By Kimberley Cummins
In the entertainment industry, the road to success typically includes some rejection.
Some of the world’s biggest and brightest stars have shared stories of being rejected multiple times over the course of many years and performing odd jobs before that one big break came.
Jada Shada Hudson is no different. She auditioned for and failed twice to make it onto Canada’s Drag Race. This show is a spin-off of the Emmy award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race reality competition series which follows drag queens (male female impersonators) who undertake several challenges vying to be crowned number one.
“The process is not an easy one. To be honest, there were times I wanted to give up but I had a great team behind me. Plus, being in Toronto for such a long time, I knew the city wanted to see me on the show, so I had to do it for them. I had to continue the legacy I started,” she told Barbados TODAY during an interview from Canada.
Finally, Jada landed a spot on season three of the top-rated show and while she placed second in the series finale last September, it’s safe to say that she was the breakout star.
“It feels great!” she said.
“This opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime and so many entertainers and performers in this industry would like that same opportunity. So me being chosen and making it to the top two is a huge accomplishment for sure.”
After the finale aired, success for the 38-year-old has been immediate and she is literally now a household name and face. So much so that Jada is recognised everywhere, at bars, restaurants, malls, airports, you name it.
Places that are not even in the queer community… It’s mind-blowing that the show “is such a global phenomenon. It seems like everyone watches Drag Race . . . I’ve been seeing a lot of Barbadians in my followers as well which brings me so much joy because Barbados will always be home to me.
“The opportunities have been endless. I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of the tribute to icon Deborah Cox at the Canadian Walk of Fame gala as she received her Walk of Fame star. I performed one of her songs in front of the legend and her family in a hall full of great Canadian legends and iconic celebrities and stars.
The Toronto Argos invited me to do their ball delivery at their Pride game. At the game, I delivered the game ball, was interviewed and gloriously sang their name on the mic. It was iconic.
I was also featured in Elle Canada with MadeNous which was super exciting. I’ve even opened for Lizzo at the Scotia Bank Club,” Jada recounted with pride.
Jada was born and raised in Barbados as a boy named Dwight Giraud. He always strived to be successful as an entertainer and matriculate his talents at the national level as a dancer with several well-known troupes.
But unable to find major success in Barbados, Dwight decided to leave the island around 2009 hoping for a new start in Canada. Having visited Canada prior to performing, his eyes had opened to all possibilities there when he saw and felt accepted as a member of the LGBTQ family.
“I saw the LGBTQ Village (Church and Wellesley Village) where there are so [many] bars, restaurants, clubs [and] businesses that are all queers’ spaces. I saw same-sex couples on the streets, in the mall, and they were so happy and it looked normal here in the public’s eye. So, I fell in love with Toronto for sure,” Jada recounted.
The former Ellerslie School student acknowledged that when she landed in Toronto things weren’t all hearts and flowers. From waiting for a work permit to managing work and living expenses which were expensive, sometimes it was a task. However, because she always possessed a resilient spirit, she was able to weather the storm. Her defining moment came when she entered a talent show at a popular bar called Crews and Tangos and the owners saw something in her when she danced on stage.
Recounting that time, Jada explained to Barbados TODAY that as a gay boy from Barbados wearing locs and performing to the calypso Congo Man with a choreography he had learnt, thanks to Barbados Dancin’ Africa and with Trudy Chow, his uniqueness made him an instant stand-out among the other performers. This one performance subsequently paved the way for a career which spans more than a decade and ultimately, the opportunity to compete on Canada’s Drag Race.
Speaking about her experience on the show, she said challenges were among the scariest.
Having been safe the first week, the following week she found herself in the bottom two and had to lip sync to remain in the competition.
Thankfully, she was successful and this was followed by a win. But the next week, Jada again was on the chopping block.
Tamia’s Stranger in My House was the song of the week that the two lowest-scoring contestants had to perform. And as Jada sashayed dynamically across the stage and captivated the judges with her moves, it was evident that her competitor Kaos could not keep up.
“I was thinking, ‘lip syncing is what I do and for 13 plus years I’ve been doing this craft and I do it well so you got this Jada’.”
Adding her Caribbean flavour to the mix, Jada went on to wow with every performance, comedy, “reads”, her personality and especially outfits over the remaining challenges.
“My creative process was a team effort, to be honest, and I am so grateful for the team I had behind me. There are always things that I would change if I could. Due to the short amount of timeww some of my outfits didn’t reflect the vision I originally had but I am still proud and happy with my creations,” Jada noted.
On what’s next, there are so many things in the pipeline but Jada is hoping to get involved in film and television and if the opportunity arose, she would love to compete in RuPaul’s Global Allstars.
Still in a state of disbelief about her achievements, Jada, a former trainee in the Barbados Youth Service, is encouraging people never to give up on their goals in spite of any societal restrictions.
She added: “If I could, I would tell my 16-year-old self to not be scared, everything will be okay. Try new things, stop being shy.
Nothing is wrong with you, you are normal.
Being gay is normal and you will be loved not only by your family but by the world. Little Dwight, you’re a cutie.” (KC)