What’s her name? Drag superstar Priyanka put the “great” in Great White North when she was crowned the winner of season one of Canada’s Drag Race and now, she’s taking the music world by storm as well.
Queen Pri just released the fourth video from her Taste Test EP. The tune, “Snatch”, is an insanely catchy dancehall-inspired pop anthem with an earworm hook and the video pays homage to Priyanka’s West Indian heritage, her family (with cameos from her mom and brother), the love for her fans, and a childhood obsession with Nintendo. It’s packed with surprising cameos, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cheryl Hole playing the cheeky villain, a game of Mario Party brought to life through cosplay, and the return of her Canada’s Drag Race sister, Lemon, who was featured in the video for “Come Through.”
Priyanka was born in Whitby, Ontario, and studied at Niagara College. While in school, she interned for Rogers Television and MTV Canada, until she finally fought her way up to become the first web host of YTV’s singing competition show The Next Star. Nicknamed “Suki”, she toured Canada as the face of “Next Star Nation” which quickly became the heartbeat of the show.
Her successes immediately parlayed into an even bigger platform when she was hand-picked by YTV as the face of their flagship after-school program The Zone. For six years, Priyanka was the face of Canadian children’s television, not only starring in, but writing and producing her own segments for her young fans. After inviting a drag queen to entertain at a birthday party, Mark Suknanan became Priyanka and took the drag scene by storm, winning numerous pageants before being crowned as Canada’s (First) Next Drag Superstar.
We had the chance to chat with Priyanka, who is currently on the road with the War on the Catwalk Tour, about creating her own cinematic universe with her quartet of Taste Test videos , her drag journey, and lots more in our exclusive interview.
I got to watch the new video and it’s fantastic.
Thank you! Glad you like it.
I expected no less. I love the whole storyline that goes across all four of the Taste Test videos. How did you come up with that?
I like to kind of like dive into things that I’ve always wanted to do as a kid. And I grew up watching scary movies like Scream and thrillers and cop movies…not your average childhood. I had older brothers. I was always watching more mature kinds of content. And so, when it came to me sitting down and being like, I want to create a cinematic universe. I want this to be epic. I want this to be a storyline. What references will I be pulling from it? It’s all kinds of TV shows and movies that I’ve always wanted to be in. So, it’s truly me just using this platform to make my own dreams come true over and over again.
What was the production process like for the videos? It certainly looked like a lot of fun, especially the first video for “Cake”.
It definitely is quite an undertaking. Let’s just say that. I work with an amazing team. My director, Caroline Torti, actually just assisted with the choreography for the opening scene of Umbrella Academy. It was a Footloose opening scene for season three. She and I have been in each other’s lives for, I think, over a decade. Now we used to work on a kids’ singing competition show together. Our world just brought us together and we’ve just been sitting down and being like, hey, no matter what amount of money we have, we want this to be as epic as possible. So, it’s nice to kind of have somebody that’s on the same page as me, because you get to see these iconic, iconic videos.
How did you get so many of your Drag Race sisters to participate like Jimbo, Lemon, Ilona, and Kiana?
You know, I think that I was lucky because when we first started filming these, it was during the pandemic. So, everybody was kind of at home twiddling their thumbs. The reason why I asked them is because I really wanted them to be a part of my rise in music. I felt like they were such great friends throughout the entire Drag Race experience that I had such a big platform that I really wanted to share with them and celebrate with them all that we’ve done together because season one of Canada’s Drag Race is such a fucking hit. And I’m so proud of all of us for just being all cast together to make such an epic season of TV.
So, it’s a text. It’s a follow-up text. It’s a “Hey, did you get my text?” and then, you know, everybody comes together. They take time out of their own schedule to do it. Ilona and Kiara for “Come Through” flew themselves out. Kiara got on a train, Jimbo, same idea, and flew himself in because he’s like, I want to be a part of this for you. So, it means a lot that there is this unconditional support and when you come knocking, they show up.
How did you discover your love of music?
I grew up in music my whole life. And it’s funny because like saying that out loud and having released music now, it makes sense, like, yeah, of course, you grew up around the music. You’re a musician, but it didn’t actually click until like about a year ago when I released Taste Test, my EP. I was doing a bunch of interviews and then I was like, oh yeah, my grandmother used to be a singer. My grandfather used to be a singer. Everyone used to be a singer. My dad used to be a DJ. My brothers are DJs. I feel like music has been around me my entire life. And. It’s interesting to now think that like, in my family, I’m just another singer. It’s so funny that we all love music so much.
Did you write the songs for the EP?
