Born in Saint John, N.B., Normand spent many years working at the top of corporate sales. Eventually, he knew he wanted to do more for the youth in his community, so he founded NWH Modelling to teach self-confidence and self-esteem.
In January 2019, Normand took the plunge and did his first drag performance as Normani. Normand shared that much of his inspiration came from his mother, who told him if he was to embark on this journey, he had to do it differently. Normand, as Normani, does not do the ‘mainstream’ drag you may find in bars. He distinguishes himself with what he describes as "tasteful performances that are safe for any age demographic."
Since starting his career as a drag queen, Normand was the first Black drag performer on TSN during the Memorial Cup and has since given talks about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as Normand to members of Hockey Canada and Hockey New Brunswick.
Much of what Normand discusses is about being comfortable in your skin. He also uses his platform to speak about queerness, Blackness, and what respect looks like for many minorities and marginalized groups.
As the backlash against the drag queen community has risen, Normand says he has never been more in demand. Despite the aggressive protest around ‘Drag Story Time’ where drag queens read to children, Normand was asked to read at a Student Leadership Conference in Saint John dressed as Normani. Normand has also spoken about queer equality and rights at local schools and to sold-out auditoriums. He plans to appear at Area 506, a local festival, and his first Pride Parade in St. Andrews, N.B.
While a positive mindset is inherent to Normand, he says being the only current Black drag queen in the province has its “good and bad” moments. At one time, there was another Black drag queen in the community who has since stopped doing drag but gifted Normand with words of wisdom. "It's your time to take over. They are going to be mean to you, stay strong my sister."
“The good is the change and the impact you're making with people who see you are out here trying to do something good. The bad is people looking at you and judging you because you are doing it. I have been judged by people outside of the queer community and within the queer community. I have built a name and a platform for myself, but judgment comes from both sides of the fence. And it's difficult to deal with when you are, as you said, the lone wolf. I can tell you right now, no other Black person is standing up with me saying, “We love what you are doing,” other than my family because my family loves me, and they accept me.”
Though Normand feels that the Black community still resists Normani, during a recent social media bashing, over 200 people stood up for Normand.
“I was bashed here a while back on social media, and I took that message and put it on my social media because now I was fed up. I thought this has to stop. Somebody within my community is bashing me, and I'm just trying to do my best. I'm trying to change a world that looks down its nose at us in a way that we all need to stand together. I must have had over 200 people return to the organization and say, 'Something must be done.'
“Now I know who went back to the organization. No people of colour stood up for me except my family, but my family would stand up for me in a different kind of way. No people of colour said, ‘We want you to continue what you're doing, and we're going to stand beside you,’ and that's sad.”
“When you come to my shows, it's always my family that's sitting in the audience. I rarely see any new people of colour sitting in the audience. And maybe it's fear, or it's that they don't understand. But you know what? Ask me. You know I’ve built a strong business and platform to create change. I am doing nothing that’s bringing shame to my name, my family's name, the community or the province.”
Recently, someone asked Normand when he would be doing more for the Black community. “I said, ‘Well, what does that even mean? I'm doing what I can.’” The person responded by telling Normand that the Black community didn’t support him dressing as a woman.
Normand says that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about drag. “It’s not just a man dressing up as a woman. It’s creativity, it’s the exploration of oneself, it’s great entertainment: the music, the costumes, the dialogue.”
Another misconception is cisgender men feeling like the drag performers “want” them. “Absolutely not the case as we are entertainers and we want you to feel comfortable and welcome. As a drag queen, I would not cross any lines of disrespect,” says Normand.
Normand also hears cisgender men saying ‘What if they think I am gay because I am watching a drag performer?'
“If you are not comfortable in your own skin and with who you are, that is something that is completely on you and not the drag performers.”
Ultimately, Normand doesn’t let criticism get to him. “I am so blessed to live in a city that embraces me on both sides, on the public speaking side and also on the Normani side. Is there still work to do? Absolutely. But being the lone wolf is not an easy burden to bear. I can tell you.”