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As Shea Couleé once put it, this era of RuPaul’s Drag Race will forever be known as the “Melanin Dynasty”. Following the win of Jaida Essence Hall on season 12 and Shea’s long-awaited induction into the Hall of Fame, the first season of the franchise’s Canadian spin-off made history back in September with contestant – WHAT’S HER NAME?! – Priyanka. After ten weeks of stomping the runway, re-introducing Celine Dion’s dance-pop cover of I Drove All Night to audiences and failing to invoke the spirit of late TV psychic Miss Cleo, the performer – birth name Mark Suknanan – sashayed away with $100,000 in her bank account and two honorific titles to her name: Canada’s First Drag Superstar and Drag Race’s first ever Indo-Caribbean champion. Three queens of colour conquering the world’s biggest stage for charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent – the ‘Olympics of Drag’, as they say – encourages “anybody out there, no matter what your skin colour is, that it’s okay to take the risk; to be a little bit broke to make your dreams come true,” Priyanka defiantly states over Zoom. “It’s okay to struggle, because if you’re passionate about what you do, and it sets your soul on fire, that’s what you should be doing.” 

Primarily known in Canada as a host on YTV’s children series The Zone and reality competition series The Next Star, Priyanka knew it wasn’t her – as cliché as it sounds, but we’re gonna do it – true calling. She excelled in both roles, but felt a “looming emptiness” inside of her “soul” and a lack of fulfillment. “I was always searching for what’s next,” she recalls. “It’s like online dating when you’re swiping through Tinder, looking for something better.” She was aware of drag, but her “internalised homophobia” didn’t allow her to enjoy the art-form to its fullest. This Priyanka was a far cry from the drag queen who’s currently promoting her “Just be gay!” merch on social media (available now at It wasn’t until she moved to the gay village of Toronto that she started to enjoy life as a queer person, attending gay bars and drag shows. “There was just something so empowering about drag queens,” she says. “I love the escape that a concert scenario brings; the loud music, hundreds of thousands of people around you singing the same song. With drag shows, it felt like the only thing that we can all do together as a community.”

Enter Xtacy Queen. As Priyanka’s curiosity for drag grew, she hired Canada’s beloved triple-threat entertainer for her 26th birthday celebrations, and there, Xtacy passed on some words of wisdom about Priyanka’s potential. “She was like, ‘You should start drag. I see that you’re hosting kids TV, and you have a lot of charisma, but it’s something that you should start,’” she remembers. “There was something about that one conversation that put the idea in my head.” Two months later, boasting Xtacy as her official drag mother, Priyanka left work early to spend her day painting ahead of her first ever drag performance, hosted by her season one sister Scarlett Bobo. “I messaged her on my boy account like, ‘Hey Scarlett Bobo, I heard you’re a big drag queen in Toronto and I’m just telling you that I want to start drag,’” laughs Priyanka. “She was like, ‘Oh my god, no problem. You should come.’ So, I spent all day beating my face. I started at 3pm and the show wasn’t until midnight, but I put my flat little wig on and pinned the sides back. I felt like I was the ticket, like I was the fucking one.” 

Before getting on stage, Priyanka pissed herself. “I just had to pee,” she explains, “so I peed through my tights.” She still slayed the stage to the beat of Beyoncé’s Freakum Dress, however, and entered the Crews & Tangos Drag Race competition the following Sunday, where she placed fourth (Juice Boxxx, another season one contestant, won the title). Following the success of both events, Priyanka busted her ass emailing club promoters to land gigs, paving the way towards a successful side-career in Toronto. “It’s crazy looking back at the videos, there’s that cringy-ness in watching yourself,” she says. “But whenever I watch them I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I had the guts to do that,’ because I’m so spoiled now with drag, right? I could show up anywhere and be Priyanka: Canada’s Drag Race winner. Everyone is bowing down but back then, I didn’t even think about the fame of it. I just wanted to be fulfilled.” 

After years of watching Drag Race, Priyanka plucked up the courage to audition after watching her Canada mentor, Brooke Lynn Hytes, enter season 11. The professional ballet dancer made history as the first ever queen from the North to sashay into the werkroom, where she earned three maxi-challenge wins (more than winner Yvie Oddly) and cemented her status as one of the most formidable lip-syncers, well, ever. “I saw how proud Toronto was of her,” she says. “Just seeing our hometown girl do it… it just meant so much to so many different people.” Although she wanted to appear on the US original, even going as far to apply for a visa, Priyanka opted for a spot on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race. “I had this vision that when I hit Drag Race, my life was going to explode. I’m going to be that bitch, because I want to be that bitch and I want to work hard to be that bitch, so I’m going to be that bitch. I was like, ‘I got to quit my job. Where am I going? What day am I leaving? Let’s make it happen.’” 

Thanks to her charismatic confessionals, addictive personality and fresh aesthetic, Priyanka was touted as a frontrunner from the very first episode. She triumphed in episode three with her verse in the dance track showdown, earning her first maxi-challenge win, before flopping Snatch Game with her impersonation of Miss Cleo. Still, Priyanka’s downfall led to the most iconic moment of the season. (We were going to say ‘arguably the most iconic moment’ but, facts are facts.) To the beat of I Drove All Night, the star served kicks, flips and splits in an eloguent gold number, booting fellow kicker, flipper and splitter Kiara out of the competition. Fans hailed the lip-sync as one of the best in the franchise’s history. “That’s when I knew I was going to win the show,” Priyanka proudly states. “When I watched that back I said, ‘You know what? You just look like a winner bitch. You have your insecurities and some days, you wake up and think you’re the worst drag queen in the whole world and that everyone hates you. But, you cannot deny that you are good at drag. You did it girl.’ That lip-sync was me fighting for my life.”

