Kings, queens and everything in between

Paige Szmodis

paszmodis@ursinus.edu

     On Saturday, Mar. 24, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) held the second-annual student drag show at 7 p.m. in Bomberger Auditorium. The show featured eight student performers as kings, queens, and general drag monarchy.

     The president of the GSA, senior Robin Gow, explained that last year was the first GSA-sponsored student drag show, but “Ursinus has a deep history of drag.”

     For instance, the theater department, with Professor Dominic Scudera, holds a professional drag show every year in the Blackbox Theater during the annual Ursinus Fringe Festival.

     Gow also noted, “[According to] Professor Scudera . . . there [have] been drag shows [at Ursinus] before but usually as charity benefits or fundraisers.”

     On the purpose and significance of drag, Gow explained, “To me, drag has a wide range of possibility, but in general it’s a form of queer performance art meant to probe and question the construct of gender. Drag as an art form is evolving and I love to see the new possibilities beyond just binary drag.”

     While shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” have increased mainstream awareness of drag in the past decade, much of this attention has focused on drag queens performed by cisgender gay men. However, the GSA’s student drag show showcased performers of a wide variety of gender identities and gender expressions, not limited to binary gender performances as drag kings or queens.

     Last year, Gow performed as a drag king named Billy Flash. He said, “It was fun to make a drag king persona out of a stereotypical emo pop-punk boy . . . in a lot of ways it was a parody of myself. I performed Panic! at the Disco’s “Girls/Girls/Boys” which was meaningful to me because it’s about bisexuality and I’m really passionate about bi-visibility.”

     After the show, I interviewed a new addition to the drag line-up this year, a drag queen named Cherry Bomb, also known as senior Ben Susser. It was her first time ever performing in drag, and she said she was inspired to participate this year because “I took hip hop dance this semester and I’m finally really getting into performing. [I’ve] talked about doing drag many times after seeing many drag shows, and I finally feel comfortable performing.”

      Cherry Bomb performed to the song “Feels Good” by Tony! Toni! Toné! because she has “always enjoyed it. It comes on the R&B 100.3 radio.”

      When describing her look for the show with tight-curly black hair, high-waisted light blue jeans, and a leather jacket, Cherry Bomb said, “It don’t get no hotter than me!” But, she admitted that “the true all-star is Milana,” her friend who did her makeup and helped her get ready, for three and a half hours, before the show.

     About her performance, Cherry Bomb reflected, “I was satisfied. I got a little exasperated near the end . . . a little sweaty.” She also admitted, “I dislocated my thumb twice before this while practicing,” so she decided not to do the pin-drop dance move. Thankfully, “her thumb is fine.”

Cherry Bomb concluded that she wants to do drag again soon because “it makes me feel empowered.”

      Senior Frozen Belton, who performed in both this year’s and last year’s drag shows, reflected on the importance of having drag shows for the LGBTQ+ community at Ursinus.

     They said, “LGBTQIA+ people need visibility and belonging.  We need to see and appreciate our culture. Even if an individual doesn’t incorporate drag into their own queer culture, it is a part of it, now and historically, and that’s pretty important.”

     Gow added that having a student drag show on campus is important “because it’s the kind of event that lets the community come together that’s not as heavy as discussing the nuances of gender and identities. It also provides a level of LGBT+ visibility on campus that isn’t always as present.”

     Belton also stated that a student run drag show “[creates] a place for us to explore for ourselves. We don’t wait for someone to say ‘here is your place, thanks for coming by.’ We create what we want.”

     The GSA plans to continue an annual tradition of student-run drag shows. On behalf of the executive board, Gow mentioned that “we check our email frequently and would love to hear from those interested in doing drag” in the future. Interested students can contact the GSA at GSA@ursinus.edu.