Meet Zara Matrix, Halifax's biggest Lady Gaga fan | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Zara Matrix has been part of Halifax's drag scene for four years.

Meet Zara Matrix, Halifax's biggest Lady Gaga fan

The Halifax drag queen throws one of Pride's biggest parties—Gaga night—on July 21 at The Seahorse.

When Halifax drag queen Zara Matrix connected with Lady Gaga’s music for the first time, she was just a teenager mired in the fog of growing up. Gaga’s 2011 anthem “Born This Way” became a beacon, even if Matrix couldn’t articulate quite why yet: “At the time I didn't realize what was going on, but I think it made me just accept myself. Like she's always had this great message of spreading kindness, being nice to one another, loving yourself. At the time, I didn’t really have any of that going on. In a way she helped me through some difficult times without me really realizing it.”

Matrix found drag later, thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race and a love for performing honed through years in the world of competitive figure skating. (“When I quit skating, it kind of filled that void: Figure skating and drag are pretty much the same thing. Same amount of rhinestones,” she says, showing it’s not as much of a double-axel jump from one medium to the other as you might think.) First, it was playing around with makeup with friends, but soon Matrix was debuting looks in the local scene—to an immediate welcome and warmth from other queens.

“Lady Gaga is what I think I look like in drag,” Matrix says, describing herself as “a diva of the people and for the people," aiming to blend glamour and community in her art. The influence is obvious, both in Matrix’s penchant for platinum wigs and in programming: Matrix is hosting one of Halifax Pride’s biggest parties on July 21 at 10pm at The Seahorse with The Glitch: Gaga Night, a drag show where she channels the pop star and brings a setlist filled with only Gaga tunes. (The fact that Mother Monster herself is kicking off a tour for her latest, the pandemic-era Chromatica, feels like the serendipitous cherry on top.)

click to enlarge Meet Zara Matrix, Halifax's biggest Lady Gaga fan (3)
Zara Matrix counts Lady Gaga as her main influence.

“I think she basically is a drag queen, honestly,” Matrix says of Gaga. “Lady Gaga is always: Different wigs, different outfits, different makeup, different eras. She always commits to whichever character she's being. I say Lady Gaga is a drag queen because you know, she goes out and does a jazz album with a different kind of wig and she is a different personality. Then she'll go and put on her platinum blonde hair and do a pop song and a short pink wig and do a totally different kind of pop song. So she really just commits fully to her character…I would love to see how many wigs she has, honestly.”

Here, in advance of The Glitch: Gaga Night, Matrix names her favourite songs by her boldest muse:

“Telephone” feat. Beyoncé (2009)

While Matrix is loathe to pick only one Gaga era, the pop star’s early catalogue does take a lot of top billing, including this Chicago-meets-pop-art song and video that proved Stefani Germanotta had what it takes to play in pop’s big leagues (having a post-Destiny’s Child Beyoncé guest on your debut album is nothing if not a flex). “The song is amazing, but the music video was just so cool. It was like a full on, 10-minute movie. I think that's when I really fell in love with her: The dancing and the outfits for the videos was just like, incomparable to what anyone was doing at that time.”

“Marry The Night” (2011)

Another cut from Born This Way, Matrix loves how Gaga’s early-2010s singles were nothing short of cinematic: “It has a really cool video too: It’s another long, basically 12-minute movie.” The track is considered by Gaga obsessives to be one of her best, a deep-dive into trauma and survival that also delves into her psyche: “It’s not that I’ve been dishonest. It’s just that I loathe reality,” she says in the clip’s opening seconds.

“Paparazzi” (2009)

“I’m closing the show with my take on her Paparazzi VMA performance. That one’s like, iconic,” Matrix says, adding that while she loves all of Gaga’s discography, “I connect more with those early albums for some reason.” The VMA performance is notoriously hard to find online, but its opera-and-blood-soaked opulence and scathing commentary on the price of fame hasn’t stopped churning out think pieces as recently as 2019.

“Born This Way” (2011)

“‘Born This Way’ is one of her best songs, just for what it stands for and I think I think it’s one of the only songs that says ‘gay, bi, trans’, so that was really cool,” Matrix says.

“Rain on Me” feat. Ariana Grande (2020)

Gaga dropped Chromatica, a return to her dance-pop roots, in the pandemic’s early days. “I’m opening the show with some songs from Chromatica and I'm super excited for that because Chromatica came out during COVID. So we never really had the chance to go out and dance and be gay and listen to Chromatica in the city, so I’m most excited for that,” Matrix says.

The Ariana Grande-featuring “Rain on Me” is, to Matrix, an album highlight: “It ‘s put together really well, composed really well, super catchy. Also the music video for that one is really cool,” she adds.

“Shallow” feat. Bradley Cooper (2018)

When describing how Gaga commits to an era in a way few other pop stars do, Matrix is quick to list her pivot to acting in a Star Is Born as an example. Playing the bit of a serious actor who’s playing a struggling artist feels like the meta move her fans love her for, while this song reminds us of her musical roots: “She’s belting on that one,” Matrix says.

Morgan Mullin

Morgan was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she wrote about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She started with The Coast in 2016.
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