Egale is trying to get a senior drag queen a spot on Ellen

The advocacy organization hopes to get a platform to discuss the unique discrimination and isolation aging LGBTQ people face.


Egale Canada is trying to get a beloved Toronto drag performer onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show to raise awareness about the struggles some LGBTQ seniors can face. 

Russell Alldread (also know as drag performer Michelle DuBarry), is one of the world’s oldest performing drag queens and a local community icon in Toronto. DuBarry is also the subject of “#GetHerOnEllen,” a social campaign from Egale focused on bringing more attention to social isolation and discrimination faced by older members of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s not a population that is talked about, and it doesn’t get any real attention,” says Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, which happens despite the fact that some of these people were among those on the front lines of the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. “Since decriminalization, many of our community members are going into their senior years and looking into long-term care facilities, where they find themselves going back into the closet.”

Recent insights from Egale Canada on queer seniors found that more than half fear being forced back into the closet when they enter residential care, with a similar number feeling isolated. Also, 40% of queer seniors have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to their primary healthcare provider because of the fear of discrimination.

This is very much an awareness campaign, Kennedy says, as many ignore the struggles of community seniors, who may have lost connection with family due to discrimination and next of kin is less available to them.

The campaign originated through a staffer at agency partner Juniper Park\TBWA, who had done a small piece on Michelle DuBarry for Pride, and the organization thought she would be a really great fit as a larger-than-life personality and long-time advocate for the community.

Besides the fact that DuBarry is a fan of the show, Ellen reaches an average audience of 4.2 million every day in the U.S. and is the top daytime talk show in Canada. The campaign is directed at raising awareness among broader society, but also in driving action from policy makers. “We want action from political leaders around inclusivity and healthcare issues and homelessness issues,” Kennedy says. She points to publicly funded long-term care facilities and advocates for mandatory training to become more accepting of the population.

In addition to a heavy social component aimed at getting the attention of the show, there are OOH executions in downtown Toronto and in subway stations, as well as a billboard across from the studio in Los Angeles where Ellen is taped.

Previous campaign efforts from Egale include a campaign with Sid Lee to draw attention to the stigma of blood screening with “Gary the Gay Blood Cell,” an animated hemocyte who makes the case for blood quality through song.