Catch her in The Phi Centre’s upcoming Hysteria. She’ll put on a show you’ll want to drag everyone to!
It’s not every day you meet a performer who can light up a stage quite like Billy L’Amour. The Montreal-based drag queen extraordinaire boasts an impressive resumé—she is a former ballerina for Les Ballets Grandiva, an all-male drag/ballet hybrid, a soloist for the Paris Opera and La La La Human Steps—and with a string of upcoming shows and an impending move to California, it won’t be long before everyone knows her name.
Before there was Billy L’Amour, there was just William, a boy from South Florida with a passion for dance who knew he needed more than what his hometown offered. So 16-year-old William moved to New York and pursued his dream of dance at the School of American Ballet—one of the most internationally renowned classical ballet schools—but soon discovered a whole new world just waiting for him to explore.
“Dance was always my passion in life, it’s what I was dedicated to, but New York offered such a smorgasbord of fabulous,” said L’Amour. “For a little art kid from a somewhat conservative family in South Florida, it was a dream come true to be hanging out with Amanda Lepore and all these club kids, and Patricia Field … I realized right away that I wasn’t going to be this classical ballet dancer. I didn’t want to be a prince. I wanted to be the princess.”
The little boy who used to play with his mother’s makeup felt right at home with these colourful artists, and immediately joined in. “When I moved to New York, that’s when I started going out in drag, creating a look,” L’Amour said. “Then people started hiring me to show up at their club parties and just be a fabulous creature of the night.”
Just like that, the queen known as Billy L’Amour was born.
L’Amour has since become a fixture on the Montreal burlesque scene, performing regularly at The Wiggle Room. Now she’s debuting her very own “one wo-man” show, Gentlemen Prefer Billy, at this year’s Montreal Burlesque Festival. The show—which L’Amour says is “a dream come true”—features a full jazz band, and will take place at The Wiggle Room with shows on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18 (the latter features a special appearance by Scarlett James, the festival’s producer). L’Amour will be performing jazz renditions of hit songs from artists like Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Whitney Houston, and she says there will be “lots of singin’, dancin’, and strippin’. And Billy L’Amour’s trademark ass and sass!”
Not only is she busy putting the finishing touches on Gentlemen Prefer Billy, but she’s also collaborating with The Phi Centre for Hysteria, an “immersive theatrical experience,” this Halloween. L’Amour will be the “Mistress of Madness,” taking the audience on a journey through an asylum during a night filled with aerial and burlesque performers, puppetry and more. “The audience will be interacting with the performers,” said L’Amour. “And they will be forced to engage in the storyline.”
Those shows, along with a Christmas spectacular—which L’Amour is keeping tight-lipped about—are leading up to her big move to Los Angeles in 2016. There’s one thing that some local drag queens try to avoid: the obvious RuPaul’s Drag Race question. L’Amour, however, excitedly admits that she’d love to be on the show, so that’s exactly what she’s preparing for.
“That’s the goal,” she said. “You have to have something that people want, and I think people want talent and to be entertained, and so that’s what we do.”
As drag becomes more mainstream, it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves—in large part due to the massive success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. However, as this artform had been misunderstood for years, some people have started to become too critical of it, stripping away its fun essence. L’Amour doesn’t let that get in her way, because one of the things she loves most about the art of drag is that it “doesn’t take life too seriously.”
“Drag is just an explosion of whatever your little heart desires … Let’s have fun with it,” said L’Amour.