Getting to Know Ruby Chopstix

DAIR Artist Spotlight Ruby Chopstix

With the announcement of our Drag Artist In Residence at the upcoming Showcase, we're taking a moment to highlight the winner, Ruby Chopstix.

Meet Ruby Chopstix!

Q: Can you introduce me to your drag persona?

A: Ruby Chopstix is the Asian Pop Princess of Winnipeg. I've embraced this persona as a celebration of my love for pop music, vibrant colours, and my innate sense of feeling like a princess. Ruby serves as a representation of my Vietnamese heritage, drawing inspiration from pop stars and acting as a love letter to the younger queer version of myself. In essence, she aims to resonate with all queer Asians who might not see themselves often represented in mainstream media. Ruby is a lively character—dancing, injecting humor, and evolving into a more whimsical and carefree personality over time. She's a bit cuckoo bananas, but that's all part of the fun!

Q: Tell us about your first Drag Experience? What inspire you to get involved in the Drag Scene?

A: My first taste of drag came about when Jolene Ground Beef and I teamed up for a school project. We made a video documentary about Drag and got to interview the fabulous Joan Costalotsa. She saw something in me and encouraged me to dive into the world of drag. Joan was a big deal in our community and deeply loved, her passing was a real loss for all of us.

A few months later, Lita Tequilla took me under her wing, putting me in drag for the first time. My inaugural performance took place in the basement of our university. To really cement my place in the drag scene, I signed up for the Prairie Theatre Exchange drag workshop program. Let me just say, it was a game-changer. Joan's words and all these incredible experiences have shaped my journey in this vibrant and diverse community. Drag has become a part of who I am, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Q: What does your drag persona mean to you? How does Ruby connect to your day-to-day life?

A: Initially, Ruby was an outlet—a manifestation of the performer I aspired to be, dancing on stage under the lights, evoking awe and excitement from the audience. She felt like a distinct entity, separate from my everyday self. However, as I've grown, and now that my family now knows me as a drag artist—Ruby has evolved into a refined version of myself. The distinction between Alex and Ruby has blurred, and they've become a harmonious amalgamation. Now, there's no need for differentiation; we're a cohesive whole. My mindset shifted from "I thought I could be this, but I don't know if I can" to "I am this; I have always been this." Ruby has seamlessly fused with me, and the lines between the two have beautifully blurred over time.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a drag artist that you've overcome?

One of the significant challenges I've navigated over the past five years is the realization of tokenization. In the early years, I didn't pay much attention—I was performing, having fun, and not too bothered. However, as I matured and accumulated more shows, it dawned on me that as a person of colour I had become the checkbox for certain spaces, merely there to fulfill a diversity requirement.

The challenge was recognizing that I was being taken advantage of, knowingly or unknowingly, and that this tokenization was not only damaging but also hurtful. Overcoming this required a shift in mindset, acknowledging the situation, and having the courage to disengage from harmful spaces.

Initially, I felt defensive when people criticized tokenization, interpreting it as an attack. However, I gradually realized that these conversations were a form of protection from those who cared about me, preventing me from getting caught up in potentially harmful situations. It was a journey from feeling unimportant and unappreciated to understanding the depth of love and support I have from my community.

While discussing this openly was challenging in the past, I've reached a point where I can address it confidently. Last year, it might have been a deep and painful wound, but now I'm in a place where I can speak up, fight against tokenization, and call out those who perpetuate it. It's a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that I've been fortunate to embark upon.

Q: Can you share your most memorable or your favorite performance you've done?

A: Without a doubt, my most memorable performance happened last year at Transcendent. I chose to perform "Dynasty" by Rina Sawayama, and it marked a significant moment for me. It was the first time I wore my Ao dà, a traditional Vietnamese long dress, with a touch of extra flair in a wedding style.

This performance became a deeply personal and therapeutic experience. "Dynasty" explores the theme of living up to family expectations, delving into the pains associated with that journey. Wearing the Ao dà allowed me to proudly showcase my Asian heritage while the song's narrative resonated with my own struggle to break free from the expectations imposed by generations before me. It was a beautiful and transformative moment, symbolizing my journey of self-discovery and embracing the person I have become.

Q: Why is Drag so integral to Queer & Trans culture?

Drag has always held a significant place, especially in the queer and trans communities. It serves as a powerful means of expressing gender, allowing individuals to navigate and embrace their true selves. This exploration is integral as it enables a deep understanding of one's identity and personal journey.

Drag, beyond being an art form, is a profound way to showcase who you are and who you aspire to be. It provides a platform to manifest and share this exploration. The beauty lies in its personal nature—it's not about external validation but about authenticity to oneself. Drag offers a means to express and celebrate one's gender identity, irrespective of societal expectations. In essence, drag becomes a dynamic form of self-expression and empowerment for the queer and trans communities, allowing individuals to showcase their truest selves unapologetically.

Learn more about our finalists, Dirt and Deb from Winnipeg.