Yes. I wrote them with two other songwriters and then once we wrote what we wanted to be in the songs, then we would give it to a producer and the producer would make the beats and then we would adjust and all that stuff. So, we basically would get into a room and be like, what kind of story do you want to tell today? And I’d be like, well, today I’m a busy bitch. So that’s what I want to talk about. It was a really, really cool and rewarding process, to tell the stories of breakups and wins and friendships in music. It’s amazing.
I saw good things coming for you with Brooke Lynn Hytes’ “Queen of the North” when you were featured on that track.
Oh, yes! That was so much fun. And it’s funny that you say that because that was one of my first kind of feelings of like, wow. I feel like I could do this. I really want to do this.
Switching gears a bit, what did you study in college?
I went to school for television, radio, TV, and film because when I was like 15 or 14 years old, I wanted to be on TV. I was like, I want to be a TV host. I want to interview people. I want to present. I want to entertain. My bottom line was that I don’t care what it is. I just want to entertain people – and I did that. I would volunteer at the local TV station. I went on to college and then I had some internships and stuff. And then I landed the job being a production assistant on that same singing competition show where I met my now creative director, Caroline Torti and that’s kind of how it all started. It’s funny that I was working on a singing competition show because of the music tie-in. It’s like, I’m always around it.
Now, how did you go from being a beloved kids show host to a fabulous drag queen? How was that transition?
I would say that when you’re wanting to entertain people, I feel like you understand that you’re an artist and I have a creative expression that I want to express. I have a story I want to tell. And when you’re talking about SpongeBob SquarePants and Fairly OddParents every single day, as fun as it was, I think it was time for me to try to figure out what my artistic expression is. And I tried a YouTube channel. I tried having more of a presence on my boy Instagram…but then when I started to go out in Toronto’s gay village and watch drag queens, although I was scared of them, I never ever thought of being a drag queen. I just like finally started to feel more like myself and around people who are more like me.
And when I was turning 26, I hired a drag queen to come perform at my birthday party, Xtacy Love. She is now still my drag mom and a really close friend of mine. She was the one who said to me, you should try drag. I see your YTV stuff. You know, you’re on TV, you’re doing this thing. You’re singing, you’re dancing. You would be a good drag queen.
And, and there’s something about me that if you give me an idea and I believe in it, I will go a hundred percent into it. I won’t half-ass it. I will do it. I’ll never forget going out that night to Crews & Tangos, a local gay drag bar, and looking at the drag queens and being like, I think this is what’s next for me. It was like a magical movie moment and I blinked and I entered competitions in Toronto. I was buying wigs and trying to figure out how to sew and how to do my makeup. And it was such a fast rise but it definitely took me a lot of time to get good at my makeup. That’s for sure.
Who do you think is the tougher crowd – kids or Drag Race fans?
Oh, that’s a great question. I think kids are because kids are just so much harder to entertain because, let’s face it, parents these days are fucked, so you’re not sure what kids are allowed to talk about and what words they’re allowed to say. There’s so many more rules in kids’ TV, which is why when I was at YTV, they gave me a little bit of a hard time because they were like, we don’t want kids to find out you’re a drag queen and I was like, it’ll be fine. And now in all my meet and greets, especially in Canada, I have kids coming up to me all the time, telling me, “We used to watch you. Now we watch you be a drag queen. This is amazing.”
How are you enjoying the War on the Catwalk tour?
It’s amazing. I think that my favorite part about it is meeting fans that you never thought you’d meet before, especially going to all these smaller cities in America like Green Bay and Kalamazoo and Minnesota. And like just places where you never, ever thought that you would play like New York, LA, Chicago. My goal is to do shows in those places, but you never seem to come out here. And, and it’s so interesting because I didn’t realize how far my music is reaching people. And when I do my medley of all my songs, people know the fucking words and I’m like, this is shocking, every single night, honestly.
What can fans expect when they see you live?
For a show like this one, they’re getting everything. They’re getting the dancing and the cartwheels and kicking and the splitting. And then they’re also getting me in my pop star Super Bowl element where I’m performing and singing songs. It’s really, really, really cool. I like to kind of give a variety show as much as I can because when I talk on the microphone and I have a shot with the audience and make jokes and stuff because I’m not just like the one thing, I’m a bunch of different things, so it’s fun to be able to show the audience that in a cast full of such big personalities.
What is coming up next for you?
