What Is the Power of Drag?
Becoming Ocean LaVodka Giovanni: Using the Power of Drag
By: Zoe Johnston
Going to a Drag Pageant is an experience like no other. Drag performers within the Region will compete for the title of Mx, Mr or Ms Capital Pride. Contestants will be judged on the quality of lip-sync, live vocals, or other entertainment. They will then be scored, on personal style and the classic on-stage interview “Why should you be crowned Mx, Mr or Ms Capital Pride 2015?” The competition is interactive as the audience cheers for their local favourites on the big stage. One teen in the audience started envisioning what to wear for the Evening Category. From that moment on, a star was born…. “Ocean LaVodka Giovanni.”
“Since then, I would harass local bars asking, can I please perform! But no one was trying to catch a lawsuit for me. As soon as I turned 19, put my stuff on, I hit the club, and things began there”
Today, Ocean is no stranger to the stage. From making a television appearance on Amazon Prime’s “Drag Heals” to performing at every open stage on the Church and Wellesley strip. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, conquering the drag scene was at a halt. Ocean navigated performing during the pandemic by creating a virtual drag show called “Category is....”. This is a weekly open stage drag show hosted by Ocean and local drag artist Dank Sinatra. They would invite drag queens, kings, and drag monarchs to perform. This gave the opportunity for drag performers to take on the virtual stage and also to have access to see international talent. When bars started to reopen, ‘Category is...’ found its new home at Glad Day Bookshop. Now you can catch Ocean either dancing on top of cars outside of Sweaty Betty’s for ‘Live, Laugh, La’Vodka’ or busting out fierce choreo at O’Grady’s.
Drag is not all glitz and glam. Audience members need to also do their part and respect the performers. Having drag show etiquette is necessary. Ocean says
“You wanna go to your first ever drag show? The thing I would say is bring 5’s, come with money. Come with something because a lot of times drag performers, we have our base fee. And then we're working for tips. We’re working for bank. And it’s also part of drag culture, the interaction. I would also say holler don’t heckle. If you wanna hear a song and the performer doesn’t know it, drop it, leave it at that. Let people perform. Let people do what they do because it takes a lot to be up there. And we're probably hot. So, give a girl a dolla!”
In Canada, Black queer representation is still a work in progress. Growing up, Ocean had a challenging time finding authentic representation to look up to. Currently, Ocean is using the stage and social media to promote Black Queer joy.
“I want Black queer kids to see me and be like, oh, I got this. I want queer Black people to know that like (a) we are out here and (b) we are turning it. And like taking up spaces? It’s our space in the first place.”
Ocean is excited to see how far the art of drag can go by explaining “A dream of mine is to have a drag course be in any given official school. I think if anyone can lip-sync, put a wig on, and keep people entertained, I think that makes a fierce artist.”