It’s Pride month and major events are back after a 2-year hiatus. The city is bustling with parties, DJ sets and performances celebrating LGBTQIA2S+ communities. It’s an exciting time in Toronto, especially for our very own Queen of the North, Brooke Lynn Hytes, who has partnered with Bud Light to launch Bud Light Camp – an LGBTQIA2S+ community and ally-focused adult camp that’s about embracing your most authentic self. We caught up with Hytes, who’s real name is Brock Edward Hayhoe, to get some tea and learn more about how this queen shows her pride.
JESSICA RODRIGUES (J): For those readers who may not know… Can you tell us a little bit about who Brooke Lynn Heights is and how she became the Queen of the North?
BROOKE LYNN HYTES (BLH): Who is Brooke Lynn Hytes? That’s a good question.
I am a Toronto born and raised drag entertainer and I became the Queen of the North, because I made myself the Queen of the North! It was my entrance line on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11. I was the first ever Canadian to compete on the show. Through that, I was asked to host Canada’s Drag Race franchise and I guess that’s how I became the Queen of the North.
J: That leads me into my next question. Since appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2019, you brought Drag Race to Canada, launched TV shows, podcasts, released music and perform live all over the world – now you are partnering with Bud Light Canada this Pride. Can you tell us what drew you to this project and why it is important to you?
BLH: I just thought it was a really fun way to do Pride. Obviously, companies love to do something for Pride, which I think is great, but the idea of doing a summer camp, like a queer summer camp, I thought that was so interesting. And I really, really loved the idea.
Especially because, I mean I can’t speak for other queer folks, but I know like when I went to camp in the summer when I was younger, it was a Christian bible camp, and it was bit of a traumatising experience for me. Just like being a kid who was different and didn’t fit in. It just wasn’t always the greatest experience.
So, to be able to come back to camp as an adult and have it be a queer camp, I was like, “Oh this is amazing!” And I feel like there are a lot of queer kids out there who probably feel the same way about their childhood summer camp experiences. I think this will be really cool to redo some of your childhood, in a way.
J: I know that the Bud Light Camp aims to create an inclusive and fun environment for LGBTQIA2S+ community members and do you also think that drag becoming more mainstream has assisted in making our society more accepting? How do you think Toronto as a whole can be more supportive of the LGBTQIA2S+ community?
BLH: I think drag becoming mainstream has helped in making queer people and the LBGTQIA2S+ community more visible. I also think drag race humanizes drag queens in a way. You don’t just see the queen on stage, you get to see the backstory, the struggles and what it took for them to be able to get to this point in their lives. They become people, instead of just clowns or circus freaks or whatever people think we are! You get to see all the hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears that goes into becoming a drag queen and doing drag and I think that makes people fall in love with us even more.
How can Toronto be more inclusive? I think we need to support our queer spaces. Something I’m seeing in Toronto, which worries me a little bit, is the changing landscape. The village, the gay village in Toronto, has kind of been my hub ever since I was 14. I went to the National Ballet School of Canada as a kid and it’s located right in the gay village. My whole Toronto experience has revolved around that strip. So, I’ve really seen it change. I think it’s so important for any city to have a community and a place where you can go and be gay and be queer. It’s also important to welcome queer people into any space, but I think as LGBTQ1A2S+ people, we need a spot that’s specifically ours, where we can feel safe and can let our hair down. And I feel like that’s slowly going away and I don’t like that. I think a way Toronto can support its queer community is to save queer spaces.
J: You are the official Camp Director of ‘Bud Light Camp’, what can campers expect from the weekend? Will you be performing alongside your director role?
BLH: Yes, I will be! We have opening and closing ceremonies and I believe I’m performing both of those days. My role as Camp Director, well, I’m there to have a good time, to interact with people, to hang out with people and to meet people.
It’s still work for me obviously, but it’s going to be fun so I’m excited to get into the water and help herd people along and I guess, literally direct people too. I am there to facilitate whatever people need me to facilitate and just have a good time.
