Priyanka on her new single “Cake”, the Canada’s Drag Race sorority and why she can’t wait to compete in an all winners season.
How much can your life change in a year? For me, a closeted South Asian immigrant in the UK, watching Priyanka on Canada’s Drag Race throughout the pandemic changed everything. There’s something so powerful about seeing someone who looks like you being unapologetically themselves on-screen no matter what their family or community can say. Priyanka lit up the queer fire in my heart that I tried to dim for as long as I can remember.
In only a year, her life changed even more. Not only did she win a crown and our heart with her hilarious confessionals, but she also delivered the best lip syncs and runway strut of the whole season. Can you even listen to “I Drove All Night” by Celine Dion without thinking of Priyanka now? With 384k followers on Instagram, her own show produced by WOW Presents and now a new flamboyant song called “Cake”, something tells us people aren’t done screaming her name out loud.
PinkNews: In your new music video for “Cake”, you chose a very specific Hindi-inspired font for your name in the intro. How important is it for you to pay homage to your heritage in your drag?
Priyanka: I knew I wanted my logo to be as Bollywood as we can make it and also as strong as Beyoncé. It’s so important for me to have these Bollywood inspirations because those are the things I tried to hide growing up. I was always scared to bring curry to school or to sing Indian songs. When it came to Priyanka, I was so excited to infuse all the culture that I tried to hide to fit in as Mark — that’s what makes my drag so iconic!
You invited several Canada’s Drag Race alumni to star in this new video. You also collaborated on another project with the queen who crowned you: Brooke Lynn Hytes. The show is a competition, but in real life bookings and work opportunities are a race too. How do you explain that you all seem so united?
It feels like a cult (laughs), but I’m so thankful to be a part of that. On set, those girls stayed until the end of the day! They wrapped up five hours before they left. They stayed just to say congratulations and I’m so grateful for that because it is more than just a sisterhood, they care for me. It’s the same with Brooke Lynn. She calls me all the time, she gives me advice and I give her advice and there’s such an interesting bond there that you can’t fake.
You said in a previous interview that your grandmother used to sing at the temple. Is she still with us today?
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of her passing away. She would always call me and sing the Hindi version of “Happy Birthday”. She was such a beautiful soul and she was known for her singing. I wonder what she would think of what I’m doing now. When she died I was not a drag queen yet. I feel like she would have been so proud of me!
Can you tell us how her being a singer helped you in your journey as a performer?
She and my grandfather were both famous singers in Guyana and they would always sing at the temple. You know, no kids want to go to the temple. You’re sitting with your legs crossed, it’s boring, your hips are hurting, you’re yawning – and why is everyone eating with their hands? But we would sit there and she would sing these beautiful songs and it was truly her escape. I did not realise how musical my family was until I sat down and thought: “Yes, my grandparents were singers. My dad was a DJ and my brother still DJs.” This background subconsciously inspired my music career as I have always been surrounded by music.
You are coming to the UK in August for Drag Fest in London and Manchester. You might not know this but the meet-and-greet tickets for you sold out. How do you explain the incredible relationship you have with the fandom here?
(Laugh) I’m so excited! Pretty much all my fans online are from the UK and they’re all obsessed with me! I’m so excited to meet them because I think people in the UK are just as chaotic as me. When they saw me on the BBC, I think they were like: “Priyanka understands us.”
I have to ask you about All Stars 6 now that the cast was finally Ru-vealed. Who are you rooting for?
I’m obsessed with the cast! I’m rooting for Silky Nutmeg Ganache, I love her. I’m also rooting for A’keria C Davenport and Kylie Sonique Love. I’m also excited for Ra’Jah O’Hara. I feel like if there’s somebody that ever needed a second chance it’s her. That’s what All Stars is about!
A part of me is still happy I won but dammit, I wanna compete on Drag Race again! One day, maybe there’ll be an All Stars winner season, maybe I’ll be hosting Drag Race, who knows?
You’ve were very vulnerable on the show when talking about your father who did not know about your drag and you being gay. What words of wisdom would you have today for any closeted South Asian LGBT+ individual who is afraid of being themselves because their family or the culture they grew up in was homophobic?
My advice for the youth of the future is that if you don’t see yourself right now in the media, a TV show, on a magazine or a book cover, that’s because you could be the first one to do it. You have the power to stand tall and be the representation for someone who feels just like you. Still some days I’m sitting here and wondering: “Am I good enough?” because there’s no one for me to compare to and it’s a scary place to be, but there’s power in that too.