Vivian Vanderpuss walked into the workroom on Canada’s Drag Race wrapped in plastic and looking absolutely fantastic.
The Victoria-based drag queen added a much needed dash of camp and comedy to the competition with her teeny, tiny hands and bang-on impression of televangelist and cult gay icon, Tammy Faye Messner.
Though she narrowly missed the show’s finale, Vanderpuss was without a doubt a fan favourite this season. After her elimination, the performer joined Xtra’s After The Sashay to talk about the fluidity of her drag persona, her (one-sided) feud with Miss Fiercalicious and why she wants to see drag kings on Drag Race.
Hi, Vivian! Congrats on making it to the top five.
Thanks so much, Russ. It feels absolutely incredible being a top five contestant.
You were so close to the finale. How did you feel about sashaying away just before the end?
I was able to show everything I wanted to. I did all of the runways! I was really proud of all the things I did on the show—things I knew I could do and things I had no idea I could do.
You had a very cerebral take on Masc for Mascara that didn’t totally land with the judges. You combined elements of performative masculinity from different eras that eventually became coded as feminine. Can you talk a bit more about your concept?
The concept was performative masculinity throughout the ages, taking parts of hair and fashion that were once seen as masculine, but are now presented as feminine—and now we’re seeing a resurgence of non-binary clothing, freeing ourselves from those confines.
I love all those archetypal Shakespearean [clothes], the mutton sleeves and the pumpkin pants. I wanted to be a fabulous, campy genderqueer bard. That was the fantasy!
On the show, we mostly saw femininity from you, but there’s a real fluidity to your artistry. You do club kid, genderfuck, even some looks that are sort of femme king.
My experience doing drag has been throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks to me internally and makes me feel fabulous.
I went on the gender journey and landed on cis male of all things, but it’s still so cool to swim in the warm waters of gender. Non-binary fashion is something I absolutely love. In fashion, I feel out of the binary—and the women’s section is always way more fun than the men’s section, let’s be honest.
It was interesting to see masc drag on the runway. You work with a lot of great drag kings like Eddi Licious. What do you think kings could bring to a show like Drag Race?
When you bring everyone to the table, it enriches it; it becomes a more spectacular table. You’re not taking anything away from queens by including kings. Eddi Licious is so incredibly talented, I would love to see them on the show. They can do everything! They sing, they act, they do aerials, they do circus, sword stuff!
We’ve seen [drag kings] on other platforms, I think it’s just a matter of time before Drag Race does it.
Fierce talked A LOT about sabotage. Let’s set the record straight: Did you sabotage Miss Fiercalicious?
Miss Fiercalicious sabotaged herself by not believing in herself. You’re telling me with a face like that and legs like that, with those huge, beautiful eyes, that you couldn’t do a ballad? Come on, sis.
The two of you worked together recently in Chicago. Does she still think you’re her saboteur?
I’m obsessed with Fierce. I love her so much, I’m obsessed with her drag. I think she’s a spectacular person. She’s got a really good heart and she’s so smart. She’s also a diva! But whatever, you’re a drag queen.
It was so sweet to see your dad, Paul, get choked up over your fearlessness. It seems like you have a very supportive birth family.
I’m very, very privileged to come from a family where, when I came out, they were all very supportive. They’re all in southern Ontario, and I’m really glad that I can actually show them my art now. This was the first time they’ve really seen me perform or do drag in a more expanded platform than Instagram Stories.
I LOVED your Tammy Faye. It was also really interesting to hear a queer person speak about their positive experiences with religion. What has it been like to navigate cultivating community within Christianity as a queer person?
That was very much my experience in high school. I haven’t been to church in a really long time. That was the community I found at the time that fed me, and I felt safe there. I realize and understand with a lot of religious institutions, there’s a lot of trauma, especially in the queer community. I’m definitely not blind to that.
We all seek community and now I feel my community is my family at The Vicious Poodle, my home bar. Drag brunch isn’t that different from church! We eat delicious food, say, “Yas, God” and put money in the bucket. People need to find a community that makes them safe and welcome and hopefully makes them a better person.
One last question! I want to know about two of the most important creatures in your life: your cats Bijou and Apple.
Bijou is around here somewhere, sulking around. Bijou is a little two-year-old; she’s terrified of everything. She was born on Salt Spring Island under a power line, and I’m convinced she has electricity in her body. She’s got lightning in her body and that’s why she’s so wild.
Apple is a rotund diva, she’s a ginger baby and I’ve had her for going on 14 years now. She’s been all across Canada with me, she went through college with me and has seen so many boys come and go. She’s been my ride or die, low-key because I feed her and keep her captive in the tower that is my apartment.