Willamette drag show raises money for local nonprofit
Over the last few decades, love has grown for America’s wigged, powdered and sparkling drag queens. From the play “Kinky Boots,” to the drag cast on “A Star is Born” and to the millions of Americans who tune into “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” it is safe to say that the glittery and once illusive subculture of the LGBTQ+ community has become a well-known and deeply appreciated form of self expression and art.
On Friday, March 6, Rainbow Alliance and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) held a drag show in Smith Auditorium. There were performances to songs from the play “Wicked,” Lady Gaga, Adele and Lizzo, as well as sound clips from “Spongebob” and the movie “Selena.” Drag queen Carmen Kiara Cortez hosted the show and introduced the three Phoenix sisters, as well as Willamette’s own queen, Diva Dott. Each performed two routines that were mixed, choreographed and costumed by each individual.
“Drag is all self-produced,” said Carmen Kiara Cortez while hosting. “You do your own makeup, your own music and your own costumes because it’s your art.”
In addition to the show itself, the event was also a fundraiser for the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC), which is based in Portland. SMYRC is run by New Avenues for Youth, which is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent youth homelessness. Since 1997, they have built a program that includes resources like SMYRC, drop-in day services that provide meals and showers, educational opportunities, supportive housing and counseling.
As described on the New Avenues for Youth website, “SMYRC provides a safe, supervised, harassment-free space for sexual and gender minority youth ages 13-23 who participate in positive activities like art, music, community organizing, open mic nights, drag shows and support groups and receive services including case management, counseling, education and more. With the goals of increasing academic success and access to jobs, reducing poverty and school drop-out, SMYRC honors, empowers and supports LGBTQ youth to be their best selves and become leaders in their communities.”
Carmen Kiara Cortez used the clips from “Selena” to comment on the difficulties of growing up as a trans Latina in a small town. She lip synced the words, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!”
Despite some audio hiccups, the show went on and the audience had a great time.
“I’ve been to several shows before, and even though this one wasn’t as organized, the queens were still amazing,” said Ted Alberon (‘23).
Juliana Adams (‘23) echoed a similar sentiment and said that “I’ve been to a handful of drag shows and this one was pretty good! From what I’m used to, the stage situation could have been better because it was a little difficult for the queens to move around the audience, but that being said, they were still incredible.”
Kristell Mares De Juan (‘23) had never been to a drag show before. “I didn’t know they prepared their own shows,” she said. “My favorite part is when [the Phoenix Sisters] all danced together, but honestly the whole show was amazing.”
The queens interacted with the audience as well, going into the crowd and accepting dollar bills as tips throughout their performance. Glow sticks and candy were thrown into the seats during the dances and everyone clapped and cheered along with the show.
Jaclyn Rojo (‘23) had seen RuPaul’s Drag Race before, but loved the essence of live drag even more because of the energy. “I would love to see another show at Willamette because this one was so fun and one of the queens goes here and it would be fun to see how she grows from this first performance,” Rojo said.
The night was full of energy, self-expression and generosity, and Willamette students now wait in anticipation for another.