The following story was written by freelance writer Deborah Reid:
Stunning is the word that leaps to mind looking at Priyanka’s sultry pose on the cover of the June 2021 edition of Elle Canada, dressed in a shimmering gown of delicate silver chainmail and crystals. The impact multiplies knowing that beauty has always been inside Mark Suknanan, a 2012 graduate of Niagara College’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program. It’s obvious, too, in speaking with him that his Guyanese parents did a good job of loving him – he’s human, humble and a whole lot of fun.
Suknanan recalls watching an Oprah interview with RuPaul where she asks the well-known drag personality if there’s a change in character in and out of drag. RuPaul replies, “I am not in drag escaping. In drag, I am myself.”
When Canada’s Drag Race premiered in July 2020, Canadians cheered Priyanka on. During the impossible months of pandemic isolation, she stole hearts, lifted flagging spirits and offered an escape from fear and anxiety. About the audition, Suknanan says, “I knew in my heart my life was going to change.”
That’s not the first time the “Queen of the North” had that feeling either. He can remember in detail when Michael Strachan at “The Zone” asked him to be a correspondent on YTV. A ten-year strong career in children’s television was a solid foundation. He knew how to play to the camera, create storylines and engage with a demanding audience of kids almost daily.
Suknanan’s first dream was to be a Much Music VJ. A couple of “adults” tried to plant seeds of doubt in him about his career path. But he was having none of it. “In the world of show business, people can’t always imagine you in the space,” he said, “so you have to show them.”
Priyanka was the first to win Canada’s Drag Race, but she was also the first queen of Indo-Caribbean descent in the worldwide Drag Race franchise. “One of the reasons I’m so happy to represent the Guyanese community and to be a brown person having success is because I was mostly alone growing up,” said Suknanan.
It was no surprise to his mother or friends when he started doing drag shows in Toronto’s gay village at 26. Now, five years later, he’s headlining Priyanka’s “Taste Test” tour, with shows in Canada and a run in the UK this past summer. There’s a newly released five pop song EP, Cake, with a murder mystery video that Suknanan had a big hand in crafting also.
“There were hard things said to me when I was young about the way I look, and I decided not to take them into consideration, and I decided to work hard and push forward and make all of these things,” he said.
Follow Priyanka on social media, and it’s clear every day is a new adventure. She’s not stopping at being Canada’s favourite drag queen. The world around her is full of wonder and opportunity, and she’s seizing it. This moment, and many beyond it, was made for Priyanka. ‘What’s her name?’
Seven distinguished members of Niagara College’s alumni community have been nominated for Colleges Ontario’s prestigious 2021 Premier’s Awards. Each week leading up to the awards presentation on November 18, we are sharing stories about our nominees to celebrate their accomplishments. All stories were submitted by NC Development and Alumni Relations and written by freelance writer Deborah Reid.
Related article: Meet this year’s NC nominees for Premier’s Awards