UNT Drag Show inspires audience and performers
Bianca Mujica | Staff Writer
The audience stomped their feet in a makeshift drumroll while they waited for the results. After a few long minutes, the winner was declared. Crystal Wildfire beamed at the cheering ballroom as she was crowned the 2017 UNT Drag Queen.
On Friday, April 14, the University Program Council partnered with the Residence Hall Association and the Pride Alliance to host the second annual UNT Drag Show. Hundreds of people attended to watch eight queens compete in the presence of Alyssa Edwards, a former contestant on the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“This has been a rollercoaster of a lot of different things,” said Rachel Morales, Live Event Coordinator for UPC. “This event was a challenge to figure out, but it was really fun.”
Drag is when individuals perform while dressed as the opposite gender. They adopt new names and personas, transforming themselves into a queen or king by using makeup, wigs, and outfits. On April 14, it consisted of male UNT students dancing and lip-syncing in extravagant costumes. They would be judged by the winner of last year’s drag show, as well as representatives from the University Program Council and the Residence Hall Association.
The event was first brought to campus last spring, and it was so successful that those working the doors had to turn away hundreds of people hoping to get in. UPC decided to bring it back this year, with over 700 seats instead of the 500 that were available last year.
Auditions were held in late February and early March to find student performers. Of the 21 that tried out, eight made it through.
“We wanted to keep it in the style of a drag race, which is why we made it a competition,” said Miles Alexander, the choreographer for the show’s group dance. “A lot of other places just do the show, so this is unique.”
The chosen ones – Lotus Vajara, Crystal Wildfire, Selena, SlayVannah, Doll Parts, Dixie Normus, Sabrina the Teenage Bitch, and Jerikah – spent the weeks before the show practicing and preparing for hours at a time. When the day finally arrived, the line to enter the Union ballroom was nearly a hundred people long two hours before the doors opened. By the time people began filing in, the line had extended around most of the third floor.
Every single seat was taken, as was the space along the walls. The lights went out and hundreds of voices screamed. Alyssa Edwards walked into the spotlight, sporting enormous blonde hair, black stilettos, a shimmering pink dress and matching gloves with claws at the fingertips. She spoke directly to certain audience members, conversed with one of the contestants’ mothers and asked the drag queens about their participation in the show.
During each routine, audience members approached the stage and gave the performers dollar bills. All the money went to the Pride Alliance’s OUTfits Clothing Closet, which offers clothing to LGBT students in need of a wardrobe to match their gender or sexual identity. Once all the contestants had performed, the total was at $600.
Edwards performed her own routine and invited the contestants on stage with her. The goal was to hit $1,000. After a few songs and dozens of people cramming the runway, $1,635 had been raised. Edwards said she was so amazed that she was going to donate $500 herself.
After two hours of performances, the judges made their decision. David Montalvo, whose drag name was Selena as a tribute to the deceased Mexican-American singer, won third. Dylan Asher, or Sabrina the Teenage Bitch while in drag, placed second. And Crystal Wildfire, took first.
More than just a show
John Collins, 18, competed in the show as SlayVannah. Although he was one of the youngest performers, he was one of the few who had performed in drag in before. In the spring of 2016, he competed in Miss Kerr Hall. It was his first semester in college, but he still took the crown.
“When I first came to UNT, I was just little quiet John,” Collins said. “But each time I perform, I feel more like me.”
Before Miss Kerr Hall, Collins hardly knew anything about drag. His friend convinced him to participate and that’s when he fell in love with the culture.
The fans, the music, and the enjoyment of performing gave him an adrenaline rush.
“It’s pure bliss and I’m definitely doing it again,” Collins said. “It’s made me more outspoken, more fun, more gay. My shell is gone. Now I really embrace who I am.”
As a freshman, competing against upperclassmen sometimes felt intimidating for Collins. But he said the experience helped him grow as a person.
“It gave me more confidence, but it also made me more humble because there were really good people there,” said Collins, an English and marketing double-major. “I realized that I wasn’t there to win but to have fun.”
Collins said the encouragement he received from his fellow performers made him feel like he found his home within the university. Even though queens might have strong personalities that sometimes clash, that is nothing compared to the joy Collins gets from being part of a show.
“The community is really supportive and is always there for each other,” Collins said. “They are sweet and kind and they take you in.”
In addition to performing, Collins also finds joy in the transformation of becoming SlayVannah. It is a long process that can take several hours, but for Collins, it is the calm before the storm.
“When I’m putting on my hair and makeup, I look in the mirror and I’m not John anymore,” Collins said. “There is someone new coming out of me with each stroke of the brush.”
Although he does not want to pursue drag as a career, Collins intends on keeping it as a large part of his life.
It gives him the opportunity to unapologetically be himself while also being a voice for the groups he identifies with.
“I want to be someone to look up to while in drag,” Collins said. “When we’re up there, we are representing UNT. We are representing the gay community and ourselves. And at the end of the day, drag just gives me life.”
Featured Image: Selena is called as “ third-place of UNT Drag Queen in 2017” in UNT Drag Show at the Union. Koji Ushio
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