entertainment

'Canada's Drag Race': Anastarzia Anaquway opens up about hate crimes in the Caribbean

"My country has now labelled me a liar, and pretty much blacklisted me because I spoke my truth."

2020-07-17

Words Markus Bidaux

Category is... SPOILER ALERT! Please note this interview reveals the result of episode three of Canada's Drag Race

Canada's Drag Race has given the world mooseknuckles, well not literally, but now we know the quintessentially Canadian turn of phrase refers to when a man's bollocks are visible through his trousers, hopefully not a common problem for the shows queens.

This week, Anastarzia Anaquway, Canada's favourite resident Bahamian pageant queen was eliminated from the competition. Before being eliminated she confessed to the other queens that she had been ambushed and shot multiple times for being a drag queen while living in the Bahamas. It was one of the most heartbreaking stories ever told on any format of Drag Race.

Attitude caught up with Anastarzia (or Starzi if you're nasty) via Zoom. Her face looked beat and she wore butterfly fascinator in front an Alice in Wonderland-themed backdrop.

Anastarzia living her fantasy on our Zoom chat

You are the reigning Miss Black Continental and you have won a further 14 pageants?

1400 and one, yeah.

So you are basically pageant queen royalty. Was competing on RPDR a big learning curve for you?

It taught me so much about myself. I've been saying, I knew nothing about doing hair to the extent that I was able to do it on the show. And then for many years I never said that I was a comedian or a drag clown or anything of that sort. I take my drag very seriously and the show taught me that I was much more funny than I give myself credit for.

Anastarzia in her episode 2 runway look, which was a reinvention of her first time in drag

When and how did you discover drag?

It was back in 2002. There was a local drag queen, her name was Victoria Diamond and she was the first drag queen I have ever saw in person and I absolutely fell in love. I was like, maybe I can do it, because I've been so heavily involved in performing arts up until that point. I went to the Rainbow Ball that summer, and everyone fell in love with me, pageant owners were running behind me the entire night saying, “Please come to my pageant, please come to my pageant.” And so, that following winter, I decided to do Miss Bahamas. It was my second time in drag and I won. I'll be honest with you, drag is very addicting and from that moment on I was hooked. 18 years later, I'm sitting here still in drag.

How has the drag scene changed since you started in 2002?

It grew drastically in numbers and in terms of honing our skills as a craft because, for instance, if you had seen our makeup in 2002 you would run from us like completely run. [But soon] we had so many people gain employment with companies like Mac and Sephora and they taught the community how to do makeup the correct way. Then a lot of our drag gets heavily influenced by the United States so we have a lot of pretty queens and pageant queens. It's grown tremendously since 2002.

 

Showing that she is willing to stray away from the typical pageant looks

How would you describe your drag?

I am a pageant queen and I pride myself on that and I will say that till the very end. My drag is also very eclectic, I love playing with the club kid aspect of it. And because of my background in the ballroom scene, I like the category bizarre. So even though I am a self-proclaimed pageant queen I do whatever I want.

 

Princess Anastasia

Anastarzia Anaquway is quite a mouthful. What inspired your name?

Did you just say my name is a mouthful? [laughs] Are you familiar with Disney's princess Anastasia?* That was my favourite movie, this girl was forced into exile because her family was murdered. And then she came back as an adult and rightfully claimed her title of queen and ruler of this country. Listen, that speaks power in itself. I wanted to add my own little twist to it so I played with the fact that my mom always told me I'd be a star. I put a star in the middle of Anastasia. Now Anaquway, that's actually not a word. I was at work trying to think of something creative and just scrambled letters until it was formed.

*While Anastasia is now owned by Disney after a recent merger with 21st Century Fox, she is still not technically a Disney Princess

In episode 2, you confessed to the other queens that you were ambushed outside your home and shot several times. Had you been threatened before this horrific incident?

That's just one aspect of my life. That's just one part of the abuse that I have endured as a gay person while in the Bahamas. My country has now labelled me a liar, and pretty much blacklisted me because I spoke my truth. They don't know that in 2009, my roommate and I, were sat in our apartment and four men burst through the door and they beat the living daylights out of us. Another homophobic attack that went unreported, because we all know as gay people, we cannot go to the police with these story. The police won't take us seriously and the stories are continuous they can go on and on. We all have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 stories of the abuse that we all endured.

Why do you think homophobia is so ingrained in Caribbean culture?

Because we use the Bible and religion in the wrong way. I grew up in a religious home so I can tell you, the Bible from the back to the front and we use the Bible to justify the hate we spew on each other. For instance, the Bible says that no sin is greater than the next, but for some reason down south homosexuality is the ultimate sin. While these people that are casting their stones on homosexuals - they're adulterous, they're fornicator, they're liars, they're murderers, they’re thieves. These are all sins, but they use the Bible to their advantage to cast out those that they see as less than.

When and how did you emigrate to Canada?

I had a friend that had moved that same year and after he heard of my incident he messaged me saying, “Hey, you can actually come to Canada.” And then he explained the whole process and of course I jumped on the bandwagon and I haven't been back since. Canada has been absolutely, positively amazing and I am proud to call this home.

How have you adjusted to life in Canada?

Listen, I've always been a very interesting human being and so coming into this with so many different cultures represented here in Canada, it's like, oh baby I'm gonna eat everything first, and then I'm gonna see everything - I absolutely love it. I think in the back of everyone's mind they are thinking, “You're from the Caribbean, what about that cold?” The cold was an adjustment, but it's something that you condition in your mind. This is now home, this is something that I have to do. And honestly, now it's not a thing I've been here six winters now and it doesn't bother me anymore.

Were you embraced by the Canadian drag community?

Well, you know what, until Drag Race I was not on the drag scene here in Canada. Everything that I did was in the United States. For instance, my titled Miss Black Continental at Large, it's an Atlanta-based pageant. However, I did do all of the Canadian pageants I wanted, and of course I won them all. So I guess I can say, I was accepted as one of their sisters. But I didn't really have a presence here on the drag scene just that I went all of their pageants.

 

Anastarzia's look from episode 1's design challenge

The first episode was a design challenge and you really turned out a smoking look – personally, yours was my favourite. Where did you learn to sew?

Thank you, I taught myself. Listen, after you've been through so many disappointments because designers will get your garment to you on the day of the competition or you're not getting them at all. And, in 2012, was the last straw I said, “I'm gonna get this machine and I'm gonna make this work.” I have a best friend who is a designer so I've sponged some things off of him and there's YouTube that's been an amazing guide.

In the third episode, you were part of a girl group with the chosen name The Moosenuckles, which you struggled to understand at first. Are there any other Canadian oddities you have discovered?

Yeah, that these people eat fries with gravy on it. I'm like, “What the hell are you people serious?”

After being eliminated by the judges, you never left a lipstick message on the mirror. Why was that?

Within our experience on Drag Race, we all know how we feel about each other. And I think we display that every single week. We love each other as sisters. And when leaving the runway, one person described it as, “You left a whole Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream speech.” After I said all that I said on the runway, I didn't think that there was any need to leave a message, everyone in the building already knew how I felt about them. So, a message on the mirror wouldn't compound that any further. And lastly, I march to the beat of my own drum. Listen, I believe in making history. I was the first Bahamian to make it on Drag Race - history. I was the first queen, not to leave a message - history. I believe in just making waves.

Canada's Drag Race is available to watch now on BBC Three on the BBC iPlayer.