Rainbow Pride Union (RPU) hosted its annual drag show “Drag Me to Hell” this past Saturday in Lecture Hall 1, which, despite the theme, was nothing short of lively. While the decorations, which the Binghamton Art Club helped to make, consisted of skeletons and skulls, tombstones and other spooky, red details, the energy of the room was upbeat and fun — I almost forgot I was in a lecture hall.
The show featured two student drag performers along with two local drag queens who perform regularly at The Cave, a nightclub in Downtown Binghamton that hosts weekly drag shows. First up was Vestal local, Paris LuRux. As soon as Paris began dancing, there was no question that she was a professional, experienced drag queen with an immense amount of confidence and personality. She was not afraid to go into the crowd, collect her cash and fall into the splits.
Juliana Natale, the president of RPU and a senior majoring in biology, shared why she finds it exciting to watch local drag queens.
“Interacting with the local queens is much more entertaining than just watching ‘[RuPaul’s] Drag Race,’” Natale said. “[‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’] is not as interactive, and I really like the interactivity that a local queen will give to you and how loyal they will be if you are to support them. I think that’s really great.”
The second performer of the night was Celia Mann, of Binghamton. Celia is another well-experienced, natural performer who graced the crowd with her presence. What was notable about Celia’s performance was her jump split, which she maintained regardless of technical difficulties with the decorations. With both LuRux and Mann, it became clear how different a live, local show would be from watching one on television. In addition to the added entertainment, watching a show with local drag queens felt much more personal.
“I think one of the things that stood out to me was, I think it was Paris who said it, was ‘Always support your local queens before ‘[RuPaul’s] Drag Race,’” Natale said. “And I thought that was really important because a lot of people, their experience is with ‘[RuPaul’s] Drag Race’ and not a lot of people have experience with the local queens.”
Student drag queens, Xixi Mei and Richard Queer, shined in their dances to “good 4 u” and “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.” It was truly impressive to see such expression and talent from Binghamton University’s own student body. Each performer took on their own identity in the show through variations of costume, music and dance style. Mei’s “good 4 u” invoked the teenage outrage that the pop song has inflicted on its large audience of listeners. At the same time, Mei’s schoolgirl outfit glamorized the theme of “good 4 u” and made the common emotional response of the song entertaining through their dance moves and interaction with the audience.
“[The drag show] provides a fun, safe place for anyone to just exist,” Natale said. “These big events can create some sort of community to have fun and no judgment in there, so I think that’s pretty important.”
Queer’s “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” expanded my perception of drag by taking a turn that was different from the other three performances. Queer’s cabaret-inspired makeup and drag king clothing formed a totally unique vibe that showed the audience what it looks like to be a true performer. In addition to his admirable, bold choices of aesthetics, Queer’s dance moves stole the audience, having infectious, fun energy that you couldn’t help but move along to.
One of the best parts of the night had to be the costumes. The thigh-high boots were a staple for LuRux and Mann and did not go unnoticed by the audience. Not only were each of the outfits and hairpieces glamorous, but some of them went along with the theme. In particular, LuRux and Mann’s second performance costumes and dances took a darker, yet continuously seductive approach for the “Drag Me to Hell” theme. Mann arrived in red, devil-like attire, dancing to Rihanna’s “Disturbia.” LuRux’s following dance went head-on by requiring a warning before she spilled fake blood on her white, Marilyn Monroe-esque dress.
Natale said that while the event turned out better than expected, it was not short of setbacks and last-minute adjustments. With a musical group unable to perform due to COVID-19, one local drag queen dropping out a few hours prior as a result of an injury and an overall difficult planning process due to the lack of records kept from the last event in 2019, Natale and the E-Board were forced to back impromptu decisions and roll with the punches.
In between performances, the four performers participated in a Q&A session where the hosts and the audience asked about how they started drag, what their style icons were, what advice they would give to a new drag queen, etc. This was a nice component to have, as it provided an atmosphere that was informative, fun and encouraged inclusivity. Natale was proud of the reception of the event and advocated for more like such in the future.
“It provides more of a community because it’s such a big event,” Natale said. “If you want to get involved with the LGBTQ community on campus, I feel like a big event is a good place to get started.”
The environment appeared overall to be supportive and positive, which was critical in order to cheer on and encourage the talented drag queens, who did an excellent job of entertaining the audience, ending the night by signing their names on the fans.