Get to know Chelazon Leroux as she discusses mental health, queer communities and Indigenous Drag
Chelazon Leroux is a drag artist, comedian and the first Saskatchewan contestant to compete on the reality TV series, Canada’s Drag Race. Leroux, who uses he/she/they pronouns, is from Treaty 10 Territory, Buffalo River Dene Nation, as well as Treaty 8, Fond du Lac First Nation. Currently, they are based in Treaty 6, Saskatchewan. Leroux has been working via Tik Tok for the last three years, where they found success doing Indigenous comedy and content creation with a character persona named Auntie.
Last June, Leroux was invited to USask for an event called Drag Queen Story Time for Adults in the Library in celebration of Pride month. She will be visiting again March 8 from 7 p.m. at Louis’ for a drag performance and Q&A during USask’s annual Indigenous Achievement Week (IAW), which celebrates the contributions and successes of Indigenous students, staff, faculty and alumni. This year’s IAW takes place March 6-10, and alongside Leroux’s visit will host events including a pipe ceremony, beading workshop, lecture and film screenings by Indigenous speakers and directors and will conclude the week with the launch of the College of Engineering’s Indigenous Resource Centre.
Leroux’s work mainly consists of public speaking at universities or local organizations across Canada regarding topics such as mental health, family and Indigenous support services. They bring in their lived experience as a Two-Spirited person into their speaking, and their drag. “I speak about Indigenous experience and traumas and issues [like] mental health and being queer. All these identities and labels that I carry [have] created such unique opportunities [for me].” Leroux talked about loving the work they do, particularly due to the opportunities to directly communicate with their community, its people, and other Indigenous communities across Canada.
When asked about the drag community and presence in Saskatoon, Leroux mentioned that “Every community has its representation. Every community has its experiences. It’s a very biased view, but I believe Saskatoon is one of the most diverse and beautiful drag communities with an amazing variety of talent.” He emphasized the various different backgrounds and identities including people of colour, trans and non-binary drag artists. Leroux highlighted two other Indigenous Two-Spirited drag artists in Saskatchewan – Roxie Roller and Maxim Noize – and brought up how drag performers in Saskatchewan have various different experiences and backgrounds. He described Saskatchewan’s drag scene as a “beautifully balanced mix of performers, and I’m glad we, as Indigenous performers, get to be a part of it with no questions asked, and express ourselves in any way that we feel [is] correct,” despite the small collection of Indigenous performers based in the province.
When asked about what sets her apart from other drag artists, Leroux brought up working with government organizations in terms of messaging and campaigns, specifically mental health campaigns with the Government of Saskatchewan and Health Canada.
One commonly-posed question to BIPOC artists is how their racial identity relates to their art. Leroux framed her response to this around Indigeneity within her drag, but also in a more general sense: “I think for every art, not even just [visual] artists, people draw on their lived experiences to tell a story. That’s just how it is,” she said. “It’s relevant, and it’s real. When I talk about my experience, and what makes it specifically Indigenous, it’s nothing more than me being born Indigenous and having the experiences that I have. Therefore it’s an Indigenous experience.”
Expanding on Leroux’s work as a public speaker, she opened up about the emotional process when bringing in her Two-Spirit, Indigenous identity into mental health spaces and Indigenous support communities. Leroux highlighted how being vulnerable — especially as a Two-Spirit Indigenous person — was difficult, and talked about how she had to make sure she knew she was “healed enough to talk about these things.” Leroux mentioned the importance of speaking about these sensitive and difficult topics because people of various backgrounds can, and often do, relate to her personal experience.
Reflecting on his visit to USask last June, Leroux talked about inconsistent work opportunities he had been facing in the past year. “In this line of work, nothing is ever guaranteed, and sometimes you don’t even know what you’re doing the next month until a week before the next month,” he said. “A lot of things were changing. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was in this huge transformation process. I was going through so much change, and I think I was a little more unsure of myself.” This year, Leroux looks forward to showing his progress as an artist, public speaker, storyteller and sharing “so many stupid moments that have happened.”
Leroux said students should attend their upcoming event at USask “if you’re a fan of Chelazon Leroux, if you want to learn more about Indigeneity, if you want to learn more about what Two-Spirit identity is, or get connected.” Students should also attend if they are interested in having the opportunity to be around people who are of similar mindsets and potentially similar experiences, and simply “have a fun time together.” Throughout the multiple events Leroux has been a part of, they mentioned that many people have opened up to her during performances and other events about reconnecting with their Indigenous identity, especially if it may have been lost to them.
Regarding her upcoming event, Leroux mentioned “It’s a good place to come and find yourself, a community, and humor,” Leroux said. ”I know you’re studying hard. I know you’re probably dying, and haven’t slept the last three days because you have to finish a paper. I get it, but you also deserve a break.” Leroux highlighted an important aspect of drag that allows people, both performers and audience members alike, to momentarily forget about the reality of life while tackling important issues in an entertaining way. When asked if they had any last thoughts on the event, Leroux said, “I think it’s gonna be a beautiful event. I’m very excited to be there.” Then Leroux went on their way, leaving us with, “Stay deadly.”