We have a winner! Icesis Couture is now the next reigning queen from Canada’s Drag Race, and her reign couldn’t be more symbolic–after a season of showcasing her fashion, humor, and heart, Couture is able to give a platform to people who have felt misunderstood, particularly when it comes to mental health.
Couture talked about what it was like to go into the finale with fellow finalists Kendall Gender and Pythia. She said that when it came to her winning lip-sync, her emotions from the week came out.
“Leading up to the finale, we put so much work into it and we were all so exhausted, we were so excited. We were just so also grateful,” she said. “So when we did that song [Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”], I just lip synched it like I wanted to win. Like, I felt like the whole journey on Drag Race came down to that moment and everything that I was feeling came out in my performance.”
She said that her journey on the series started out from a worried perspective, but the competition helped her grow and feel more accepted.
“Going into this, I was really worried. I do drag because it makes me happy and it is my outlet for my art form. So to have somebody judge it on this scale, I was really worried that it would affect me emotionally because I am so sensitive when it comes to my drag because it is so important and it means so much to me,” she said. “And the fact that the judges understood what I was doing, they appreciated all the hard work I put into it, the world has appreciated the drag that I do–it means so much to me. I don’t live my life where I need people’s validation, but the fact that, because drag means so much to me, it is nice to hear that you’re doing a good job and that the things that you’re doing are beautiful and make the world a more beautiful place.”
“I’m nothing that I thought I was,” she continued. “…Like all that pressure and all that stuff that I put on myself, like literally isn’t there. People are just loving me, but I [had] up so many walls that I’m not letting the judges love me, or my sisters love me or I’m not letting myself love myself. So it was very like that. Whether I won the crown or not, the fact that I got all this outlook on myself, then the things that I was able to do with this show, like personally, that meant more to me…Like, I want the money and I liked the crown, but it was just such a big step for me. I feel more like myself and more complete than I ever have in my whole entire life. And that piece of happiness that I constantly always I’m like reaching for and trying to find, I have now found a little bit of it and it means so much to me.”
Part of Couture’s process included helping others throughout the season, such as Makayla, her teen partner in the prom challenge. Viewers saw Couture give Makayla the love and support Couture said she wished she had growing up. Couture said she initially wasn’t going to share her personal history with mental health, but seeing Makayla made her realize her story could help others.
“When I went on the show originally, I’d spoken to people behind the scenes, my story producers, [to make them] fully aware of my situation, but they respected my boundaries and never pressured me into saying anything,” she said. “So when Makayla came on set and I just saw that look in her eyes that I felt when I was younger, you know–I felt like this 20 years ago. So when I saw that in her eyes, I just felt so connected to her that I just needed to tell her that she was okay, because that’s something that I always wanted when I was younger and I never had it from my family. I never had it from the people in charge of school. I never had any of that stuff. So if I’m going to be considered somebody’s mother or I’m going to be in charge of taking care of somebody, I want to make sure that they’re okay first. A;l of this [gesturing to her drag] doesn’t matter if what’s inside isn’t okay first.”
She admitted that even though she’s gotten better at managing her mental health, she still has struggles, but what’s important is knowing how to deal with them when they come up.
“I still continue to deal with these problems. They never go away, even though people like to pretend that they do,” she said. “The only thing that changes is the way that you deal with these situations when they come up. So you’re going to with time, learn how to deal with them so they don’t affect you and figure out other ways to deal with it.”
“…I just don’t like that people who suffer from mental illness or depression or anxiety are always told medication is the only option, or ‘you’re crazy,’ or ‘there’s something wrong with you.’ That’s absolutely not the case,” she continued. “[You feel like] nobody understands you. And it’s a thing where nobody wants to talk about it because this just looks so down upon and it’s made to feel like it’s a shame, like it’s something bad, but that’s my message. It’s okay to not be okay…I was so worried about talking about all of this and just because of those stigmas, but it’s having conversations with people like you and people like Makayla and the rest of the world. People have sent me so many beautiful messages that makes that uncomfortable feeling that I was feeling in the moment not even matter because the outcome is more important than that little feeling that I was feeling at the moment.”
Some of that love also came from the sisterhood she developed with the other contestants.
“I’m definitely like the next person where I love reality TV where it’s all like fighting and all the drama and stuff like that, but at the same time we need a balance. And I think our season definitely was the balance where it was a lot of love,” she said. “It [involved] a lot of difficult conversations, a lot of important conversations, but they just need to be had and brought to the limelight in the forefront…[W]e should be having these conversations and bringing them to the world because that’s what’s most important because literally all of this, like it literally doesn’t matter what matters is that we’re doing things to better the world, and I think our season did a really good job at talking about a lot of difficult things and I’m so proud of my sisters.”
“I’m so glad that everyone received our season so well. And I think being in COVID and filming this during a full-on pandemic lockdown, we all hadn’t seen people and we had a lot of time to sit at home and reflect about what’s actually important in life,” she continued. “So I think that’s what made this season so special is just because it was the first time we got to see people. It was the first time we got to touch people. And after sitting alone for so long and thinking about like, you know, is the most expensive wig that important or is what’s important conversations about pronouns, Black Lives Matter, mental health, physical abuse? Those kinds of things are more important because when we can be together, we need to be United. And I think…our season especially did an amazing job at that.”
When she first came into the competition, friendships were something Couture was nervous about. The nerves even came through in her Meet the Queens video, in which she joked that she wanted to “make a friend.”
