Drag sensation Priyanka to host CCMA Awards in London, Ont.
International Drag sensation Priyanka thought she was being pranked when the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards asked her to co-host this year's event in London, Ont.
Her reaction was "Are you joking? What are you talking about?" Priyanka told CTV News London via Zoom this week, worrying that fans wouldn't understand why she was chosen to host.
"But when I realized how musical I am, I have an album that charted this year in Canada and and I'm a musician myself and I'm also a great TV host too, I realized I belong here," says Priyanka.
"We have always thought of country to be more of a closed mindset...so for me, as a gay brown boy that dresses up as a drag queen, to be hosting this award show, it's going to change the world."
The first-ever winner of Canada’s Drag Race in 2020, Priyanka sold out shows all across Canada and broke barriers as the first ever drag queen on the cover of Elle Canada.
Priyanka’s EP “Taste Test” debuted at number five on the iTunes music charts in Canada with two-million streams on the musical endeavour. She also has a full-length album, holiday single and country song on the way.
She'll be arriving in London this weekend ahead of hosting the live CCMA event with country star Lindsay Ell at Budweiser Gardens Monday.
"I honestly cannot put into words the excitement that a lot of Londoners themselves are feeling to hear Priyanka is coming," says Stephen D'Amelio, vice-president of Pride London.
D'Amelio feels representation matters, and has heard from local drag queens who are really excited. D'Amelio is a DJ by trade, and has seen a shift in country music over the past few years.
"Taylor Swift is somebody who embraces the LGBT, Kacey Musgraves is another artist as well," says D'Amelio.
"With artists like Lil Nas X expanding diversity, it's fantastic to see not just the culture and the music itself taking a shift and trying to be a bit more open and inclusive, but also Canadian music has always been at the forefront of that. Seeing this on on a big stage is is really impressive."
Ell was an obvious choice to host the CCMA Awards as the most-nominated female artist in Canada. By choosing Priyanka, the CCMA committee wanted to show that country music is for everyone.
"The country music community extends to creators from all types of backgrounds and we really believe that collaboration generates creativity and that representation matters," says Amy Jeninga, president of the CCMAs.
"When you promote diversity and equality and inclusion, ultimately it benefits all of us. So that definitely was a key piece in our decision. I just think Priyanka is an incredible human being that's going to add a new layer of excitement and creativity and highlight a piece of the community that exists that perhaps is an untold story, and I love it more than has a huge Pride community."
Priyanka says the drag community has always loved country music, but some of the traditional fans have not always loved them back.
"A lot of our big gay icons that we look up to are like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain and Reba (McEntire). I think that for a lot of us that love country music, we didn't think that there was a space for us. Now with me, joining forces with the CCMAs to show the world that country music is a safe space for us, LGBTQ2S+ people, all the worlds are colliding. It's the best of both worlds. I call myself the Hannah Montana of Canada, and I feel like it's coming to fruition."
Ell can't wait to share the stage with Priyanka, who she had never met until the two were paired as co-hosts.
"Music is this incredible force that brings us together as humans on this planet," says Ell, who has five CCMA nominations including female artist of the year.
"I am so proud of the CCMAs for taking a stand, and talking about things that matter. The fact that we have the first drag queen ever to co-host an awards show, I'm honoured to be a part of it."
Ell will take the stage at Rum Runners in London on Friday night, and there is a good chance Priyanka will make a surprise appearance on stage with her.