Canada’s Drag Race star Ilona Verley on being the first Indigenous two-spirit queen to bring it to the runway

Ilona Verley wearing pastel blue from wig to toe

Canada’s Drag Race said goodbye to Ilona Verley after an unforgettable – if one-note – pageant performance, but the Indigenous two-spirit queen refuses to feel downhearted.

Judging controversy aside, Canada’s Drag Race has come into its own in recent weeks, finding its footing with a series of stellar challenges which have put the queens through their paces.

This week, the top six became pageant queens competing for the title of Miss Loose Jaw.

Billed as a Drag Race first (though the season nine premiere would like to have a word about that), it was the sort of challenge that shakes up the scorecards, with some queens rising to the top while others flounder.

For the second week running (and third time in total), Ilona Verley found herself in the bottom two, and after lip-syncing to “Hello” by Allie X (in front of Allie X), was asked to sashay away.

Despite tumbling out of the competition with just three weeks to go, Ilona said that as an Indigenous two-spirit queen, competing on Drag Race was the “ultimate validation”.

“I often feel lesser than or not good enough, and having the stamp of approval from Drag Race really woke me up to the fact I am good enough and I am on the right path,” she explained.

“To be able to now have a platform to inspire others in the way many Drag Race girls before me have inspired myself means the world to me.”

Ilona in a bathing suit with a 'Miss Erable' sash

Ilona’s pageant performance was deemed too one-note. (BBC)

Ilona hopes that her time on the show helps other Indigenous queer people “feel seen”.

“Even if they don’t connect with me I hope they can be inspired to know they can make it in mainstream media and just be themselves for whoever they are and not ever have to feel like they need to present a certain way to break through to a large audience.”

Being two-spirit, Ilona says that drag is about more than just performing.

“It’s how I express my gender and the way I feel on the inside, and is what has really connected me to the female energy I have inside of me.”

The 25-year-old also gave an insight into the origins of her pastel-hued persona.

“I am named after a very fierce elderly lady I worked with at a fabric store.

“Everyday she would come into work with her hair done and a full face of makeup on. She inspired me so much with all her stories of being a burlesque dancer back in the day, I knew I wanted to be named after her when I started doing drag. And as for Verley that is just my legal last name.”