At 65, Robin Loveless isn’t slowing down

How a drag queen's longevity is inspiring people across the Fraser Valley

By Josh Kozelj | July 14, 2022 |5:00 am

Robin Loveless could tell the audience member was a little unsure.

Loveless always had the ability to spot someone in the crowd who might be a little uneasy about the performance. But Robin wasn’t trying to make the person uncomfortable, in fact, the goal was the exact opposite: to make the audience happy.

On this night, in the dimly lit New Westminster bar, Loveless teased the audience by pulling down a few articles of clothing—though she remained fully dressed by the end of the song.

The whole crowd watched as Loveless sang a sexy, sultry number. The guest continued to eye the performer suspiciously. Because it was the man’s birthday, Robin sat on his lap and put his arm around him.

“He wasn’t too sure at first,” Loveless said. “Then he gave me the biggest kiss on my cheek.”

After the show, the audience member came and gave the drag queen a hug. The man, who came to the show at the request of his daughter, shared that he was a bit skeptical of drag. But Robin Loveless opened his eyes to the performance style.

“I think I’ve done that to a lot of people, I’ve opened their eyes and they’re like, ‘this is really cool!’”

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Getting into drag

Robin, who turned 65 this year, has worked as a drag queen in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley since 2004.

Earlier this year, she headlined a new show in the valley, “Mission’s Got Drag.”

“I’ve always loved the valley,” Robin said. “I did a couple Fraser Valley Pride [days] in Abbotsford, I’m well known, well-liked.”

But being a drag queen, or Robin Loveless, has never been a full-time job.

Loveless’s birth name is Robin Warburton. From nine to five during the week, he shovels dirt and fertilizes grass as a landscaper—an everyman job.

On the weekend, he performs as Loveless, a beautiful, engaging star who represents all the things—music, dance, entertainment—Robin loved as a kid. The drag stage is a chance to let loose, sing, and give people a reason to smile.

Robin’s mom had been a professional dancer in England and her son wanted to follow in her footsteps.

As a kid, young Robin would barrel down the stairs of his childhood home in North Delta, singing music tunes to himself and bursting into a dance. It’s not surprising then that when he turned 19, he was at the club every Friday and Saturday night. He spent his weekends at drag shows and became a fixture on the dance floor.

“I still do that, to this day, [though] not so much because the club I performed at for 10 to 12 years, the Heritage Grill in New Westminster, burned down.”

One night around 18 years ago, The Odyssey, a popular nightclub in Vancouver, was hosting an amateur night for aspiring performers. Robin, having become close with the queens and dreamed of becoming like one of them, stepped on stage for the first time.

“The biggest thrill was being in front of a crowd and having everyone watch, yell, and scream and cheer for me,” Loveless said decades later. “It’s a high. If I look at you, you’re in the audience, and have a smile on your face, I’ve done my job.”

Every week, Robin learned a song and kept coming back. The wardrobe improved and a routine rounded into shape.
Robin says the audience falls for the character’s personability. That and lip-synching talents honed over a lifetime.

“I’ve had vocal coaches come up to me, applaud me, and say, ‘I know you’re lip-synching, but you’re incredible because of your facial expression.’”

Growing valley pride

Despite past perceptions of the Fraser Valley being BC’s “Bible Belt,” the region now has a strong pride community.

Anida Tythole, otherwise known as the “Queen of the Valley,” has hosted drag shows in Abbotsford for years; Chilliwack boasts a drag queen disco party; and Cory Cassel, founder of Cory Cassel Productions, has run drag shows in Mission since 2009. He turned The Stage into a popular drag show location until it closed in 2020.

It was Cassel who brought Robin Loveless to the Fraser Valley, where they quickly became a fan-favourite.

“Cory would always introduce me that way too, ‘One of your favourite queens is here, Robin Loveless!’ And the crowd would go ballistic and yell and scream,” Loveless said.

Cassel said that Loveless has become well-known for bringing musical props on stage, such as a trumpet or full keyboard. He said Loveless’ desire to interact with an audience is a major reason why Robin has attracted such a loyal following.

“Robin is a very personable queen,” Cassel said. “She loves to perform and entertain, but she loves to connect with the audience even more.”

There have been two Mission’s Got Drag events so far, one in March and another in May. Both shows raised a total of $3,600 for the Fraser Valley Youth Society, a non-profit organization that supports queer youth in the valley.

“The funding is amazing,” said Ali Slack, executive director of the society.

Slack said the money helps the organization run workshops and pay for the salary of an employee to lead drop-in sessions that allow youth to meet new people. It also allows the organization to provide healthy snacks for roughly three dozen kids across Chilliwack, Abbotsford, and Mission.

“A lot of our youth have come in and they don’t necessarily have access to food at home or as much food,” Slack said. “So we’ll find people coming in that need those snacks, drinks, and a chance to [eat] in a way that’s nutritional.”

Slack said drag shows provide a safe space for queer people and are vital for fostering community.

“We saw during the pandemic that isolation was so difficult for everybody, especially when you can’t gather or meet new people,” she said. “And that’s especially hard for queer people.”

Queens like Loveless give youth someone to look up to and aspire to be like one day.

“Just having local role models and seeing yourself represented, or being able to relate, is so important.”

Loveless’ future

Now 65, Loveless doesn’t party or go out as much as before, but she is still a fixture on stage.

Ultimately, Loveless attributed longevity on the drag stage to a passion for entertainment.

There’s still no better feeling than making someone smile—especially if they didn’t expect it.

Loveless plans to continue working as a queen in the fall, picking up gigs every month or so. But full retirement isn’t on the mind. That won’t come until Robin’s attractiveness fades (if it ever does).

“The minute I look in the mirror and I don’t see how good I look, I’m done.”

Josh Kozelj

Intern at Fraser Valley Current

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