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INTERVIEW - “Queen of the Oil Patch” begins her reign on APTN

Celebrity Interview by Evan Kayne (From GayCalgary® Magazine, July 2018, page 0)
Massey Whiteknife/Iceis Rain
Massey Whiteknife/Iceis Rain
Massey Whiteknife/Iceis Rain
Massey Whiteknife/Iceis Rain

When asked to do an interview concerning a new reality TV show about a Two-Spirited First Nations businessman/entertainer working in the oil patch, I jumped at the chance. As a Status Indian and a writer, I know Canada itself has a long way to go to enact the 94 "calls to action" from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, yet lately I find there’s a lot more positive stories about individuals forging their own path as proud First Nation citizens.

This brings us to a new reality TV show now available on APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) - Queen of the Oil Patch starring Massey Whiteknife. Massey is a small business owner working in the oil industry up in the Wood Buffalo District of Northern Alberta, he’s a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and he is also known as Iceis Rain. She performed at Edmonton Pride, she speaks up against bullying, she performs as a female fancy dancer, she’s got an album out on Spotify, and she was nominated at the 2014 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards in several categories: Aboriginal Songwriter of the year, Best music video, Single of the year, Best Rock CD and Best New Artist.

Queen of the Oil Patch explores many themes such as identity, bullying, Alberta’s oil patch, First Nations culture, suicide, healing and a unique approach to sexuality. Massey/Iceis is a Two-Spirited individual; which is different than whatever labels you have in your head: "I don’t want to say that I’m transgender or a drag queen or cross-dresser or gay – because I’m not. I’m Two-Spirited. I’m a male and a female. I believe that Creator has given us two sides: yin and yang, masculine and feminine."

As covered previously in GayCalgary by my colleague Carey Rutherford,, and, a definition for Two-Spirited is complex and simple at the same time. "Gender and sexually diverse/flexible/fluid with high awareness of intersectionality operating in a First Nations cultural framework" might be a crude equivalent ("Intersectionality" is how social categories such as race, class, gender, sexuality - in an individual or group - can create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination/disadvantage).

I mentioned intersectionality to Massey in terms of his life. While unaware of the term, he was aware of the challenges with having multiple minorities as part of your life and how that compounds over time.  "I have everything going against me. Not just one, but multiple times" Massey told me. This means for all the communities in which he occupies, none are completely welcoming. "I feel most welcome in the First Nations community because that’s where I live...the gay community – for me – hasn’t been as welcoming because I don’t fit in those labels...If I go and do a drag show, I’m not saying I’m a drag queen. The drag queens expect me to put my makeup to cover my eyebrows and wear padding and lip synch and I don’t." As Iceis, you’ll watch on the show as he dresses up, does makeup as a woman, and sings his own songs. In addition, Massey finds in the gay community, men may not be attracted to him because of his feminine side: "They want that man’s man sort of thing. And I find a lot of the gay community can be catty – god forbid someone become successful and then They think they’re better than everyone else!"

On the First Nations side, viewers do get to see a positive encounter with a Two-Spirited Elder on the show, discussing with Massey how Two-Spirited people were (pre-colonialism) regarded highly in their culture. Unfortunately, some other elders have told him "it’s not right to dance as a female fancy dancer" Massey said. "The people who were colonized, and set in their ways with the bible and Jesus...I do get the brush-off." Additionally, First Nations people who are into the traditional ways may be accepting of Massey/Iceis, but do judge that he still goes to church.

And of course, I thought there will be some people being dismissive because it’s not showing the oil sands in a negative light. The show is called Queen of the Oil Patch because Massey’s work is reliant on the oil industry. He is owner of the ICEIS Group of Companies, an occupational safety and health and sustainable development consulting firm working in the Athabasca oil sands. Massey’s aware having "Oil Patch" in the title will annoy environmentalists; as if he’s personally polluting the planet, but the reality is that many people in the Wood Buffalo District - including a lot of First Nations - make their living because of the oil sands: "I’m not taking a big shovel and putting oil into a refinery; I’m trying to train my people because they’re in the back yard of where these jobs are."

While that may not quell all the naysayers, Massey does find by being open and honest, it doesn’t give his audience a chance to gossip behind his back. "When I train my program (right now I’m training First Nations) in a small isolated community...the first thing I say is My Name is Massey Whiteknife, I own Iceis Safety, I’m here to deliver a training program to you, I’m openly gay and I’m also known as Iceis Rain." While Massey does tell his story of trauma and assault, it’s Iceis who’s channeling that pain to speak up as an advocate against bullying - including organizing and hosting "The Anti-Bully Show", a charity event held annually for the past eight years in Fort McMurray.

That the folks working and living in the oil sands area are aware of diversity and respectful workplaces is due to a lot of companies seriously pushing these concepts on them in training the last few years. Unfortunately, it’s still a very hyper-masculine society. "I know a lot of LGBTQ people in Fort McMurray. The companies don’t judge based on if you’re gay or not. There are quite a few people who are openly gay now...Fort McMurray is such a unique city or community because they actually are very accepting, they just don’t want it to be pushed or forced on them." Massey’s opinion was while it was a good thing that Fort McMurray mimicked gestures such as the Rainbow crosswalk (popular in larger cities), there is a different comfort level with it up north as opposed to a city like Calgary or Edmonton.

As for the future of the star of Queen of the Oil Patch, over the next year he’s planning to transition into Iceis fully to become a Two-Spirited female. Additionally, Iceis has a second album coming out later this year on Spotify. Current songs Iceis songs available are of the "rock and roll" genre but that may change for the second album. "The first album we submitted to the Aboriginal People’s Choice awards we picked the rock category, just because The Queen is kind of rock, Shame on Me is kind of rock...This new album is kind of like hip hop and pop with a few more heart wrenching ballads." From our interview it’s clear Iceis is not one to be pigeonholed – she’ll write a rock song, she’ll write a dance song, she’ll write a ballad – whatever because she writes songs about her life.

The story Massey is telling may not be your story, but it is a story about someone forging their own path through all their struggles, trying to find out who he (and she) is, and doing it in a positive light. This story is being told so that we can learn and maybe someone out there can feel less alone. "I’m not doing this for the fame and glory," Massey said. "I really just wanted to share my story, to show other people that are struggling it does get better. You just have to have faith in yourself and a higher power."

Queen of the Oil Patch Series Trailer

Related Articles

Contributor Evan Kayne |

Locale Fort McMurray |

Person Iceis Rain |

Topic APTN | Celebrity Interview | Interview | Two-Spirit |


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