As one of Ottawa’s most notorious and well-respected drag queens, she is at the top of the pecking order. More than donning the dress, wig, makeup, curvaceous enhancements, and usual lip synching numbers, she addresses the audience with her stand-up, larger-than-life performance of straight-shooting, potty-mouthed material that is terribly and deliciously wild as it is witty.
In one of the most delightful interviews I’ve ever done, Walter Murray, aka Bella Straight, brings me into the world of the fearless drag queen, where the liberating power of womanhood is glorified and speaks loudly.
“We so admire the female. We think that if you all got together, you’d rule the world and things would be so much better. Really, I just want to be one of you… I want to be a wonder warrior. But back in the day, I also liked to put on a pair of hockey skates and go play a game of hockey too. Then I like to put on a pair of high heels and look gorgeous… and go get a hockey player if I wanted to (laughs). Let us be proud of who we are… it doesn’t matter who you are, just be proud of WHO you are! If we were all the same, it would be so boring.”
Walter Murray blames it on Barbie when it comes to how he got started in the world of women’s fashion. Not only does he doll himself up in the glitz and glamour, but he designs, creates, and sews all of his own stage wear, as well as for his many clients. Inside his sewing room is the hub of where it all happens: where dozens of his beautiful gowns, long flowing jackets, and wigs adorn the walls, bins of fabric and thread are stacked to the ceiling, and in the center of it all, his sewing machine. I asked Walter how he got started as a drag queen:
“Someone dared me at a house party to do drag. That was about 35 years ago. I saw myself and I said, “Hello, gorgeous!” I went from a chunky fat boy to a chunky beautiful lady. The first time I did it, I wore a corset, which was given to me by the girls in my dressmaking class… so that’s also how long I’ve been wearing a corset. Now I make my own.”
Let us be proud of who we are… it doesn’t matter who you are, just be proud of WHO you are!
This will mark Bella Straight’s third year at Westfest. The half hour slot will include a group number with drag queen guests Kiki Coe and Aimee Yonce Shennel who will bring their dynamic funk and moves to the stage. Bella Straight herself will perform what she calls her classic, “stand on the stage and look pretty… and shoot my mouth off” repertoire, which always comes off the top of her head and the tip of her tongue.
“I go by the crowd… I never write my stuff down. I like the gowns, glitz, and glamour… that’s my thing. And I like raunchy talk. I may look like a diva, but I got a mouth like a trucker. That’s what my father said when he saw me in drag. It’s play. You go out of your head and into your happy place.”
Bella Straight’s House of Illusion will take place on the Thom Fountain Team Stage on Sunday June 10 from 8-8:30pm. Westfest celebrates their 15th Anniversary from Friday June 8 to Sunday June 10 at Tom Brown Arena and Park, located at 141 Bayview Road. Westfest is a free and inclusive music/arts festival. For more information, please visit www.westfest.ca