By Ommie Jane / Photo by: Serena Rivard
Celebrating Pride in Ottawa has come a long way in the 32 years since its conception. Beginning in 1986 as a picnic in Strathcona park with roughly 50 attendees, it remains an annual event with an official Pride Committee forming in 1989 for Ottawa’s first Pride Week and Pride Parade.
The internal organization and structure of Pride has evolved continuously over the years, as has its branding, most recently embracing the bilingual title Fierté dans la Capital Pride.
Beyond the parade and the picnic, the Capital Pride pageant is another staple of Pride Week. The inaugural Ms. Capital Pride pageant was held in 1995 with drag queen Miss Mariah taking home the title.
In 2010, we saw the overdue addition of a Mr. Capital Pride category after direct lobbying from the community, and BJ Herdick became the first to be crowned.
Three years ago, organizers introduced a new category to compete under, creating space for non-binary performers competing for the title of Mx. Capital Pride. Non-binary is an umbrella term used to describe those who do not adhere to the gender binary, whether they are non-binary, gender fluid, or otherwise. Linguistically, the “x” in Mx. is intended to be seen as a wildcard character. Local gender-blending drag artist Master Cameron Eric Leon was the first to don that crown in Ottawa.
This year the femme Gatineau-based burlesque producer, Mimi Violette took home the Mx. title with a bilingual platform and a theatrical striptease performance that wowed judges and audience members alike.
Performing in half-feminine and half-masculine drag, Mimi’s dual personalities presented themselves one at a time, the two courting each other through expertly staged choreography before “revealing” themselves to be one person split in two. After unsuccessfully attempting to merge the two sides, Mimi strips down first to a striped prison jumpsuit—pink on one side, blue on the other—before a final androgynous reveal. The act is aptly titled “Gender Jail”.
The pageant was hosted by local queen Kiki Coe and boasted judges Brooke Candy, China Doll, Derry Hendarna, and Justin Gomes.
In the Ms. Capital Pride category, we had Adrianna Exposée, Tanya King, Kimmy Dymond, and Yaya Torres competing, with Kimmy Dymond winning the title.
For Mx. Capital Pride, Miles Zinya and Mimi Violette went head to head in a fierce competition, though only one could prevail.
Mr. Capital Pride saw Max Power, Charlie Deville, Scottie McLovin’, and Cyril Cinder competing for the title, with Montreal-based king Charlie Deville ultimately being crowned. The pageant also featured performances by Season 9 competitor on Rupaul’s Drag Race, Aja.
As a burlesque colleague of Mimi’s, Ommie was keen to get her perspective on the pageant and her pride experience as a genderqueer person. Please note her responses are translated and edited for brevity and clarity.
Ommie: Congratulations and Happy Pride! What does “Pride” mean to you?
Mimi: To me, Pride is as much a celebration as it is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. It started as a protest and while strides have been made, the fight is continuous. Part of that fight is maintaining visibility and fighting for representation for everyone. It’s so important to see ourselves represented in order to feel welcome. As a francophone who only really discovered my identity through the anglo burlesque and drag community, I still feel othered because of the language/cultural barrier. It’s important to me when I’m producing to not only create safe, paid opportunities for both French and English-speaking LGBTQ performers, but to create safe spaces for francophones to explore their sexuality.
Ommie: What was the highlight of this year’s pageant for you?
Mimi: It was exciting to be crowned by Aja and Brooke Candy—as a professional performer and a gender queer person it was very validating. It was most rewarding however to see local talent getting the attention it deserves. Over 600 people attended the pageant alone this year. As a producer and performer, I appreciate the organizers paying all pageant participants for their performances and for putting such an emphasis on Ottawa/Gatineau Burlesque and Drag throughout this year’s programming. Kimmy Dymond winning the Ms. Capital Pride title and becoming the first trans woman to do so was also a moment of pride for me. Congratulations Kimmy!
The continued evolution of Pride is important. Kimmy Dymond’s win is a testament to why continued visibility matters. Though it may start as symbolic, visibility resonates with those who have that lived experienced and welcomes them into the fold. This fact may be reflected in the number of attendees at Pride events this year, with the Ottawa Citizen reporting probable record attendance to Sunday’s pride Parade.
Special thanks to local drag queen trailblazer and former Pride Marshall Zelda Marshall for her sharing her history of Ottawa Pride.