As men slipped into wigs, fishnets and heels, women pulled on hats and tightened ties.
After Dark and MSUM Gay-Straight Alliance hosted Drag-On, MSUM’s first drag show in about five years, on Friday as “an affirmation of gender, identity and the exuberance of performance.”
“(Expression) is exactly what (drag) is about,” said student performer Holland Wilcox, also known as Madame Princess Beatrix Fatale. “Just expressing ourselves. Not because of our gender, just what we want to be. That’s all it is. This is our night to shine like that.”
Fourteen unique performances were showcased throughout the night, including students and professionals alike. Though the performers had differing amounts of experience when it came to drag, the audience members showed their enthusiasm for each performer by showering them with animated cheers and applause, as well as monetary tips.
“It’s awesome because we have such a wide variety,” said Mitch Johnson, graduate assistant for the After Dark and First Year Programs. “And so to see the audience interaction with both those styles and all ranges is so cool.”
Professional drag queen Kelly Coxsyn, also known as Kyle Matthews, emceed the event. Kings of Grandeur, a group of drag kings who perform at local venues, also made a debut.
While the show was intended to allow for self-expression, it also played a large part in raising awareness for Suicide Prevention Week, since LGBTQ students are often at a higher risk of suicide than others.
“We want to make sure that anyone who comes or goes from the Rainbow Room, or the Women’s Center, or anyone on campus can feel like they can express themselves any way they want to and not have to worry about being bullied or have that fear of (being judged),” stage manager Katie Kendrick said. “This was our big, giant statement of saying, ‘We accept you.’”
Rose Zawislak, who worked to coordinate the event and performed two numbers, said Drag-On gave students who may normally not express themselves in such an extravagant way an opportunity to do so.
“I wanted to show how much pride people have and how they can easily say, ‘Here I am, this is me. This is who I want to be. Take it or leave it,’” Zawislak said.
Turnout at the event was better than expected. With around 300 members in the audience, the Underground was filled to capacity, which Johnson says is unusual for an April event due to upcoming finals.
Johnson said that with such great reception to Drag-On, the organizations involved in its planning intend to make the show an annual event at MSUM, with hopes another drag show next fall.
BY DANIELLE REBEL