Drag queen Ruby Chopstix hopes to inspire others after becoming Canada’s first drag-artist-in-residence

Drag queen Ruby Chopstix, also known as Alex Nguyen, has received Canada's first drag artist residency with the Rainbow Resource Centre. Joanne Roberts has the story.

She’s known as the Asian pop princess of Winnipeg.

And now drag queen Ruby Chopstix has become the first-ever drag artist to receive an arts residency in Canada.

“It was pretty surreal. I still am coming from that high,” said Ruby, also known as Alex Nguyen.

“Everything was just like this amalgamation of good energy that I guess I needed for a while and I haven’t had. But yeah, long story short, it just feels like a dream and I’m still on cloud nine right now.”

Ruby says she was thrilled the year-long residency, taking place at Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre, would allow them a chance to get further involved with the organization, which supports the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“It felt like the right time as Ruby to do something bigger than just perform and just do all these shows.

“It’s the first time this has happened in Canada, where we’re treated as a professional art form than just like, oh that’s a cool thing at a club. For this to be so official and respectful, I knew I had to do it.”

Winnipeg’s Rainbow Resource Centre is hosting Ruby Chopstix’s year-long residency in 2024. (James Rinn, CityNews)

Ruby, who has been doing drag for five years, says not only is it a chance for them to hone their craft, it’s also a chance to show people what drag is really about.

“I think people think that drag is just for adults and it’s like mature, it’s like an 18-plus thing. But it’s 100 per cent not that. Drag is, I keep saying art form, but it is an art form. Drag is for literally everybody. It’s not about just being sexual and over the top, it is also just expressing who you want to be, what do you want to embrace. How do you want to explore your gender, your identity, how you look. It’s anything. Anybody can do it. Straight people can do it. Queer people do it. It can be for any person.”

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She says it’s especially important for young, Queer people of colour to see representations of themselves in an art form they might want to try.

“When I grew up I didn’t have a lot of representation,” she said. “Basically, no, no representation as Queer Asians. Like, there’s nothing in the media. So I hope for me being in this position, a person of colour winning it, it’ll just spark an inspiration for everybody being like, you can be a person of colour and still get these big, prominent projects and big prominent residencies and that we still matter.

“Thank you for wanting to do an interview me and just kind of seeing me. It doesn’t happen very often when it’s like, Queer Asians and Queer people of colour, so getting an interview is a lot. Especially showing in the media.”

Ruby says not all the experiences have been good. Over their five-year career so far, there have been many challenges faced by people in the drag community, such as recent anti-drag protests happening Canada-wide.

“People are just attacking drag queens and just kind of putting them in this realm of, that they’re just harming the youth. Which is completely false,” Ruby Chopstix said. “I find that these people who are making these lies, they just don’t like Queer people. They just truly hate us, is really what it is, but they’re just moving away from using homophobia and transphobia and whatever to being like, ‘oh let’s use drag queens instead.’”

WATCH: Drag queen Ruby Chopstix offers advice to people who want to try drag performing

Ruby says what she really wants is to spend the next year speaking up against drag discrimination and inspiring more people to get involved in drag and its community.

“I just hope that at the end of the day that one person gets inspired by me and can just do it,” she said. “I don’t want the credit, I don’t want them to be like ‘oh, Ruby was the reason.’ I just want them to just shoot for the moon, and you’ll probably land there.

“I just like love drag so much and love everybody I’ve met with drag. Drag at the end of the day is about community, so me being part of this, I just hope that I can give back to the community that has given so much to me.”

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