I would like to start by saying this world of interviewing is still quite new to me, and as a predominantly fiction and comedy scriptwriter, I wasn’t sure thinking of the right questions to ask in order to bring a story together would be very easy, let alone enjoyable. I’m glad I bit the proverbial bullet.
After conducting my first interviews with renowned Canadian singer, Michelle Treacy, and three prominent Drag Kings (Manny Dingo, Alexandher Brandy, and Clynt Lycker) in Toronto last year, I’m happy to say I’ll be bringing you yet another story about a fabulous Canadian entertainer…
So without further adieu, my third spotlight interview for #MOJOZINE is with someone that needs no introduction, someone I consider to be family: the one and only Scarlett BoBo (aka Matthew Cameron).
I met Matty about eight years ago, working on a play, where they told me they were “not a dancer” while having to learn some new choreography. Now, fast-forward to this past summer’s Canada’s Drag Race finale (where Scarlett competed in the Top 3 and quite literally mopped the floor with an unforgettable performance including stunts), and that statement proves to be quite comical, no?
Well, suffice to say, Scarlett BoBo was a great dancer back then and has been ever since! No exaggeration. I have personally witnessed her tenacity and the incredible drive it took for her to reach these unbelievable new heights in her career, and I can tell you first-hand, Scarlett BoBo has no intention of slowing down.
I asked Scarlett to take me back to the day she found out she was casted on the debut season of Canada’s Drag Race, the day all of her blood, sweat, and tears were acknowledged by an entity she looks up to.
“They asked me to get on a zoom call”, BoBo explained, “and I cried and cried and cried. It was the best day of my life and changed the course of my career!”
Attaining what one works so hard for in their career is euphoric, but no-one could predict the climate of 2020, which would ultimately lead to the careers and livelihoods of performers around the world in question.
In the summer of 2020, after Canada’s Drag Race finished airing amidst a global pandemic, the usual tours and packed venues of screaming people came to a complete halt. It was not a normal year, and the Queens of the debut season of the show had to learn to navigate their newfound fame and success within the reality of venues being closed down; entertainers predominantly switched to online platforms.
“It’s been really difficult,” says BoBo. “I’m not an online person and don’t like having to do things virtually. If you’ve been to any of my shows, I love talking to my fans, my friends and family in person. There’s no connection when it’s online, no depth, and nothing I can see, hear, touch, and so on. I can’t run into a bar late, throw my suitcase in the back and grab the mic as if I’ve been there the whole time,” she jokes.
Overcoming obstacles is nothing new for Scarlett, so she’s turned her attention to utilizing these other facets, which has helped keep her head up during these otherwise depressing times. “I’ve been working on writing a book, working on my music, and just trying to maneuver myself in this new world of shows,” BoBo says.
Most people know Scarlett by seeing her on stage or television, so I was intrigued to differentiate the versions of BoBo – who is Scarlett BoBo when she enters the studio to record a new track?
“It’s definitely a change for me when I put on my singer-wig,” BoBo says of her persona when writing and recording music. “I try to put on my best Quanah Style“, she says of her fellow Vancouver-based performer, recording artist, and friend, whose latest self-titled record was just listed as one of “The 10 Best Dance Albums of 2020,” recommended by the staff of Billboard.com.
BoBo emphasizes, “It’s not just being on stage, it’s writing things that can be personal and that aren’t only relatable to myself but to people listening to my music.”
Some drag artists might find the process of performing their own original songs on stage daunting in comparison to performing other artists’ music when lip-syncing, but BoBo finds it liberating: “It’s very freeing to say this is my song,” she says. “I’m producing it but it’s also hard because people know me to perform P!nk or Jessie J, but every time I choose to perform my own songs, people ask why I don’t more often.”
I also had the pleasure of working with BoBo on the very first music video she shot here in Toronto called “Still Fucking Going,” featuring the fierce and fabulous Allysin Chaynes. Seeing the growth and difference in sound from her old music to her new track has been a wild ride.
