Trust him, folks. He knows what he’s doing. A familiar refrain for his theatre students at Banff Community High School, Joe Bembridge, an artist-in-residence, pushes
them to strive for excellence.
Having caught the acting bug himself, the 32-year-old actively works regularly in the industry, but a sparkling local alter-ego celebrity may be Bembridge’s shining role.
“Miss Ellen Q comes out randomly,” said Bembridge. “She’s funny and the concept of drag is funny, but it’s a way for people who might have their own personal issues, religious issues, or social issues around homosexuality to have visibly queer happenings.
“I feel like Ellen kind of breaks down barriers with people. People say ‘you’re so ballsy to go out and do that,’ but I’m not because I’ve never once encountered any negativity.”
Growing up in Canmore, Bembridge struggled with his own sexuality because he didn’t have any queer role models to look up to or any visibly queer events in the area. Bembridge was, in a sense, lost. Now a figure in the community, he gives speeches to high school students in Banff and Canmore around sexual diversity, and he also has become somewhat of a trailblazer.
Bembridge co-organized last year’s first-ever Banff Pride celebration, which was a highly successful affair.
“I think what we’re doing with Banff Pride and Miss Ellen Q is a celebration of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer community. We’re creating opportunities for people to come as allies, or for people in the LGBTQ community who might not be out, to come out and celebrate,” Bembridge said.