Mado Luc Provost Madographie book interview

Mondo Mado: Luc Provost on becoming a Montreal drag mother and writing a book about it

“The story about my life is not complicated, it’s not sad, it’s not tormented. And I wanted to share that with the public because there are so many stories about drag queens and gay boys that have had a hard time in their youth. I’ve been blessed.”

It is now pretty much impossible to imagine Montreal nightlife without Mado, the fabulous, hilarious, brilliant, operatic, out-of-this-world drag artist who has ruled the Village for decades. Spawned from Montreal’s vibrant ’80s club scene, Mado is the creation and alter-ego of actor and writer Luc Provost.

Since developing the ever-evolving Mado, Provost has seen her gender-bending fortunes expand to mind-bending proportions: Mado hosts comedy galas at Just for Laughs, has performed at countless queer Pride events, become one of the city’s most popular Bingo hustlers and even opened her own club, Cabaret Mado (which is packed on most nights).

Now, Provost has written Une Madographie, a loving ode to Mado that includes her origin story, tales of growing up in Rosemont, memories of loving, kind parents and the enduring popularity of this drag persona. The book is actually very uplifting — there are no stories of familial rejection, stints at rehab or messy break-ups. Instead, Provost tells an optimistic life story of an entertainer who has hit all the right notes. It’s also packed with loads of great photos of Mado in various outrageous attire, as well as some celebrity cameos, including Michel Tremblay and Mitsou. 

Provost spoke from his Plateau home.

Matthew Hays: What prompted you to do your memoirs now?

Luc Provost: I’ve been asked so many questions about Mado and about my career. It’s been 35 years! People wanted to know how it started, how my family reacted to me and how it all happened. The story about my life is not complicated, it’s not sad, it’s not tormented. And I wanted to share that with the public because there are so many stories about drag queens and gay boys that have had a hard time in their youth. I’ve been blessed. I had a great youth, a loving family and I’ve been able to achieve most of my dreams by myself. It’s kind of reassuring for people to read something like that. If it helps people who are coming from nothing, then that’s something. I wasn’t rich as a kid, it wasn’t easy, but still I have managed to do many of the things I dreamt of. It’s part of my personality, to be positive. 

Une Madographie Mado interview Luc Provost
Une Madographie

MH: I was surprised to read that you are an introvert.

LP: I am an introvert, but Mado is an extrovert! I don’t hide my feelings or my personality behind something. I’m just a bit more reserved than Mado is. I’m not a kid anymore. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be the first, to be the centre of attention; I was making people laugh and having parties. Now if I have dinner with a few close friends, that’s my favourite thing to do. I don’t need to be at a party with hundreds and hundreds of people. 

MH: I was also shocked — SHOCKED! — to read that you are not that into Madonna or Celine Dion.

LP: Can you believe it? I’m probably the only gay in the world who isn’t into one or the other. With Madonna, she’s a good performer, but I don’t think she’s a good singer. Her voice is so electronic, there’s nothing true in it, no feeling. Celine, there’s too much feeling in it. It’s syrupy. To me, it’s like she wants too much to be in my ear. The themes in her songs are so repetitive. I prefer someone like Kylie Minogue, who doesn’t sing about serious stuff. She’s quirky, she’s funny, she’s beautiful, she’s drag queeny, she makes me want to dance. 

MH: I’m partial to Cher.

LP: I like Cher a lot, too. And I don’t want to knock Madonna, because a lot of the gender play she was doing was powerful, and for a lot of young gay people, she sent a strong message to them, to say that they were okay. 

MH: When you first created Mado, did you have any idea her persona would endure this long?

LP: No idea! We just wanted to have fun. Back in the day, when you went out, you always wore something fabulous, you had to dress up. When we were first performing the shows, we were often performing for crowds where there were people as dressed up as we were. Then when I was studying theatre at UQAM, I looked very young and I was too short. In theatre, movies and TV, it’s all about looks. You can be very talented, but if you’re trying to play Romeo and you’re shorter than Juliet, it doesn’t work. My teacher then said to me, ‘You’re going to be a comedian.’ I would just open my wide eyes and people would laugh. My eyes have always said it all. If I don’t like something, I can’t lie. My eyes will tell the truth.


MH: Not many drag personas have lasted this long, and to have their own Cabaret.

LP: It is surprising. We’re 21 years old! And we are more popular this year than we were in our first year. We have become an institution. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of. It’s so diverse. We used to mainly be drag acts, but now we have burlesque shows and offer a lot of variety. We’ve had book launches, too. 

MH: In the book, you describe Michel Tremblay as your spiritual father. Recently you were in a production of one of his most famous plays, Hosanna, in Quebec City, and you got great reviews.

LP: Believe me, when they forgot about Mado and just reviewed me and my performance, I was like ‘Woo-hoo!’ The most important thing for me was for people to see Luc’s work, and that they would love me. And La Presse, Le Devoir and Radio-Canada all reviewed it and said strong things about my performance. I didn’t read the word ‘Mado’ once. During rehearsals, I had to get Mado out of my system. That was important; I was playing someone else.

MH: The director of the play, Maxime Robin, told me you were incredibly professional and a joy to work with.

LP: He is amazing. He’s not an introvert at all! He’s like a child when he gets an idea, he gets so excited. He’s so devoted to his work, so generous and so motherly. You can feel his passion, and I love passionate people. 

MH: Recently there’s an increase of transphobia and attacks on drag queens. What do you think is behind it?

LP: I’m so tired of it. It’s so hypocritical. It’s just about getting some votes. Some of those making the attacks are probably gay themselves. It’s also a lack of education. When we read a story to children, we’re not reading Penthouse to them. People seem to think it’s sexual, but it’s not. It’s someone who’s in drag reading a children’s story. Why do people think drag queens or trans people are dangerous to children? I can’t believe we’re back having those arguments again. But I don’t think the majority of people think like that. People want power, that’s why they’re using issues to divide and gain votes.

MH: You’ve been performing the comedie franglais for a long time, mixing French and English in your act. It’s something Sugar Sammy does, but you’ve been doing it for decades. Right now, the government in Quebec City seems so hostile to immigrants, allophones and anglophones. Many people feel under attack and unwelcome in Quebec society.

LP: I didn’t vote for Legault and the CAQ. I would never vote for them. He’s a populist, he’s just going for whatever the polls tell him he will win. I don’t take as much interest in politics as I used to, because I’m so disappointed with Quebec politics right now. I’m 100% pushing for French. But we shouldn’t push people away, and part of what makes Montreal unique is that we have both French and English here. We have gotten along so well, but the government is trying to divide people. Of course we have to protect French, but we can do so without getting rid of other people. It’s like protecting the trees by getting rid of the flowers; to me it makes no sense. ■

Une Madographie by Luc Provost. Les Editions La Presse. $31.95

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of Cult MTL. 

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