Celebrating 5 years of New Ho Queen

May 9, 2023

May 11, 2023

Phil Villeneuve


Celebrating 5 years of queer Asian love!... we spoke to New Ho Queen about their legacy up to now and other juicy details

Toronto's New Ho Queen is at its core a celebration of queer Asian love. They are also responsible for creating a movement of queer Asian focused events, performance pieces, art and conversation. It's been five years since the group started throwing parties with, for and by queer Asian folks from Toronto and they have a lot to be proud of. With some major collaborations, a W Magazine feature (!!!), stages, and events, the collective is bigger and badder than ever, and we asked some key members (Raphael Sanchez, Lulu Wei, Vernon Rubiano and Patrick Salvani) a few questions to get to know them and the scene they swirl in a bit better.

Photo by Jaye

Yohomo: 5 years of New Ho Queen! Congrats y'all! Big question to kick things off, how has the ethos and vibe of New Ho Queen changed in 5 years?

NHQ: Aw, thank you! Our vibe has both evolved and stayed pure in its intention to create spaces for queer Asians to share their artistry and find each other on the dance floor. We’ve been through so much together as a collective - the initial parties, online Covid-era digital content making, then back to IRL and the building of partnerships. Five years later, we have a strong belief in what we can accomplish and we want to reciprocate all of your love in getting us here. Our aim is to continue making events feel more like the “home” we’ve always wanted which continues to evolve as communities grow.  Welcome to the new party era!

Tell us about 5 of your most favourite accomplishments you're proud of after 5 years of werk.

New Ho Queen First Party, May 2018 - The labour of love. The fashion. The art. The chugging of soy sauce. The music. Wow, everyone is beautiful! This party set a standard and started the Asian Love of it all.

New Ho Queen Asian Pride, June 2019 - It was our first pride stage and it was FIRE! The South Stage was not big enough, so attendees literally took over the streets. With Drag Race Thailand queens headlining, the night ended with everyone cheering “New Ho Queen, New Ho Queen!” Subsequently, catapulting our Asian Pride stage to the Main Stage on Wellesley Street from then on.

We Party Everywhere, 2018-present - We’ve had parties in non-traditional dance spaces like the Gardiner Museum, the ROM, the Holt Renfrew Cafe, and our free (complimentary dinner included) summer park parties. The creative energies and passion needed to make spaces accessible to the community is rewarded when it is packed with Asian Love.

Holt Renfrew Pride 2022 Campaign & W Mag December 2022 Holiday Issue 2 page photo spread - We never dreamed these collaborations were possible and we are so grateful for all the queer Asian labour put into making them a reality. And of course, grateful for how damn hot we all looked, too.  

Photo by Hao Nguyen

DSB, 2019 - We are proud Drag Mothers to Dim Sum Boys (DSB). Seeing a need to create more spaces for Asian Drag Kings, we formed and mentored these K-pop superstars. These Kings are what we all needed and we’re excited for their return!

Y'all have worked with some amazing drag artists, DJs and visual artists as well, do you feel like queer Asian artists are feeling more empowered and there are more in Toronto now that 5 years ago, in a big way thanks to NHQ?

There are many talented queer Asians in Toronto with passion, power and drive. If anything, we hope New Ho Queen has provided an alternative sanctuary for queer Asians to believe in themselves because there is a space for all of us in this world.  We don’t necessarily feel like there are more queer Asian artists- they’ve always been here - but now there are more opportunities to connect with one another and showcase their artistry. We get the vibe the NHQ stage has become a goal for a lot of queer Asian performers and DJs, as it represents, a sort of, coming home for queer Asians.

Have you felt the effect of NHQ on Toronto's queer nightlife landscape?

We’re still in awe and disbelief of how NHQ has left a mark on the city’s queer landscape and inspired new queer Asian led collectives and events. So on a queer joy meter,  we’re having more fun! New Ho Queen has been the first party stop for many queer Asians especially since we are able to party IRL again. We’re excited to keep shining a light on our community and seeing it (cherry) blossom.  

You not only work with drag artists and DJs, but Asian visual artists. What have those collabs been like and have you discovered so many more thanks to your work and explorations?

Yes, we keep on discovering more as we do this work. Community, continue to hook us up! The visual artist aspect is such a special touch that we’re always so excited to have because their work can make the space feel transformed and immersive, or make our promotional materials even more special.  It has been an honour to work with them and on occasion bridge opportunities for these passionate artists to get that bag.

For your big 5-year party.. it's an after party for the Yaeji concert. Have you received any feedback or reaction from any queer Asian artists over the years?

…and it’s our Asian Heritage Month celebration, too! We’ve been able to connect with queer Asian artists from ALL over the world. Everyone we’ve connected to are just as excited about our work as we are of theirs. So that’s cool! During the pandemic we were able to do a joint online party with our favourite queer Asian party collectives from North America. We’ve also been surprised how some prominent queer Asian artists, both here and internationally, have heard about us and reached out. We are still tapping into our potential and hope that may lead to exciting new partnerships and collaborations.  *Ring Ring*  “Rina Sawayama, Sin Wai Kin, Bowen Yang, can you hear us?”

Y'all are also doing a Pride stage at this year's festival. Can you give us a sneak peek at what to expect?

Yes! THE QUEEN Plastique Tiara from Rupaul’s Drag Race is headlining a roster of Asian excellence. For this year’s Asian Pride, follow the stars and dance, because you are invited to “Come Home.”  

What is the temperature of Toronto's queer Asian community right now from what you're feeling?

Photo by Lulu Wei

It’s been a difficult last few years and we’ve all felt disconnected from one another at points in time, and winter…  don’t get us started. As it is now, there’s a “thirst” for queer Asian joy. Think of it this way: AAPI Heritage Month goes straight into Pride season so for queer Asians our Pride basically starts in May. We believe this is the time to feel invigorated and the perfect way to kick off the summer season. See you at our Anniversary Party, Passionfruit, on May 13th :)

You get to shout out five people of your choice right now!... who are they and why.

-> Feura | Half-naked Punk/Rock musician and our special performer for our 5th Anniversary Party
-> Nino Brown | Co-Founder of Toronto’s legendary dance party Yes Yes Y’all will DJ at our Anniversary Party
-> Honeybunn | Dance dance revolution and get ready when she DJs at Asian Pride
-> House of Dolls: Canada’s Drag Race Suki Doll and her Daughter Destiny Doll | We’ve been waiting for the perfect stage for them and it’s at this year’s Asian Pride
-> Joy Rider  | The Burlesque Sensation from Montreal will be on our Asian Pride Stage
-> AMÁNTE|Yes, 6! We’re rule breakers | Keep an eye out for this DJ as she brings the sweetest of mixes to our 5th Anniversary Party