With performers dancing, audience members twerking and a headline performance from drag queen Alaska 5000 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame in a fully packed Student Union theater, the Rainbow Center’s annual Drag Show gained roaring approval from audience members.
“People show their love and support for the Rainbow Center no matter what,” Rainbow Center director Fleurette King said in reference to the amount of people at the drag show and the support the Rainbow Center got from students at their Speak OUT event.
“We wanna see even more support in the future,” King said, as she tossed out bracelets to cheering people within the audience.
Along with Alaska 5000, who sang a humorous rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for one of her performances, were dances by queens Hazel Berry, Lolita Del Rae, Natasha Red Rose and Sheena Arabesque. All showcased a variety of moves in colorful and flamboyant outfits. In a few cases, audience members walked up and threw money on stage to the performers, to numerous cheers.
Paige Kingsley, a fourth-semester speech, languages and hearing sciences major said it was her first drag show and something she would want to experience again.
“I was so floored by the amount of effort and talent it took for the performers to do this show,” Kingsley said, mentioning that she was especially entertained by their interaction with audience members.
For example, during breaks between performers, random people volunteered to go up on the stage numerous times, either dancing for audience members, participating in a mock spelling bee or in one case, performed a “talent.”
Eighth-semester sociology major Kelsey Hust was one of these people and danced when called up to perform. She, along with three other audience members, was met with overwhelming applause and said she loved the experience.
“I’ve performed for several years now and I’ve never seen the kind of support that I saw tonight towards all the performers,” Hust said. “I’ve never been more confident in performers and myself than I was tonight.”
After the show was a public question and answer session held in the Rainbow Center by each of the performers.
“Drag is an art form that calls out the absurdities of gender,” Alaska said, stating that each person can be their own individual with their own identity.
“We want to challenge the entire concept of gender perceptions and make people realize that it’s okay to be comfortable with yourself no matter whom or what you are,” Alaska continued. “A drag race is a great opportunity to see the empowerment that comes from others expressing themselves.”
Other performers agreed, with Hazel Berry, saying performing in drag gave her a lot of confidence.
“Being in drag is actually courageous,” Berry said, stating that along with giving others hope and self-awareness to one day become aware and not just accepting of other people, but also possibly learn about themselves.
Garrett Schlichte, UConn graduate student in high education and student affairs, MC’d the show but gave credit to the Rainbow Center.
“Getting a phenomenal queen like Alaska is a huge part of it,” Schlichte said. “People don’t realize they’re working with booking managers, contracts, auditions and more.”
Schlichte said the huge audience was both a result of the Rainbow Center’s great advertising as well as the successful history of past drag shows and what drag means to the LGBTQ community and movement.
“Drag does a great job of providing this space where everyone feels comfortable coming to the show,” Schlichte said. “Watching someone do something artistic, different and even outrageous can challenge all types of guidelines and let people explore and have fun in a unique way.”
The drag show happened eight days before famous transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox is planned to speak at UConn.
“We’re gonna make the world a better place,” Alaska said. “And we’re going to do it together.”