Hamilton’s rough and rugged reputation has gotten a makeover thanks to a burgeoning drag scene, but there’s more to this glow-up than meets the perfectly lined eye.
“It’s my free therapy at this point,” says local queen and Club Absinthe mainstay, Karma Kameleon. “Any time I’m feeling a certain way, I can reflect that in my music and kind of work through those feelings.”
Karma started in drag back in 2018 and has since become a reigning queen of the local scene, but it’s only recently that Hamilton has even had a thriving scene to reign over.
“There were not really many opportunities to do drag or to start up drag as compared to now,” says Kasha Czech, a Hamilton queen who struggled to find local venues for her art when she first began drag in 2015. But in the years since, as the arts in Hamilton have flourished, the art of drag has finally found a home in Steel Town, and so has Kasha.
“I think now it’s definitely become an environment in Hamilton where a lot more people are just accepting of people who are queer or people who are drag artists,” says Kasha, who will be performing as part of House of Adam and Steve’s ‘Jedi Training Academy’ at Absinthe on November 12th. “One thing that stands out about Hamilton is that there are a lot of opportunities for beginners overall. I think having all of these different competitions, having all of these open stage nights for beginners and people who are kind of rising up in this scene, Hamilton has a lot more opportunities than I’ve seen in other cities.”
With the popularity of shows like Canada’s Drag Race, drag has been embraced well beyond the queer community of its origin, appealing to a broad range of demographics. This could be because, beyond the aesthetic appeal and entertainment value of the art, drag is about something far more universal at its core.
“It’s very much about that sense of just letting go and having fun and expressing your truest self, even if it’s in a costume,” says Karma. “That’s something that I think everyone can relate to and needs to do whether or not they feel that ability in their life.”
Both Kasha Czech and Karma Kameleon have begun to venture beyond the local scene with their performances, but the unique and evolving atmosphere of Hamilton drag means an exciting home base for these queens and many more.
“Even thinking of if I went to Club Absinthe ten years ago, do you think there would have been a drag event?” says Kasha. “Do you think I would have been comfortable to even be there as someone who identifies as queer? Versus now, when it’s their most successful night. I think it’s something that was just kind of pulled out of Hamilton, or dragged—pun intended—out of Hamilton that has always been inside of us.”