Okanagan's oldest drag queen offers insight into ageism in LGBTQ+ community | Kelowna News | iNFOnews

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Okanagan's oldest drag queen offers insight into ageism in LGBTQ+ community

Robert Verigin will be performing as drag queen Sophonda Dick this weekend.
Image Credit: Photo: Jillian Karpick / Makeup: Tyson Cook
September 25, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Robert Verigin, also known by his drag queen alias Sophonda Dick, has been endearingly named the Okanagan’s oldest drag queen.

He’ll be performing, but not competing, at Kelowna’s Next Drag Queen Superstar Finale, Sept. 26 as part of Pride Week. The event will have limited patrons, due to COVID-19.

Other queens refer to him as “grandma.”

“I feel very lucky because ageism is really bad in our community and to have these young people accept me as part of the group makes me feel really good,” Verigin said. "In the gay male population, there’s unrealistic expectations. You have to be pretty, buff, young and most people don’t look like that."

The 68-year-old has been performing as a drag queen on and off throughout his life, originally dressing up in drag to sneak into a Seattle bar in the late 1960s when he was underage. He said at that time, the drag queen scene was underground.

The trick worked and opened a new avenue of ways to get into bars, and also opened up a lifelong itch to perform in drag.

READ MORE: Kelowna Pride week to be celebrated in safe, inclusive manner

Anita Man was his first drag alias before the character was killed off in the 1990s when murder mystery parties were popular.

A friend helped him create Sophona Dick.

He said Sophona Dick is his polar opposite. While Verigin himself is more of loner, he said Sophona Dick is “a crazy old bitch.”

“She’s very outgoing, that’s what she is. She’s a little bit on the slutty side, which I’m not," he said.

He's proud of being an older drag queen, considering how he's lived through hardships like the 1980s AIDS crisis.

He described performing as a craving like coffee.

"It’s something that once in a while I have to do because then I feel like I can go out and be crazy and be someone I’m not," Verigin said.

READ MORE: Canada's drag queens on staying fierce after COVID-19 sidelined a big year

Drag is a form of expression, Verigin said. The performances he loves, dressing up, not so much.

“I become a different person. Robert is not there anymore, this other person comes out. I love the stage part. It’s like I’m on a high,” he said.

Being from the LGBTQ+ community, and from an older generation, means that drag to him is a sign of rebellion, being able to express a part of yourself that wasn’t always accepted.

”It’s almost like freedom,” he said.

Seeing the younger generation  at pride vents being able to express themselves is always a positive experience for Verigin.

“Back then you didn’t even say the word gay. Now I watch these young people get out there and do their thing (with drag)… and it makes me feel really really good,” Verigin said.

The Okanagan’s oldest drag queen also loves the title.

“I’ll keep doing it as long as I can stand up. I’ll use a wheelchair and a walker if I have to.”

For more about Kelowna Pride Week and Festival go to the website here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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