Since premiering 10 years ago, RuPaul’s Drag Race has gone from underground obsession to Emmy-winning cultural phenomenon, providing a platform for aspiring queens and educating the gen pop in the fine art of drag slang. Now in its 11th season, the show is once again breaking ground with its first-ever Canadian competitor. Brooke Lynn Hytes (aka #QueenoftheNorth) is a 33-year-old, Toronto-bred ballet dancer turned drag diva whose hella hot Insta snaps have already earned her the title of this season’s thirst trap. Here, she spills the tea on her less-is-more approach to contouring, what RuPaul’s like behind the scenes, and why being on Drag Race is good for your sex life.
You’re a professionally trained ballet dancer as well as a drag queen. Did that give you and edge?
Absolutely. I trained at the National Ballet School of Canada for five years and after that I danced in South Africa and New York. There aren’t a lot of professionally trained ballet dancers — especially male dancers who dance on pointe — in the drag community. I think that set me apart. And it helps a lot with walking in heels.
How are your contouring skills? That seems to be a big deal on Drag Race.
I’ve tried just about every contour technique you can imagine, but these days I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to. I already have the bone structure — the high cheekbones, a smaller nose bridge. Contouring is building your face, so if it’s already there, you don’t really need that.
Not to throw shade at the girls who might need it, right?
You have been described as a fishy queen and a thirst trap. For those readers who don’t speak drag, can you explain?
A fishy queen basically means that you look like a biological woman when you’re in drag — very realistic, like a beautiful woman, so thank you. I’ll take it. That’s always been funny to me though because I’m a 6'3" man. People say, “Oh you’re so fishy,” and I’m like, really? But that’s definitely the aesthetic I’m going for — very ’90s supermodel, giant glamazon. And then thirst trap is like posting sexy photos on Instagram, which I do. I’m a dancer, and I’ve never been ashamed of my body. I figure I’m not going to look like this forever, so might as well make the most of it. Social media is all about drawing attention. It’s a fine line, though. You don’t want to look desperate.
You don’t strike me as someone who has trouble getting people to pay attention to you.
Well I’m the youngest of four, so growing up I did struggle with that. I was the kid in the corner, always playing catch up with my brothers and sisters.
Did you always know you had a drag queen inside of you?
I have loved dressing in women’s clothes for as long as I can remember. I was looking through a photo album recently where I'm a little kid, and I’m walking around with a sheet on my head like a veil. I’ve always been very effeminate, loved playing with Barbies and dolls. I think Brooke Lynn has been there from the beginning, and then it was getting to a place where it was something I could embrace.
Was that difficult for you?
My upbringing was very conservative, and I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the outside world. I came out [as gay] when I was 18. My mom said she was surprised, and I was like, “Oh, you’re not.” I wouldn’t say my parents were overly supportive. There weren’t like, “Hurray, here’s a cake.” But I wasn’t thrown out of my house; they still told me they loved me. When I told them about the drag, well, they weren’t thrilled. But they’ve come around. My mom even came to see one of my shows recently. I did “I Hope You Dance,” which is her favourite song. She was proud.
What can you tell me about your male alter-ego Brock Hayhoe?
Hmmm. What about Brock? When I’m not in drag, I’m a very relaxed person. I have two cats. I’m a total cat lady. I love, love, love animals. I love to travel. I love the beach. I’m a Pisces, so anything to do with water, sun, and sand. I like going out to a bar with friends, but I’m not a club person. I’m not super fascinating as a boy.
Do you have a partner?
I’m currently single.
Brooke Lynn Hytes is a funny name for a Canadian queen. Where did it come from?
Well, my drag mother’s name is Farra N. Hyte. She’s a legendary Toronto queen, [hers was] one of the first drag shows I ever saw. She and her drag sister, Heaven Lee Hytes, were my idols. After I quit ballet and moved back to Toronto, she invited me to do a couple of numbers at her show. I was backstage and she introduced me as her newest drag daughter Brooke Lynn Hytes. That’s how it happened. I’ve never even been to Brooklyn Heights. It’s been a busy 10 years.
RuPaul’s Drag Race is in its 11th season. What took you so long?
I’ve always been a fan of the show, but for the longest time I wasn’t able to audition because you have to be an American citizen or a U.S. resident. In 2014 I won a pageant called Miss Continental that was basically RuPaul’s Drag Race before RuPaul’s Drag Race — the biggest thing you could win in drag. After that win, I got a job at a club in Nashville and they sponsored me for a work visa. Once I got my green card I was able to apply for the show.
Tell me something surprising about RuPaul.
Hmmm. I was surprised that he knew every single person who worked on the show by name. Camera person, lighting person — hi Billy, Tom, Joe.
That’s not very diva-like.
No, he’s very much a professional. He’s there to do a job and he does it well.
How would you rank the drama on your season?
I can’t really say much, but of course there’s drama. You’re putting 15 men in wigs with huge egos together in a room.
I mean — what do you even say to that? I think the difference is obvious. Drag is a celebration of women and womanhood, and blackface is not that. I was a little bit lost for words. What I thought was so funny, though, was that [Bernier’s tweet] was a response to another tweet where our government was basically saying: Congratulations drag queen for being on a show. That’s like, the most Canadian moment.
From your perspective, is there still a lot of bigotry aimed at the drag community?
RuPaul’s Drag Race has been so important for education the public about drag and putting these stories out there. Something that used to be so underground and taboo is now winning Emmy awards. That’s fabulous. I think it really does boil down to ignorance and not understanding or taking the time to walk in another person’s shoes. I’m a white male, so I try to be aware of my own privilege. Even within the drag world there are different forms [of drag] and maybe you don’t care for all of them personally, but the point is that there is a lot of diversity, and that’s a good thing.
Do you see drag as your job or your lifestyle?
At first I couldn’t have imagined that I could make a living doing drag. In my early days I would go out in drag for fun. I was 19 and it was so cool and fun and a great sensation. That sensation has long gone now that drag is my job. I honestly don’t know at 33 whether I would still go out just for fun. But I do see drag as not just a job but an art form. I think if I wasn’t working I would still be doing photo shoots, putting together looks.
You mentioned being single. What’s the hardest thing about dating as a drag queen?
I think the hardest part is that I have a really weird schedule. We work nights and weekends, so having a social life is hard unless you’re dating another queen.
Do you ever worry a potential love interest is not going to be cool with your drag queen status?
I would say I was wary about that when I was younger, but now I’m just like, f-ck it, this is what I do. And now that I’m on RuPaul’s Drag Race, people just want to have sex with me. Ten years ago you tell someone you’re a drag queen and it was, “Get away from me,” and now it’s like, “That’s awesome.” It’s a plus.
Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres Thursday, February 28 at 9 p.m. on OutTV in Canada and VH1 in the U.S.