Canada’s Drag Race contender Rita Baga

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

Montréal drag legend Rita Baga is one of 12 finalists in RuPaul’s new show Canada’s Drag Race (just like another Montréal drag queen, Kiara). Contestants are competing to become “Canada’s First Drag Superstar” and win the $100,000 grand prize.

The Canadian judges for Canada’s Drag Race are 11th-season RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Brooke Lynn Hytes, actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and supermodel Stacey McKenzie, and guest judges include Michelle Visage, Deborah Cox and Mary Walsh.

Rita Baga – a.k.a. Jean-Francois Guevremont – is also Director of Programming at Montréal Pride, co-starred on the reality TV show Ils de jour, elles de nuit and is a regular headliner at Québec pop icon Mado Lamotte’s famed drag bar Cabaret Mado in Montréal.

We sat down with Rita for a candid Q&A to preview Canada’s Drag Race.

Why do you love drag?

It’s a melting pot of the artistic disciplines I enjoy. I love makeup, fashion, dance. I love performing onstage to express myself!

Who was the first drag queen you saw live?

Miss Butterfly when I was 15 years old at Sky bar in Montréal!

How did you get your start in drag?

It was for [my friend] Dream’s birthday in 2007. I performed a surprise number with Marla Deer and Celinda. That was the night I got the itch for drag.

Why did you name yourself Rita Baga?

When I began, my name was Rita D’Marde. A year later, when I began working more at Cabaret Mado, Mado told me, “You need to change your name. I can’t put “marde” on my posters!” At the time, Madame Simone always called me Rita Baga. I liked the play on words, so I adopted that name.

Who are your drag role models?

Mado is my mentor. And when I was younger, RuPaul was the first drag queen I saw on television.

What does your family think of your profession?

My father is my biggest fan! He attends many of my shows. My mom isn’t ashamed, but she is timid, and associated my job with nightlife before coming to see me. Now she is comfortable and proud of my success.

You have performed in Montréal with many drag superstars from RuPaul’s Drag Race. What did you learn from them?

That I should charge more! At the end of the day, we all do the same job. We all started in the bars, but I’ve noticed some queens think of themselves as superstars. Stardom can change a person.

Montréal is a great drag city. How would you characterize its drag scene and community?

It is eclectic. There are many different styles of drag in Montréal. Canada usually associates Montréal drag with camp, probably because of Mado. Montréal is an open city and the mainstream image of drag is changing.

You are Director of Programming at Montréal Pride, where all kinds of drag artists are celebrated.

I’m very proud! The popularity of drag has skyrocketed since I became programming director in 2016, mainly because of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Our annual drag superstars concert is our most popular show each year.

How did you become a contestant on Canada’s Drag Race?

I applied to RuPaul’s Drag Race three years ago, got a call back but in the end it didn’t work out. I reapplied two years ago. Then last year they asked me if I was going to apply again. So I did but didn’t get a call back. Then last summer they put out the call for Canada’s Drag Race contestants, and when I learned that I made the cut, I wanted to scream! But I had to keep it confidential.

Is this a lifelong dream?

Yes, one that I thought would never happen.

What can you tell us about the experience?

Recording the show was fun. Audiences will recognize the challenges. It was weird too, because watching it on TV is very different from actually doing it in real life.

How are you dealing with all the attention?

Most of the attention is happening online these days. I try to limit myself on social media. But it’s strange when people stare at you in the Village or recognize you in the grocery store! I am a pretty quiet person out of drag, so I think I better get used to it.

Good luck on the show, Rita!

Merci!

Canada’s Drag Race premieres on Crave on July 2. The show will also air in the UK on BBC Three beginning July 3, and is available in the U.S. and other select territories on WOW Presents Plus.

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

Enjoy the best of Montréal

The Tourisme Montréal newsletter gives you the inside scoop on everything happening in the city.

Moments nearby
[COVID-19] To keep informed about the current situation
Learn more