Unlike past contestants who’ve landed in the bottom, Priyanka brushed it off and didn’t let it affect her – as RuPaul would say (yep, we’re gonna do it (we’re really sorry)) – inner s*b*t*u*r, making joke after joke at her own expense. It was… refreshing. “Working at The Zone and The Next Star, I went into the closet, worried that people were going to know that I was gay because I didn’t want to get fired,” she explains. “Then, I started to work with a different cast of people and that made me feel like I could be more myself. That’s where I found my love to be really unapologetically me and make a fool of myself. Kids like it when you’re goofy, and you really lose your give-a-fuck attitude to entertain kids. That single-handedly helped me in my drag career and with Drag Race, because when it came to a moment for me to make fun of myself, I would take it. That’s the one thing people love about me as a drag queen, I just don’t give a fuck. I’m willing to turn my traumas into a joke, and a lot of people can relate to that.”

Viewers saw a softer side to Priyanka in episode three. Before hitting the runway, she opened up about her intricate relationship with her father, admitting that their relationship has always been strained due to her femininity and his Guyana upbringing, where a person can still be shot and killed for being gay. While her mother knew about her sexuality and passion for drag, her father was under the assumption that ‘Priyanka’ was her real-life girlfriend. In her confessional, she shared: “I’m afraid of telling my dad that I’m gay because I just don’t want him to hate me.” Every queer person’s relationship with their father is different, of course, but her story resonated with LGBTQ+ viewers across the world who still live in fear of coming out to their families. While the series was still on air, Priyanka eventually made the jump and came out to him. “He stayed pretty quiet throughout the whole thing,” she reveals. “I always say that it’s important to let your parents mourn the loss of their straight son, because they grow up thinking they’re going to marry you off and you’ll have kids. That’s what they think the minute you’re born.” 

After one more slip-up in the bottom, where she revolutionised the modern way to say ‘hello’ in a lip-sync against Ilona Verley, Priyanka earned another challenge win and stormed her way to the finale. There, she defeated Scarlett Bobo and Rita Baga, earning those two honorific titles we mentioned earlier. Although her father didn’t watch the show, he shared his condragulations and celebrated her win with champagne. But, it wasn’t until the recent passing of her uncle that she received the validation she always wanted and needed from him. “It was the first time being with a bunch of family that I would normally be in the closet around. Everybody from uncles to grandparents to great grandparents were coming up to me saying, ‘We’re so proud of you. It’s beautiful that you’re doing this.’ For him, I think it was cool to see that I was being so celebrated,” says Priyanka. “It was validation for him, an old-fashioned West Indian man, to see that we live in a world where nobody gives a flying fuck. Your kids can grow up to be a boy, but also make $100,000 dressing up as a woman.” Shortly after her win, Priyanka was honoured with the Distinguished Alumni Award from her college, which led her father to tears and resulted in their most affectionate moment to date. “He started to cry saying, ‘I’m so proud of that fucking boy.’ It doesn’t go this way for a lot of people.” 

Two months after Priyanka sashayed away with the crown, Drag Race Holland star Envy Peru became the first Peruvian winner in the franchise. Although the Emmy-winning series has championed diversity since its 2009 debut, there continues to be long-standing issues of racism within the fandom. The back-to-back crownings of Jaida, Shea, Priyanka and Envy, as well as Heidi N Closet’s Miss Congeniality win, emphasises a call to action for love, unity and compassion, says the star, and is a stark reminder that representation matters. “Everything’s pretty saturated with white people. I think the best example that I have is, before I was a drag queen, I would walk into a gay bar and no one would look at me. White guys would just be hitting on white guys. Our skin colour wasn’t seen as attractive. Going into Canada’s Drag Race, I would get called the ‘trade’ of the season, which is usually a big joke. But for me, as a scrawny little Brown boy being called ‘trade’, it makes the queer POC’s out there feel like they can walk into these queer spaces and feel desired and sought after. We aren’t seen as equals, but we are, and we are successful and we are sexy.”

So, what’s next for the queen who went from Toronto to North Supreme? Sadly, she didn’t land a role alongside Neve Campbell in Scream 5, like she championed on Twitter, or as a supporting act for Little Mix on their upcoming Confetti Tour. However, she plans to release some “pop bangers” in the vein of the Sweet Melody quarter, as well as BLACKPINK and Fifth Harmony. She’s also going to sit by the phone and wait for Mama Ru to recruit her for a Drag Race winners’ season (“I know that I could probably send anybody home in a lip-sync,” she boasts) and go on tour in Australia, Canada and the UK (when Lockdown: The Sequel comes to an end). “I recently got dumped,” Priyanka opens up, “so everywhere I go on tour, I’m going to gather contestants in that city, who will compete to be my boyfriend. I’m going to suck everyone’s dick. That’s enough projects isn’t it? Please put that last bit in the article somewhere, thank you.”