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Chris Reed (right) and Maya Ritchey (left), local drag artists and co-founders of Queer Based Media. Photo: Queer Based Media

Pandemic Realness: Local drag artists perform online due to COVID-19

Vancouver drag performers move online with their own platform as their shows must go on

By Arrthy Thayaparan , in City Culture , on December 17, 2020 Tags: , , , , , ,

Poster for online show Reelness with Alma Bitches
Poster for Reelness with Alma Bitches. Photo: Queer Based Media

Vancouver drag artists have joined a growing number of performers moving online to reach audiences after COVID-19 restrictions shuttered live venues.

“I never realized how much quarantine would impact me,” said Alma Bitches, a Vancouver-based drag artist. “Suddenly, I went from being in drag almost everyday to nothing at all for months.”

Bitches, a stage name, is venturing into digital drag with their show Reelness on a new streaming platform created by a team of local drag performers, Queer Based Media.

“Coming back has had such a positive effect on me. [Drag is] all about confidence for me and committing to a show has really helped,” they said.

For queers, by queers

Having an online space to perform that is managed and run by community members is the goal of Queer Based Media.

“The idea to create a company formed to somewhat protest what’s going on online for us,” said Maya Ritchey, a local drag artist known as BOSS and co-founder of the group.

“With the pandemic, the [drag] community quickly jumped online to do shows on platforms like Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, etc. But a lot of our queer content was getting removed or taken down during live events and shows.”

The company’s stream, also known as the Live Digital Venue,” has started to attract the attention of both performers and local show-runners.

Censorship and the removal of queer content is nothing new online, but it has been rampant on popular streaming and social-media sites like Facebook Live and Instagram during the pandemic.

Queer Based Media hopes to give the local queer community a safe space to freely showcase their work, without having to censor themselves or alter their art form.

Screenshot of Queer Based Medias streaming site
Screenshot of Queer Based Media’s Live Digital Venue during a recent live streamed event. Photo: Queer Based Media
Transition online

Moving drag online was essential for many performers trying to maintain an income.

However, for drag artists like Chris Reed, aka Continental Breakfast, performing online on social-media sites has been challenging.

Despite going to the effort to tone down content and follow platform regulations, Reed and their non-binary drag performing group, The Darlings, had their Facebook Live streams unexpectedly shut down this year.

Undeterred by the challenges, queer artists continue to look out for each other to make sure their voices are heard and their performances are seen.

“We’re all suffering — queers and straights alike — and this has honestly affected every single person on the planet,” said Reed, “Art is everything and we’re resilient. Queer people have been through worse and gotten ourselves through this together and will continue to do this.”