“An Icon, A Star, A Diva”: How Priyanka Made Drag History

We talked to the reigning queen of “Canada's Drag Race” about her drag, coming out to her dad via the show, sharing gowns with Priyanka Chopra, chicken nuggets, and changing the world.

Imaan Sheikh

July 8, 2021

“An Icon, A Star, A Diva”: How Priyanka Made Drag History
Priyanka on "Canada's Drag Race" (World of Wonder)

If you’re queer, Brown, or a lover of drag — or better yet, queer, Brown and a lover of drag — you know Priyanka. The image of her ethereally floating down the runway in an embellished Indian bridal lehenga is burned into your mind. It was the first time you saw a Brown drag queen decked out in South Asian clothing, dripping with gold jewelry, sauntering proudly across a stage no South Asian queen had ever had a chance to step on before. The drag persona of Toronto-based Indo-Guyanese TV personality Mark Suki (Sukanan), Priyanka is best known for winning Canada’s first season of the biggest drag reality show in the world, RuPaul’s Drag Race.

On June 21 this year, Priyanka donned the cover of Elle Canada, oozing glam in her designer ensembles — a Naomi Campbell-esque vision whom Elle dubbed the “Queen of the North.” You can see her in Bank of Montreal ads, adding a luster to the otherwise dull corporate banking world. Scroll through your social media and you might find her posing as a spokesperson for everything from seltzer to makeup, from candy to toothpaste. Priyanka has a way of making you stop and pay attention to whatever she’s selling. Last month she released her debut music video, “Cake,” starring several friends from her Drag Race season, and in a week, she’s releasing her first EP.

Although Priyanka is a proud Toronto native (“I love being Canadian, I love living in Canada,” she told me), with the rapid pace at which her career is booming, she currently splits her time between Toronto, the U.S., and the U.K. “I also love being in the U.S. because it brings so much opportunity, and I love being in the U.K. because I’m famous over there,” she says.

I spoke to her over a Zoom call, which she joined a few minutes late because she overslept and missed her alarm.

“Hi!” she said. “Is it cool if I take a bite out of this chicken nugget?”

“Of course,” I told her.

“It’s sooo good!” Priyanka reviewed the nugget with delight.

“Okay, hear me out, hear me out, hear me out,” Priyanka said, getting comfortable on a couch in her Toronto home with some snacks, like she’s catching up with a friend. “Last night, I had a big show. I had been doing rehearsals for like a week for it. We did 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 choreographed numbers! I didn't grow up dancing; I like to dance because I'm a West Indian gyal,” she says, shimmying in place. “But it takes me a little bit of time to get, so my brain was like, so full of all these dance moves. So last night, I took a shower and then I kinda just went to bed and then woke up a little too late and felt unprofessional.”

“That’s totally fi—”

“But then I realized that I’m an icon, star, and diva, so who cares?”