"Canada's Drag Race" winner Priyanka has come a long way in her career, and she's not slowing down any time soon.
The 31-year-old is one of this year's musical acts taking part in the SXSW Festival in partnership with Dr. Martens, and she sat down with Yahoo Canada to talk all things confidence, embracing her Indo-Caribbean roots — and rising above the haters.
From YTV to 'Canada's Drag Race '
While many Canadians recognize Priyanka as the winner of Season 1 of "Canada's Drag Race," she wasn't a newcomer to the Canadian entertainment industry. Before becoming a household name in drag, the star was also a host on the popular children's entertainment network YTV.
It's a time that she hasn't forgotten, as the performer and musician recently went viral for sharing a sweet red carpet moment. On Monday, Priyanka reunited with fellow former-YTV host Carlos Bustamante at the 2023 Juno Awards, and later posted a clip from the "YTV reunion" on social media.
"It’s wild. It’s really cool, and it’s also nice to still be able to appreciate the past," Priyanka told Yahoo Canada of the viral moment.
"Everybody that I meet, especially in Canada, they’ll be like, ‘Oh I grew up watching you, and then I watched you on 'Drag Race,' and now I listen to your music.’ It’s like they’re on this lifelong journey with me and it’s so special."
'We’re breaking down barriers'
Priyanka, who was born Mark Suknanan, also reflected on the challenges that she has faced, particularly as a drag queen representing her Indo-Caribbean heritage on the world stage (Priyanka's parents are of Guyanese descent).
"Growing up, we were told that we have to hate ourselves – don’t bring curry to school, you’re going to smell up the whole classroom. My mom named me Mark because she didn’t want me to get bullied in school," Priyanka revealed.
She went on to share that since she started performing, she has received a "mixed bag" of reactions from those within the Indo-Caribbean and South Asian culture.
"Any aunties, whenever you go to a function, [it's always], 'You’ve gotten too fat,' or 'You’re too skinny, you’re not married yet, you should be ashamed of yourself, you should be a lawyer.' A lot of people have that ingrained in them," the "Canada's Drag Race" winner admitted.
Luckily, there has been plenty of support, too.
"When the community sees a successful brown person...they’re like, 'Thank God we’re breaking down barriers, we’re in this together.' Because it’s not just about me, it’s about us," Priyanka shared.
Trolling the internet trolls
When it comes to dealing with online "haters," Priyanka got real about dealing with trolls with her signature sass and sense of humour.
"I troll them back, myself. I think it’s so fun, I turn everything into a joke," she laughed.
However, despite the negativity from detractors online, the "Come Through" songstress admitted that she works hard not to let the negativity faze her.
"The internet is going to say whatever they want...I don’t accept it, I fight back all the time. I think protecting your energy and your spirit is so important," she added. "There’s kind of a protection barrier that you’ve got to put around yourself to not be affected by other people’s energies."
On confidence on and off stage
Despite her impressive stage presence these days, Priyanka admits that she was a "shy kid" who still feels self-conscious sometimes.
"I obviously have the same old body dysmorphia, everyone hates me, am I good enough, all the normal things that we all have," she admitted. "It’s kind of who I am, but I’ve worked really hard at building my stage confidence and my regular confidence too."
When in doubt, Priyanka turns to her Dr. Martens, which she calls her "confidence boot," adding that they're "just a good shoe that makes everyone look good."
As for her number one piece of advice for breaking through insecurity?
"You just have to be your no. 1 fan, because no one else will love you more than you love yourself. Period."