“When I said that, my coping mechanism to cope with the mental illness and stuff that I deal with is I like to poke fun at myself. I like to make light of the situation because it is such a heavy topic,” she said. “I’ve never had a lot of friends in my everyday life. I’ve either not had friends or had one friend. And the fact that I left this season with 12 friends that I still talk to that I really loved? I think the fact that all of these people had such diverse backgrounds and everyone was from a different ethnicity and people had different pronouns…was just so important.”
“I just cherish them as people and I’m so happy that I got to meet them,” she continued. “And I usually don’t like people, but I thoroughly enjoyed them so much. And I’m so excited to go on tour with them in January and like reconnect because we all live across Canada. So we don’t get to see each other very much, but we’re constantly in contact and it’s nothing but love between all of us.”
Couture said that her friendship with her fellow Top Three sisters Gender and Pythia got even stronger during the last episode.
“We were all friends to begin with, but once we got to the last episode and it was a long episode, we had to learn how to dance. We have to sing. We worked so many days and so hard to get this episode, even just that last week that we did [as the top four with Gia Metric] to get that [finale] episode together, it really cemented our friendship and our bond last night, all three of us put on an event where the three of us were together,” she said. “We watched the finale together. We had our drag family members open up for us. We had our families in the audience and we have been saying this whole week that we don’t care who wins. None of us would be upset if the other person won because we truly do like each other, every person would have been an amazing winner. We all hugged each other, we were all crying and they were all screaming for me and I was screaming for them. So beautiful. And what you saw on screen is really our relationship.”
All three drag queens have such varied perspectives on drag, and Couture said she loved how much she could learn from Gender and Pythia regarding the artform.
“I’ve been doing drag for 15 years as of this December. So I pride myself as continuously wanting to learn continuously, wanting to evolve in my drag career and never becoming stagnant,” she said. “So as you saw in the show, I like to go back and forth from different types of drag [and diversity]. I support and love everything. So for me being the outsider and, you know, being the weird kid all by myself all the time and being the chubby kid that nobody wants to be friends, when I think somebody like Kendall–when she walked in and I was like, ‘You were [like] the cool kid from school that used to bully me [and] that all I wanted to do with your friends with.’ So when I see somebody like her and who’s so warm and so loving and absolutely nothing like what I wouldn’t presume because of my childhood, I’m just so obsessed with how cool she is, do you know what I mean? Like the fact that [she’s] so cool and a nice person, like, I love that.”
“And then Pythia, she has my absolute heart. She is the leader of the weirdos,’ Couture continued. “She is the one friend that I had in high school that was the other weirdo with me that would sit in the corner and draw pictures or, you know, drink juice [laugh]. Pythia’s like the only friend that I have in school, you know, that’s the type of person that I went to school with and she just her outlook on drag is just like so important. And the both of them, their message for drag is just so important. And to have somebody that’s cool and somebody that’s weird to come with me and with as much love as the other, it was amazing. And I’m so grateful that I got to share top three with the two of them. I wouldn’t have picked anybody else.”
What surprised Couture the most about her time on the show was herself. As she mentioned earlier in the interview, she realized she was much more than who she initially believed herself to be. That realization has made all the difference in her drag and her life.
“Going in [the competition], because I’ve made all my clothes, like I wasn’t worried about the design challenges. I know my way around a glue gun or a sewing machine. I was terrified of the comedy challenges. So like the roast and Snatch Game and the fact that I did decently well in snatch game and very well in the roast surprised me,” she said. “…A lot of people don’t like watching themselves on television, but I watched myself when I got home and through the season, I’m like, I have a personality! I deserve friends–I’m funny, I’m charming, you know what I mean? It was just nice to see myself outside of myself because I’m always up here [gestures to her head]. So to be able to see myself in somebody else’s eyes, it was very awakening.”
She said Drag Race’s pressure cooker atmosphere is the “perfect experience” for people like her because “it literally forces you to do things that you would never be comfortable to do in the real world.”
“If you want your dream so bad, you’re just going to have to do it. And people who suffer from mental illness, sometimes we just need to be pushed to just do things and like go out of our comfort zone whether we like it or not. And then when we do it, we realize we had nothing to worry about in the first place,” she said. “Everything’s fine–nobody is worried about us doing anything. The things that we think people are thinking about us, they’re not paying attention to us. They’re suffering themselves; they’re not worried about us. And I learned that through Drag Race and it was amazing.”
As for the impact Couture wants to make with her platform, she hopes she can keep inspiring people who, like her, have battled with mental illness, as well as others who want to feel compassion and understanding for being different.
“Obviously, I’ve never been on this kind of platform. Like this is all new territory to me and I’m an anxious person to begin with. So having all these eyes and attention on me, like, you know, to be honest, like it makes me nervous sometimes, but I know that people are listening to me now and that people appreciate and want to hear what I have to say,” she said. “So I just want to continue listening to people who messaged me. I’ve gotten so many messages about people with mental health last week. I had a meet and greet and two people who had just come out of the mental ward the night before came to come to see me. I was their first stop to see. And we just had a wonderful conversation about how we’re okay and we got to the other side.”
“I just want to continue spreading that exact message, that it’s okay to not be okay and just spread love. Drag is fun. Drag is supposed to be an escape,” she continued. “And if I can do that escape for somebody like I’m totally down to do…The fact that people see the worth in me and take strength from my story and put it towards their own lives, that just means so much. It’s literally such a full-circle moment from my whole entire life. So it’s been amazing and I’m so grateful.”
The full season of Canada’s Drag Race is streaming on WOW Presents Plus.