From Sudbury to New York, Toronto and Japan, Noah Carniello is taking his love for theatre and performance around the globe.
“Theatre was always something I was interested in,” said the 20-year-old performer. “Ever since I was a kid, I knew it was something I was going to pursue.”
A graduate of Sudbury Secondary School, Carniello performed with YES Theatre and Sudbury Theatre Centre under the late David Savoy. He recently attended New York’s Broadway Dance Centre Training Program. These days, he calls Toronto home where he continues his training while auditioning for new work. Since July, his artistic career has flourished into a new direction. After receiving mentorship and performance opportunities in the Village, Carniello is carving out a niche for himself in the drag scene.
On stage, Carniello is known as Carmen Dior and she has returned home to perform in her first solo show at Zig’s on Saturday. Show starts at 11 p.m. Admission is free.
Carniello said he doesn’t see Carmen Dior as a separate persona – they share many of the same personality traits. “I’m still me in drag, it’s still Noah; however, it’s a way to express myself in a heightened reality,” he said. “It gives me the ability to strip myself of any insecurity I have. I like to put on a new face and be confident in who I am.”
Carniello said he was drawn to drag because it combines his two loves: make-up and performance. “I always had an interest in make-up,” he said. “Living in New York City, the drag scene is huge and I was surrounded by it. I was always attending shows and met local performers.”
Meanwhile, the popularity of the television series RuPaul’s Drag Race has created hype around drag shows, pushing the performance into mainstream.
Carniello has guest performed in Toronto under notable headlining drag queens like Ivory Towers and Scarlett BoBo. And while this weekend’s show in Sudbury marks Carmen Dior’s first solo performance, Carniello sees it as the beginning of something more. He will be moving to Osaka, Japan, in early January for a 14-month contract as an entertainer with Universal Studios Japan theme park. He intends on connecting with the drag scene there, too, to further his practice.
“The message I want to get across to most people is, if you’re not sure what’s happening next in your life, you are not alone,” he said. “If you want something and you have the passion for it and you put in the work that is required, it will come to you, eventually.”
How do you get there?
“When you are in an audition room with 400 boys who look exactly like you, it seems impossible,” said Carniello. “But what sets you apart from everyone else in the industry is your motivation and work ethic.”
Carniello said the support he’s received so far has encouraged him to further developing this part of his performance career.
“People are really excited about the work I am doing,” he said, “I think they are because of my passion, my drive and my love for it. It’s a business for me and I take it very seriously. There are many people doing it for fun, and I respect that, but I think audiences have really responded to my drag because they can tell how much work I put into it. I also think I bring energy, love and a sense of community to the stage, which is very important to me.”
Carniello said there’s a misconception that drag is easy. In fact, it takes him upward of four hours to prepare for a show – makeup, padding, costume, warming up.
“There’s so much to it ¬- there’s the aesthetic of it all, makeup and hair, costumes. When I put it all on the table, it’s thousands of dollars investment. For me, it’s important to have a high production level. From choreography, visuals, set list, all of that comes into play. It’s a lot. It’s exhausting. To get home from the club at 3 a.m., take off your makeup and just wake up the next day to do it all again. Sometimes there are days when I don’t want to do it but then when I am performing, there’s that love and energy and it makes it all worth it.”
Carniello would like to see more drag shows come to Sudbury. And with the popularity of RuPaul’s television show, the timing has never been better.
“There’s so much more of an audience now which is a blessing because it’s getting people out and supporting drag.”