Before Covid-19 brought live entertainment to a screeching halt in 2020, Baby Bel Bel had a jam-packed schedule that included a regular Thursday night gig at Toronto’s Crews and Tangos. As one of the city’s most popular drag queens, she was in demand morning, noon and night, seven days a week. But the sudden closures didn’t keep this queen down for long: like many city-dwelling millennials and Gen Zers looking to save some cash, Bel Bel moved back home with her parents for a brief stint and resorted to Zoom to work remotely.
I was watching thousands of dollars being taken away from me.
“I moved home to Pickering [Ont.] for a few months because I didn’t have any income at all once the bars shut down,” she recalls. “This was even before we knew that we’d be in this for the long run. I remember getting a bunch of emails one week that said everything shut down. This job is cancelled, and that job was cancelled. I was watching thousands of dollars being taken away from me.”
But in times of uncertainty, there’s no place like home and, for Bel Bel, she’s grateful for her supportive parents. “My mom has come to my drag shows,” she laughs. “She knows all my drag queen friends and has them on Facebook.” But it was while raiding her parents’ snack cupboard during the height of the pandemic that Bel Bel had a lightbulb moment. Why not recreate her Thursday night shows at Crews and Tangos virtually?
“I did it live on Instagram every week,” she says. “For the fun of it, one night I put my mom in drag and the audience just ate that up. It had so many likes and comments. So I was like, ‘OK, we have to do this again.'”
As the weeks went by and her online audience grew, Bel Bel dolled her mom up as Lady Gaga, Ginger Spice, Britney Spears and, in one fun twist, Elton John. “We were actually featured in the Toronto Star and on CP24,” she recalls. “We were getting interviews left, right and centre.”
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All this success culminated in the opportunity to exhibit her makeup skills on Queens of Cosplay, a new four-episode Showcase online series where Bel Bel and Canada’s Drag Race alum Kyne demonstrate their hair, makeup and costuming talents to create two unique characters each — an original superhero and supervillain.
We recently chatted with Bel Bel about her stint on the Showcase series, her career and what she thinks makes a good drag queen great.
So, who is Baby Bel Bel?
Just as he was in the early stages of crafting his drag alter ego, Jordan Timmons worked for MAC Cosmetics for roughly three years. An experienced makeup artist, Timmons gradually started to become entwined with Toronto’s drag community — dabbling in the odd performance here and there, gradually gaining traction across the city before ultimately being crowned Miss Crews and Tangos 2019.
I think Baby Bel Bel is like Jordan, x 100. It’s cranking up your personality.
When asked to describe Bel Bel in one sentence, she says, “She’s positive, outgoing and dances around like a chicken with her head cut off.” Search any video of Bel Bel on YouTube and you’ll see evidence of all this: she’s high-energy, bubbly and knows how to keep the party going. “I think Baby Bel Bel is like Jordan, x 100. It’s cranking up your personality because you’re wearing heels and two wigs stacked on top of your head.”
As for drag essentials, Bel Bel isn’t going anywhere without her lashes and wigs. “When I put [them on] it’s the moment I become Baby Bel Bel. I like teased out hair and big, fluffy lashes. As soon as I take those lashes off, I’m not a drag queen anymore,” she laughs.
This queen loves her cosplay
Since Queens of Cosplay took place in the midst of pandemic lockdowns, Bel Bel had to shoot it herself within the four walls of her tiny Toronto bachelor apartment. “I had to make my bedroom [area] basically look like a studio,” she says, laughing. “I brought my rolling racks and set up all my kind of costumes on it. I had my makeup desk and crafting table with my glue gun and sewing machine. I made myself a little studio.”
For the challenge, Bel Bel, who also happens to be an avid cosplayer, was tasked with creating an original hero and an original villain, complete with sketches and character backstories. The hero, to hear Bel Bel describe her, is a cross between Lady Gaga and Marvel’s Emma Frost. “Her name is Lady Frostbite. She’s very Queen of the North,” Bel Bel says. As for the villain? “Madame de Monique,” Bel Bel laughs. “She’s kind of the evil twin sister [of Lady Frostbite].”
When asked to break down the differences between drag and cosplay, Bel Bel is quick to answer. “Drag is more linked to the LGBTQ+ [community] and is probably a bit more dramatic with the makeup and wigs,” she says. “But in general they’re very similar.”
On what makes a good drag queen great
For Bel Bel, after nearly a decade performing live and watching fellow queens strut their stuff, it all comes down to one thing: stage presence. “It’s the fire behind the eyes,” she says. “If [they’re] onstage and truly believe they’re living their best Britney Spears fantasy and are really connected? Then you know that performer is in their own world [and] you can’t take your eyes off of them.”
She adds, “You can tell within seconds of them coming onstage. Drag can make you feel confident because it’s kind of like a mask where you’re a new person or a new identity, right? The stage presence, though, is where you can say, ‘OK, that person can definitely make a living doing drag.”
Before getting off the phone with one another, I ask Bel Bel what song she would lip sync to if the world were to end tomorrow and she had one last chance to give a once-in-a-lifetime performance — complete with the aforementioned fire behind the eyes. Considering she’s a devoted Lady Gaga fan, I had an inkling as to where her answer would land.
“That’s an easy one because I usually do it to end my shows,” Bel Bel says with a laugh. “It’s [Lady Gaga’s] ‘The Edge of Glory.'”
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