“The first album was a fun project,” BoBo says of her debut album. “ I wrote ‘Still Fucking Going’ with Allysin Chaynes, and Matt Silver produced it. We recorded the song in his bedroom. That became a hit, so we decided to write a whole album which took about a year…we got that album out, it was a bunch of silly music that was a lot of fun, and ‘Break My Heart’ got awarded Best Drag Song in 2015 by the www.werrrrk.com awards!”
Entering the current BoBo music era with hits like “Drop The Money” and “CEO” (which were both featured in the Slay Tees Canada Halloween 2020 Fashion Video), Scarlett goes on to explain, “this music now is a completely different sound, more house beats and dance-y, where the first album was more heavy and rock. I wanted to do a different sound and hopefully by my third album, I wish to put the two sounds together, like a house/rock-pop album, if that’s a genre out there…if not, maybe I’ll make a genre,” she says laughing.
When the music stops and the performances finish, celebrities go through an abundance of struggles and scandals that sometimes we hear about, sometimes not. But having now gone through it herself, it was impressive and inspiring to see how BoBo handled a recent invasion of privacy when anonymous strangers tried to release her private nude photos and sell them on the internet.
I asked if BoBo would speak on the subject after confronting her own situation with such bravery. Perhaps someone else out there could be going through something similar and potentially gain some comfort by seeing another individual in the spotlight come out of it – not just on the other side, but on top!
“It was weird,” BoBo starts. “Beforehand, it was ‘Oh, haha! This might happen to me one day and I’ll just shake it off,’ but then once it did happen, it was a completely different feeling. I felt taken advantage of, and that my privacy was invaded.”
BoBo took a break from social media after learning someone was trying to sell her nude photos, and she took the time to focus on herself, using the situation to come back stronger than ever by releasing her own version of the “F*ck You! My body, My nudes” photoshoot shot by Fernando from The Drag Series.
Fernando also took the majority of Scarlett’s Drag Race photos, and if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s their strength and power: “I responded with art, which is what I do. I did a really big photoshoot on it and tried to raise awareness about online sexual harassment. I ended up talking to the people that did it and they were total assholes about it. But honestly, to anybody else, I would say that we all have body parts that we like to show off in a sexual manner and that’s okay! We are sexual people. I love being sexual. I have lots of sex with my fiancé and I shouldn’t be ashamed of that nor have to hide that.” Scarlett concludes the topic, saying, “It was a good learning experience…be careful who you send your nudes to!”
Just then, in the midst of this phone interview, Scarlett got distracted by a book she rediscovered. I hear her say, “Oh my God, oh my God, I thought I lost this!” I couldn’t help but ask, and in doing so, I’ve decided to instate “BoBo’s Book Club!” On today’s list, The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs, PHD.
Scarlett describes it as “a queer book about growing up gay in a straight man’s world.” She continues, “There’s a lot of context in here that would connect to any queer life and I read it once a year. Every time I read it, I connect to a different part of the book, for example, from when someone first comes out to the middle of their queer life.” If you’re a BoBosexual, there’s your first book to read of 2021!
Speaking of the BoBosexuals (Scarlett’s ride or die fanbase), I used to see them at Scarlett’s gigs, in the front row during the performances or hanging around after the show. They’ve been doing this even before BoBo made it onto Canada’s Drag Race, and I’ve always been so impressed with the unconditional love and support they have for their favourite performer.
“I had fans from all over before Drag Race. I remember Envy Peru [the first-ever winner of Drag Race Holland] came up to me one time and said she was a big fan when she first started doing drag, and I was like, ‘Oh my god! You’re gorgeous!’ I was obsessed with her and then I got on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race and she won Drag Race Holland! From getting BoBo tattoos to creating the coolest fan videos and all the social media support, my fans are wild and crazy, the exact fans I would always want to have!” BoBo says affectionately.
“I wanted to always feel like I belonged and I mattered and took up space in the world,” BoBo finishes. “Doing drag made that possible for me, so to hear that my drag can do that for other people…I think that’s super cool!”