How Saint John drag queen ended his performance at the Memorial Cup

Normand Hector’s mother was always dressed until nine.

Even going to the yard, Normandy’s husband of almost 30, Richard Chaisson, said in an interview. Big hat, just for sitting outside. Beautiful shoes and clothes, just for her job as a bilingual telephone operator.

Normand Hector, a drag queen in Saint John, will perform later today at the Memorial Cup. As a queer, a black man, he knows how much it means for someone like him to perform at a big hockey event.

But it all started with his mother, whose sense of fashion inspired his dear persona, Normani. When Hector performs as a Norman today, his trademark is usually a long, elegant dress.

Normand Hector’s mother’s habit of always being classy and presentable, wherever she was, was his inspiration. (Submitted by Normand Hector.)

Hector’s mother was the first person he showed Normania, and when she lost her leg and became confined to a wheelchair, the performance was a way for Hector to entertain her, to keep her mood.

It stayed between them for a while. When Hector finally told his mother that he wanted Norman to be made public, she said she would support him and be with him, but she also warned him: it won’t be easy.

“As a queer, black man, I mean, you’re already judged as a queer, black man. But you’ll be judged even more when you come out as a dear performer,” Hector said.

Still, he said to his mother: I think I’m strong enough.

From Xerox to the Memorial Cup

Some people will recognize Normand Hector’s name from a long, public battle with his former employer, Xerox, over accusations of racism and lower pay than his white counterparts.

Now, Hector says leaving that job is the best thing that has ever happened to him. He worked drag while working at Xerox, but leaving the company forced him to raise his drag to new heights – like the Memorial Cup.

Hector started working publicly in late 2018, hiring professional photographers and posting photos of Normani on Instagram – and people started following.

“When will I make the show? When will I make the show?” Hector said people asked him.

Normand Hector, whose dear persona is inspired by her mother’s elegant style, her grandchildren like to call ‘Glampy’. (Submitted by Normand Hector)

His first performance was in January 2019. From there he continued with the first drag show ever at Kingsbrae Gardens in St. Louis. Andrews, where the 93-year-old owner hugged him and said we needed more of this, and the sun was shining all day after Hector prayed to his mother, who had died a year earlier, for nice weather.

“I believe the blessings come from above. I strongly believe my mother is watching over me,” he said.

Hector has played across New Brunswick, and earlier this year he played in the Saint John Sea Dogs hockey game. Dressed as a Norman, he stood in front of about 3,500 people, he said, hoping to make them realize that he should not be afraid of anything, hoping to send an invitation to be open, instructive and listen for understanding, not reaction .

“And that’s what people did, that’s how they hugged me,” Hector said.

Normand Hector started doing drag privately for his mother, but he started doing drag in public in 2018. (Submitted by Normand Hector.)

After the success of that performance, the management of Sea Dogs responded. Given that the Memorial Cup was held during Pride Month, would Hector consider performing again?

Absolutely, he said.

Breaking the ice

Hector said the performance was just an attempt to get people to change their views on both the queer community and the colored people. He wants to show people how he has progressed in life, beyond his past struggles.

He said he was willing to meet people where they are. He pointed to that first game of Sea Dogs, an entry into a sport that historically, he admitted, did not have the best relationship with queer people and colored people.

“I thought, ‘I have to get in there. And I have to make them see me first as a person, not as a performer, but as a person first.’

Normand Hector appeared as the Normans at the Saint John Sea Dogs game earlier this year. In order to break the ice, he warmed up with the players – in full resistance. (Submitted by Normand Hector)

How could he integrate into hockey?

The players warmed up next to his locker room, and in full swing Hector decided to join them.

“I really wanted to see them, I’m like them. I’m like them. I’m like everyone else. Because I wear a dress and a wig and I put on makeup and I don’t look different.”

That broke the ice, Hector said, adding that the players treated him with great respect.

Normand Hector with wife, children and mother. (Submitted by Normand Hector.)

Today, Hector admits that he is a little nervous – his performance will, after all, be broadcast by thousands more than just people in Saint John.

Still, he is mostly proud.

“I’m proud to be a queer, a black man performing in darling. I’m proud to be able to stand up and convey my message.”

His husband, who replaced the shift as an assistant manager at a local retail store so he could attend, will watch and cheer him on.

You get one true love in your life, Hector said, and for him it’s Chaisson. He helped Hector take care of his mother when she fell ill. He supported Hector during his 29 years of marriage, seeing him for the first time during a trip to a gay resort in Cancun.

But why not support Hector? Chaisson asked. “He’s not doing anything wrong.”

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being black in Canada highlights stories about black Canadians. (CBC)

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