This winter local drag legend Irma Gerd (Jason Wells) is hosting a weekly viewing party of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 4. This is happening at Treble Lounge, every Friday evening that the show airs.
In February, Irma will star in an episode of CBC’s Canada’s A Drag, a mini documentary series that showcases the hosts of RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties. The mini series is entering its second season, which will celebrate the drag kings and queens behind Drag Race screenings in twelve different Canadian cities. Irma’s installment will mark the first time the series has profiled a performer based in Newfoundland.
Irma first saw Drag Race in Toronto when the now hugely popular show was only in its third season. She arrived in the big city having never heard of the show, and found herself immersed in a queer community for whom Drag Race was considered standard viewing. She attended rowdy screenings at the Gladstone Hotel and fell in love with the show. For her, it felt revolutionary to see a program that follows the typical reality competition format, but challenges gender norms and employs a predominantly queer cast.
“What drew me in is how talented everybody on the show is,” Irma said. “And it’s just so funny, they make jokes that make me laugh as a queer person and I know a straight person might not grasp the whole joke. That makes it feel like a show made for me and my people, as opposed to everything else on TV which is the opposite: we’re usually the butt of the joke.”
The Drag Race viewing parties Irma hosts here in St. John’s are styled after the ones she attended in Toronto. This winter is the fourth consecutive season of Drag Race viewing parties Irma has hosted in St. John’s, and a growing community of drag enthusiasts and performers is beginning to coalesce around the screenings. Irma says she usually tries to arrive at the venue at least a half-hour before a viewing party to chat with audience members, many of whom are regulars who have become friends.
Each event begins with performances by Irma and other local drag kings and queens, followed by a screening of the latest episode of Drag Race. After the show, Irma provides a little commentary on the episode, eliciting rambunctious feedback from the audience about whatever drama is unfolding in the show. Then more performances! Irma uses this time to try out new material and to encourage people who are new to drag to get up and give it a go.
Irma says that while she loves Drag Race, she sees there are ways the show fails to be inclusive. She points out that the show almost exclusively features men who do drag, however Irma believes people of any gender can do drag. She strives to create an environment at her viewing parties where people of any gender can feel comfortable experimenting with drag in spite of the show’s shortcomings.
“It’s no accident that the drag scene in St. John’s is growing, a lot of hard work is being done to get people to come out and try it out,” Irma said. “For anyone interested in seeing drag for the first time, come on down and anyone who is interested in performing just let me know, the more the merrier!”