Drags paid $25 a song for over 30 years

Bar pulls are paid about $100 for four songs over three decades. A ridiculously low fee according to many artists, who invest large sums of money in the production of their costumes and their figures.

Published at 8:00 am.

Samuel LaRochelle

Samuel LaRochelle
Special cooperation

In 17 years of career, Barbada says the wages have not decreased at all. “At first, I was paid $25 a song at Cabaret Maddo on the weekends. $150 for four songs today. My salary has gone up, but the starting pull up there is $125. Cocktails cost $100. »

Given the low wages, Isis Baga confirms that Quebec invests more than other places. “In America and elsewhere in Canada, drag has a lot of references, which is rare in Quebec. However, they change clothes much less than here. »

The popularity of drag shows on television has also raised public expectations. “We want to stand out, but if you wear a $500 dress, it takes a long time to pay back,” Wendy Warhol reveals.

No one is forcing you to invest so much. But just because the competition is high, a $25 look doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll stand out.

Wendy Warhol

Fees are a far cry from Union des Artistes standards, which require a minimum of $150 per performance. “Bars play a role in risk, advancing RV metal. Because I have a production box, I understand the problems. They don’t want to spend money to prepare an evening. »

Yet the drag king decries the role of investing in “volunteer” early in his career. “There is an unwritten law that you have to participate in a competition that lasts for weeks without pay to be part of the community. »

What do employers say?

“The fees have always been small,” says Michael Dorian, co-owner of Le Cocktail Bar. “I’ve been pulling for 34 years, and in that time I was making $100 for four songs. »

Photo by Edward Plant-Freshette, La Presse Archives

Michelle Dorian is the co-owner of Le Cocktail Bar and she’s a drag queen

He recalled that his company had long offered free programs five evenings a week. “We get flush at the end of the year,” he said. For a few years, the entrance fee helped him, but only halfway.

It should be greatly increased [les frais d’entrée] A fee should be offered to cover artists’ expenses, but I don’t think bars can keep up with the same frequency of shows.

Michael Dorian

As Cabaret Maddoe raises its fees, Michael Dorrian is considering a pay rise. “There is not enough pay for the loss, Mado Lamotte argues for his role. Recently I raised the salary a little. And in the past we raised the entrance fee. »

A la carte expenses

If fees are questionable, so are costs. Indeed, a dragster who works five nights a week can turn his garments profitably and prefers to change his pace every time, unlike a colleague who works once a month. “It is more profitable for those who work almost daily,” underlines Mado Lamotte.

On the other hand, if a trawler invests a huge amount, the return on investment is very uncertain. “If a drag girl spends $2,000 on a dress just to look good, she’s paying to come to work,” explains Mato.

RV Metal is a reminder that time is worth money. “When you make your costume, it costs materials and it takes hours of work. It’s hard to live with. It’s not for nothing that most drags have other jobs. »

So why continue?

To learn, tell the interviewers. “Traction can be created in an environment on a regular basis,” answers Michael Dorian. Others talk about a business card. “You can’t make bars for money,” says Wendy Warhol. This is one way of looking at it. It gives us opportunities elsewhere. »

Aizysse Baga agrees. “Working in clubs allows you to stay in the game. I have no choice but to play in bars. This is where people often look to offer me other contracts. “She takes advantage of orders outside clubs to earn a decent wage. “I was taught not to charge less than $100 per issue in this environment. »

Leave the bars

There is general agreement that private contracts can pay handsomely. “That’s why there were some drags involved RuPaul’s Drag Race Barbadah says stop shows in bars. $1,000 deal instead of 10 nights at clubs. »

Although she no longer performs with them, she has not abandoned them. “Here we show. I can’t tell people to come see me on Jean and Luke’s wedding show, which I’m hosting. »

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