On Jan. 12, the Diving Bell Social Club and drag queen collective BabyDrag celebrated a decade of Lady Gaga’s career in 10 Years of Gaga, a show featuring a host of queens as talented and visually provocative as Gaga herself. Each performer took to the stage lip-syncing along to Gaga’s songs, emphasizing those from her debut album The Fame and performing intricate dance sets replete with flourishes, death drops, and creative costume reveals.
Given Gaga’s love of theatrics and her renown as a queer icon, celebrating the idol through drag makes perfect sense. Gaga has dedicated her career to queer causes; in her early years of stardom, Gaga famously came out as bisexual. Her queer anthem “Born This Way” is a staple at pride events and gay clubs alike, and she has since made a guest appearance on season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2010, Gaga called on former president Barack Obama to end the American military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuality in the armed forces. Her career is marked by her activism for the LGBTQ+ community, and she has participated in international pride rallies, campaigned for politicians who champion gay rights, and donated to not-for-profit organizations.
“[She’s] the lady who made us all gay,” the emcee for 10 Years of Gaga said.
The highlight of 10 Years of Gaga was the wide diversity of drag the show featured. While many of the queens’ more strictly-feminine aesthetics would be appropriate on mainstream shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, other queens did not hesitate to twist their appearances with their gender-bending outfits. Miss Paige, starting one of her dances with a large fluffy skirt, long hair, and Gene Simmons-like makeup, threw her wig and pads off to end her performance in nothing but a thong and six-inch stiletto boots. Matante Alex’s first dance featured a towel hat and dress covered in pearls and giant golden dollar signs, which she discarded in later acts to reveal a slim-fitting bodysuit and chest-length ponytails.
Some queens even incorporated clever nods to Lady Gaga’s lyrics into their acts. Lip-syncing to “Boys Boys Boys” in her first dance, McGill student Colette Poussée brought three scantily-clad muscle men on stage as backup dancers for a high-energy choreographed dance sequence that got the crowd up on their feet. Later, Matante Alex and Kiara danced to “Do What U Want” in golden dresses and hair done up to mimic Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera’s joint performance of the song in 2013.
Although the venue was completely packed, the tight quarters didn’t hinder the crowd’s experience. The queens took ample opportunities to strut off the stage and interact with the audience, and some spectators found space to get up from their seats and dance along to the music. At the end of the show, concert-goers helped one another get their jackets back from the Diving Bell’s crowded do-it-yourself coat check closet, emphasizing the venue’s community spirit.
At the end of the show, the queens came out on stage for one last round of applause. After two hours of non-stop, raucous entertainment, both the crowd and the performers did not hesitate to express their enthusiasm for one other. The queens descended from the stage, hugging friends in the audience and posing for fans eager for photos.
The Diving Bell Social Club, a multimedia performance venue in the Plateau, frequently hosts drag shows and will host Coven on Jan. 25.