J: As a trained ballet dancer who serves looks and makes us laugh, what can audience members expect from a Brooke Lynn Hytes show?
BLH: It depends on what I’m feeling like that day, honestly. The older I get, the more I do drag for myself and less for other people, if that makes sense. I don’t necessarily tailor my numbers according to what is current or the coolest top 40 hits. So, yes, there might be some up-beat dancing, but I may even throw in a ballad or maybe some Broadway – I don’t know! It really depends on what I wake up that morning feeling like, but this much I can tell you: they will be entertained.
J: It has been said that drag reveals who you are. Do you believe this and what have you learned about yourself through this art form? Is there a quality that Brooke Lynn Hytes has that perhaps is not as prominent out of drag?
BLH: I have learned to take myself a little less seriously. I think the most important rule of drag for me and what I always tell the queens on the show and what I tell myself is, “Take what you do seriously, but do not take yourself seriously.” That’s what I try to bring into my job. I try to take my drag seriously, but I don’t forget to have a sense of humour about myself and laugh. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to be entertaining.
So yeah, just don’t be afraid to do everything you can do to make yourself the best you can be and once you’ve done that, just let go and have fun.
J: My next question was what advice do you have for young queens, but I feel like that is the advice.
BLH: Yeah! I guess my advice would also be, be professional. What I attribute my success to is that I’m a professional. I may not be the most talented, I don’t think I’m the most beautiful, like I’m not the funniest person, I’m not not those things, but what I am is one of the most professional and I care about what I do, I show up on time, I don’t waste other people’s time and I think I’m easy to work with.
I once had a ballet director who had a saying, ‘a smile is better than talent’. I was like, ‘huh. Okay,” and I mean, it’s kind of true in some ways.
Drag queens are the not the most punctual creatures and they’re not always the easiest to work with so I believe it’s important to be easy to work with, go with the flow, be able to pivot on the dime, and be solution oriented. These are all things that have really helped me in my drag career.
J: This is great advice. On another note, aside from Bud Light, what’s you go-to drink?
BLH: I’m a tequila girl, like if we’re talking spirits, I love a tequila, and I’m weird, I drink it straight.
J: Oh no it’s the best, like a good Clase Azul or something like that?
BLH: Yeah, honestly just like a good glass of tequila and I don’t have a specific brand that I go to. In the winter, I love an old fashioned; that’s my winter cocktail.
J: What do you want people to think of when they hear the name Brooke Lynn Hytes – aside from professionalism.
BLH: Yeah, poise, professionalism, funny, pretty, all of it. The whole package. I want them to think, “Wow, that queen’s the whole package.”
J: You are the whole package! Finally, what are some questions you’re tired of being asked as a drag queen?
BLH: Anything about Miss Vanjie, honestly. I still get asked questions about that and I’m like, “that was literally three years ago.” So anything about Vanjie, I’m kind of like, “Ugh really? Again? Okay”
What else – Oh, “what’s RuPaul really like?” or “Can you tell us any backstage things that happened that we didn’t see?” No, I have an NDA, so not really.
On that note, thats all the tea for today. Shout out to Bud Light for connecting us, and all their great work and support for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Cheers!
Bud Light Camp–This weekend only: June 10-12
Bud Light Camp is a one-weekend experience that will take place in the Toronto area this weekend from Friday, June 10 – Sunday, June 12, 2022, at a third-party camp approximately two hours outside of Toronto. This year, Bud Light is also providing a total of $100,000 to various organizations supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community to further its ongoing support across Canada, including: Vancouver Pride, Calgary Outlink, OUTSaskatoon, Rainbow Resource Centre in Manitoba, Pride Toronto, The Community Centre for Gays and Lesbians of Montreal (CCGLM), Pride Halifax, Pride St. Johns, and Fierté Chaleur Pride. For more information on Bud Light Camp, their regional organization partners and their limited-edition Pride pronoun cans, visit their website.