So right now, I’m gearing up to release this video and I’m literally sitting here cutting the trailer that I’m going to drop tomorrow. I edit my whole music busy videos. I actually edited “Snatch” on the plane to Madrid and then back from the UK to Toronto and I just was in the air putting it together. And my boyfriend was sitting beside me and I remember when I finally finished the edit, he looked over at me and asked, “Are you crying?” I was like, this just feels right. It finally feels right. So, it’s giving Taste Test its last hurrah. I’m performing the songs and doing a festival with Charlie XCX and Lorde in Canada. And it’s performing the music and really just continuing to kind of break through the music barriers, doing the smaller festivals, performing in front of crowds that haven’t seen me before all while working on my new album.
My goal is to next year, put out my first full-length album with more than five tracks and tell stories of the things I’ve been going through. Since I released Taste Test, so much has happened. I have so much to tell everybody, and it’s kind of nice to have these little diary entries to, you know, share my life with my fans. And also, I’m getting a dog.
What kind of dog?
I’m getting a long-haired, miniature Dachshund. So I have to – it sucks – I have to pick her up and then ship her off to boarding school to get trained properly because as you know, I don’t really have a lot of time to train the dog. So she’s going to come, she’s going to show up and be fully potty trained and crate trained and then we’re going to be besties. I hope. So…I’m pregnant is what I’m telling you. That’s breaking news. I’m pregnant.
Do you have a name picked out?
So, I thought that I was going to have a more creative name, but my boyfriend and I have been joking for the last couple of months about calling this fake dog Daisy. And we were like, oh, one day when we’re walking Daisy down the street, like, haha we’ll never name a dog that. What a stupid name. And then we were sitting at breakfast, brainstorming dog names and we couldn’t stop calling her Daisy. So, we don’t want to, but I feel like it’s the universe being like “this is the name of your dog.”
You were great in the acting challenges on Canada’s Drag Race and, of course, in your videos. Do you have any aspirations to do any more acting?
Yes! I’ve booked a rom-com that’s going to be on OUTtv called It’s All Sunshine and Rainbows where I play, you know, a drag queen, but I’m a weather girl whose aunt dies and she’s whisked away to a farm and falls in love with this boy. But it’s a comedy, I’m not playing a real woman or anything. It’s more meant to be poking fun at the fact that I’m this drag queen living this normal life, but I’m always in drag.
One of my goals is to do more acting. I love acting. I think it’s so fun. I love that. The kind of acting I get to do is more like campy comedy, because you look at like, you know, the greats, like, you know, I’m trying to think of the list of names of comedians turned serious actors and if you could really nail down your acting, it opens up such huge, huge opportunities. And it is something that I would love, love, love to do.
Priyanka Answers the Socialite Seven
Who has been the biggest influence on you in your career?
Ooh, I would say the biggest influence on me in my career would probably be, I would say my mom and/or Jennifer Lopez. Both icons. Both top-tier icons.
What would your fans be surprised to know that you’re a fan of?
My fans would probably be surprised that I’m a fan of WWE, the wrestling. I’m obsessed. I grew up watching wrestling and it’s basically like drag when you think about it. You know, that was kind of probably why I’m so good at drag because they are just playing dress-up anyway.
Do you have a favorite wrestler?
Yeah. My favorite wrestler is probably Trish Stratus. She’s Canadian. She’s amazing and I love her.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve, which I’ve started to get over, is chewing. I have this…I forget what it’s called where I can’t listen to somebody chew, like especially crunchy things like it, aggravates me and puts me in a really upset mood. But I’ve been working on it and it’s been getting a lot better. I would say that that is the initial pet peeve and I also think it’s weird when people don’t wear socks with shoes.
What are three things you can’t live without?
One thing I can’t live without is my laptop. It’s always on my hip because not only am I texting people, but I’m also sending emails and editing music videos and editing mixes, and everything lives on my laptop. So I would say that and…what else? I’m looking around the room to see what I brought with me today. My phone case has a little photo of me and my boyfriend, so I always have that on me. I also say that like, um, my unscented Supergoop sunscreen is really great because I don’t have to worry about like, getting aged by the sun when I go on my runs. Oh, and running shoes, I’ve been starting to go on a lot of runs because I feel like it’s good for anxiety and stuff. It’s been really fun.
What superpower or talent would you like to wake up with tomorrow?
I would like to wake up with the superpower to be… I would say to fly because there are just so many places to go and I would just love to just be able to just get there really fast. If not that I would love the superpower of being organized. I feel like I’m pretty organized but I also feel like I’m not organized. So, I would like that feeling of being organized.
Who would you want to play you in your biopic?
Hmm. Who would be a good actor to play me? You would need two, like you need someone like Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire to play me out of drag and then you would need a drag queen, like Jaida Essence Hall, who could play me in drag…or somebody like that. I would say it has to be two people.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given is that when you hear a no, it’s up to you to turn it into a yes.