Kelowna’s drag story

Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)
Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)
Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)Ella Lamourexu. (Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News)

In this edition of Women in Business, women were interviewed who are employed in typically male-dominated industries or in a position that was historically filled by a man.

These women share their stories of being underrepresented in their field and leadership roles – in the hope that their perseverance and success become the guiding light for the next generation of women in business, so they continue to break glass ceilings and meet their goals.

Women in Business shows who the movers and the shakers are in Kelowna and that there is always a space to share stories of successful women.

Anyone who has ventured out into the nightlife of Kelowna in the last 10 years will know her. She has dazzled our streets with style and grace, bringing drag queens right into your face.

Ella Lamourexu grew-up identifying as two-spirited in the Yukon then set out across Canada before settling into the Okanagan.

Originally going by Ella Gonza, she arrived in Kelowna on the heels of the mayor finally proclaiming Pride Week in the city. This took place after Walter Gray was condemned by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for not including the word “pride” in a requested proclamation for Lesbian and Gay Pride Day during his first term as mayor in 1997.

However, although Pride Week 2012 may have been hailed by organizers as fantastic, that didn’t mean the city had a drag scene.

“There was no one doing drag and I had kind of decided I wanted to do it for fun, but then when I wanted to do it consistently there was still no scene,” said Lamoureux. “So, I basically had to create my own scene and drag spaces to perform and that is when Ella Lamourexu became permeant.”

With no LGBTQ+ bar or lounge as there is today with the recently opened Friends with Dorothy, Lamoureux had to rent venues, lights and DJs just to have a drag night.

“When we first started, it was me and my good friend Sasha, and we would go out and people would ask why are you doing drag, there is no one here for that. But, we would tell them it’s because we want to and it’s a good time,” she explained.

She was shocked at the time to find that the pride committee in Kelowna was hesitant to allow drag shows at events, claiming there was a lack of a scene and people wouldn’t attend.

About a year-and-a-half later, Lamoureux and Sasha were continuing their lives as queens when there was a change of perception in Kelowna.

“If we went out in our regular clothes, people would approach us and say why aren’t you in drag,” laughed Lamoureux.

The scene slowly grew from there with Lamourexu attracting like-minded people who wanted to see drag shows, which turned into what she called a ’soft sisterhood’.

Lamoureux would go on to create ‘Kelowna’s Next Drag Superstar’ which started nine years ago, with just three participants.

“It was so hard to get anyone to perform,” she said. “But, the next year after seeing how good it was we had about seven, and after that, it was easy to get our 10 contestants.”

Although she no longer runs the show, the drag race is the number one sold event during Pride Week in Kelowna each year.

“Now drag is so mainstream and there are so many queens in Kelowna, there are lots of options for those wanting to get into the scene. They can approach one of us and we can take them under our wig (sic) and train them,” Lamoureux explained.

She would eventually catch the eye of Rudy Tomazic, who would bring the first LGBT2Q+ cocktail lounge to Kelowna.

“He told me he was opening this gay club and would love to have me on board help organize drag and I said yes and now I have basically turned into their house mother,” she joked.

Friends with Dorothy opened in February of 2020 and was well received from the entire community, however, just a month later it would shutter its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We opened back up in June, with Friday and Saturday events under the new regulations and it was a good run until the end of the summer,” explained Lamoureux. “More regulations hit in the fall and drag shows had to completely stop. So, we have had more than two months without performing.”

But, that hasn’t kept her or Friends with Dorothy down; adjustments have been made to keep the scene alive, with shows such as ’sit and b**ch’ or viewing parties.

As for Lamoureux, the next step is moving-up to perform on Canada’s Drag Race, which would put her on a national stage.

“I am a huge two-spirited activist so I would like to combine drag with getting that word out and educating people,” she said.

Not that she would leave Kelowna behind, noting that it is a city that is continuing to grow and become more inclusive.

“It is just really gratifying to know we came from a place of no one wanting to see us, to everyone wanting to see us.”


@Jen_zee
jen.zielinski@bpdigital.ca

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