Jay Daye is Ready. To. Werk.
The Toronto Film School student, who goes by Ocean La’Vodka Giovanni in drag, has his eyes on the future – especially now, as he’s entering his final term in the Acting for Film TV & Theatre program.
“Girl, I’m ready to work!” he declared. “I’m so excited to take the time I had for school and put it towards my actual career. Love TFS, it’s lit up here! But I’m not a huge fan of being a student. So, I’m hyped to work and start creating.”
In the meantime, the actor and drag performer is “booked and blessed” with a packed schedule of full-time school and drag gigs.
Based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller of the same name, The 39 Steps follows the story of Richard Hannay, an ordinary man who’s lived a mostly uneventful life. One evening, while he’s attending a performance of the superlative powers of recall possessed by Mr. Memory, gunshots are fired in the London theatre and suddenly Hannay finds himself wrongly accused of murder, on the run in Scotland, and fighting against the clock to prevent a spy ring from stealing British military secrets.
In the production, Daye played Compere, the Master of Ceremonies for Mr. Memory’s show. The character was written as male, but Daye knew from the start he wanted to do it in drag. However, this posed challenges initially.
“At first I was like, ‘How do I play this?’ Like, I knew I wanted to do it in drag, but do I need to create a whole other persona? Which takes a long time to come in to. Do I play it as me? I found when I just played it as La’Vodka, I could take on the story and play around with it and take on the story of the character easier.”
The production was a huge success for the students, with 270 people attending over the three performances.
“We hustled and told everybody we knew they needed to come,” beamed Daye. “It was banging, all three shows, it was pretty packed!”
Born in 2000 in Ottawa, Daye always knew he would be a performer. He remembers sneaking into a club for the first time at age 14 and begging the host to let him do a drag performance.
“They were like, ‘No, we’re not trying to catch a lawsuit!’ Then when I finally turned 19, they let me in.”
Performing in drag was a revelation and allowed Daye to access another side of himself, the drag persona La’Vodka.
“I love that I can just be wild. Being able to control your wild side is a lot of fun. And I get a feeling of adrenaline whenever I’m on stage. It’s lit.”
That same year, Daye landed his first drag headliner gig at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, in Toronto, and made the move to “the big city”. He met some other queens, but hadn’t had much time to establish himself or develop a sense of community before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the venues and he was left questioning what to do next.
After hearing about TFS, Daye decided on a whim to put together an audition and apply for the acting program.
He professed that since he and his classmates started on Zoom, they had to commit harder to making friendships, because they had that barrier preventing them from “catching the vibe in person”. And he gushed that he has met people in the program who have become such good friends, he now considers them family.
Daye loved seeing his classmates perform in The 39 Steps and is proud of how they’ve each grown as actors since joining the program.
“Watching the stuff back that we filmed at the beginning of the course, and then the stuff I’m doing now, it’s like, they really be collecting people! And really forming actors. Adaptability and confidence. I thought I was confident before but, like, I can literally see myself trusting myself in a scene now, which was not happening before. It’s really been dope. It’s been a moment.”
It’s a busy time for Daye, wrapping up school. And for La’Vodka, too. Some recent highlights were hosting a weekend drag brunch at Church St. Garage Bar and booking Drag Cabaret at Buddies. La’Vodka also produces and hosts a recurring show called Category Is…, the next of which is on July 8 at Glad Day Bookshop.
June is Pride month and 2022 marks the first time he’s been able to experience Toronto Pride in person.
“Pride, I think, is a time for us as queer people in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community, to just be able to just celebrate our identities. Because, I feel like during off-Pride months we can be so focused on the struggle and literally just trying to even out the playing field, and holding people accountable, that it really can feel like work.”
“Pride is like payday. We just get to go off and let all that go and sit in the happiness for the time that we have.”
More About Ocean La’Vodka Giovanni
Going by their motto “If there’s cash in the air, my Black ass is there!” Ocean La’Vodka Giovanni is a lip sync assassin who was born to perform. Acting student at Toronto Film School by day, crazy bitch on Church Street by night, Ocean is working to combine their drag and acting careers. You can catch them at Sweaty Betty’s on Saturdays starting July 16, and follow Category Is… hosted and produced by Ocean to see them and a fierce lineup of entertainers turn out themed numbers. EVERYBODY CHEERS! Their middle name ain’t La’Vodka for no reason.