ll see how genuine and authentic the majority of contestants are. One of my favourite queens of all time is Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova – popularly known as Katya – who appeared on season 7 of RPDR and who I was able to see perform at TCU Place in Saskatoon.
Katya is a drag persona of Brian McCook, who went to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design to study video and performance art (surmised to be where he first developed an interest in drag culture). Katya is a Russian transvestite bisexual hooker with herpes (and you thought your job title was a mouthful), and she puts on a show that will leave you in awe. A fishy (female-passing) queen to the highest degree, Katya’s CV is fascinating. She started in local clubs and now appears in a YouTube series with fellow season seven contestant Trixie Mattel, acting in films with other drag queens (looking at you Bianca), and touring internationally.
McCook has pushed through many addictions in his life and is vocal both in and out of drag when describing his struggles past and present; the honesty is like a breath of fresh air. For example, the show I saw in July had been postponed due to a psychotic break McCook experienced following a methamphetamine relapse. Always a genuine individual, McCook released more than one apology for having to postpone while in rehab and was met by endless support from fans worldwide. At face value Katya is a body queen and a comedy queen, but she manages to embody both humility and confidence so well that she stays relatable and approachable which is an absolute feat when you’ve accomplished and overcome as much as she has.
While on stage Katya is absolutely captivating – the dedication and passion for the work she does is immediately evident. The stage design crew did an incredible job of accenting the performance with the lighting and effects, yet Katya effortlessly kept the crowd’s attention. The show opened with her lip–syncing to many radio-hits (all translated into Russian, of course), with a hysterically–photoshopped video montage playing in the background, and not one, but two seamless costume reveals. There were several videos shown throughout the performance with big names such as Alaska and Trixie Mattel (shown out of drag) that transitioned Katya seamlessly into the next scene.
McCook has another, lesser-known drag persona named Trish, a dumpster-dwelling Boston hairdresser. Trish appears on Katya’s YouTube channel in a series titled “Irregardlessly Trish”, and also made an appearance during Katya’s show. Trish called up an unsuspecting audience member and performed a lap dance that could only be described as intentionally startling. While Katya is more a beauty queen with a dark side, Trish is a tell-it-like-it-is, dry-humour type with 80s block eye shadow, winged eyeliner out to her eyebrows, and earrings so large you could use one as a choker. McCook used Trish to convey more comedy and camp whereas Katya gave off a showgirl vibe; the consistent contrast (and flawless transition) between personas is a clear testament to McCook’s training and discipline as an entertainer and performing artist.