Drag show highlights talent and diversity

Blue and green lights illuminated the stage as Beyonce’s “Run the World” filled the Ransburg Auditorium. Stevoncé, clad in a yellow dress, appeared before the crowd for his third year as emcee. The crowd gets bigger and better each year according to third year graduate Anthony Jackson, and every year the drag show gets bigger and better.

Photo by Jayden Kennett.
Bruno and the Boyz was one of two groups that competed for the Best Group award. They performed a “Finesse” mix that included songs like “Finesse “ by Cardi B and Bruno Mars and “Bump and Grind” by R. Kelly.

UIndy PRIDE and Alpha Psi Omega came together to host the 12th Annual Drag Show on March 23. The 12 acts were a combination of stand-up comedy, dancing and lip syncing while in drag. Audience members were encouraged to tip performers during the show, and the $680.20 raised was donated to Indiana Youth Group, a nonprofit LGBT organization, according to PRIDE Co-
President Noah Hinkley.

Photo by Jayden Kennett
Cody “Pri Mary” Coovert (center) performed “Bossy” with two drag kings, including OJ “Damon Dukes” Moor (left). Coovert regularly performs and dresses in drag.

The show opened up with a dance and lip sync to a “Finesse” mix from the group Bruno and the Boyz. Other acts included Miraja Monet and Vic Titious, who performed a “Grease” remix, a stand-up routine from Missy Shades and Clayton Rardon and Destiny Heugel performed “Bop to the Top” as Ryan and Sharpay from “High School Musical.” The show also featured a special guest performance from professional drag queen Boy Gorge who lip synced and danced to a Lady Gaga mix.

The event was emceed by APO president and senior theatre major Stephen Cox,  whose stage name is “Stevoncé.” This year, he based his entertainment on the fact that it would be his last year hosting the drag show. He was joined by Rardon and Heugel to “teach” them how to emcee. Cox said the positive reaction from the crowd inspired him to continue hosting the drag show and that emceeing is special to him.

Photo by Jayden Kennett
Destiny Heugel (left) and Clayton Rardon (right) performed “Bop to the Top” from “High School Musical” and were also taught to emcee the event for next year.

“I will absolutely miss hosting the drag show,” Cox said. “Making people smile and laugh is a very special thing, and I will miss that greatly.… I’m confident that Clayton and Destiny will be able to make the drag show their own.”

Each year, the drag show is judged by a panel of UIndy faculty, alumni and professional drag queens, who choose winners in a variety of categories. This year, a new award for fan favorite was introduced, and audience members were encouraged to vote online for their favorite act. Cody Coovert, known as Pri Mary, performed “Bossy” and became the first drag queen to win the award for fan favorite. Daisy Gray, also known as Will Power, won the Best King award, while Cox won the award for Best Queen. Cox said that winning the award was just a cherry on top to his great time at the drag show, and the win came as a surprise.

“Winning actually felt kind of odd, because even without the title and the crown, I felt like a winner from the very beginning,” Cox said. “The love and positive energy I receive from the audiences before, during and after the show is a one-of-a-kind feeling.”

This year, Jackson’s group, Areola Grande and the Tits, won the Best Group award by performing “One Last Time/All My Love.”  Jackson said that winning felt like the world to him.

Photo by Kyle McGinnis
Stephen “Stevonce?” Cox performed “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain and emceed the show.

“Winning Best Group made me re-appreciate why I was doing it [the drag show],” Jackson said. “My friends are awesome, and we made a great team effort to give that awesome product.”

Traditionally, the decision to dress up as a king or queen is based on gender. For other performers, such as junior visual communication design major OJ Moor, the choice to dress as king or queen is up to the performer. Moor said that for a non-binary performer like themself, the decision is not any easy one because of gender identity. Moor said that the drag show is a way to help performers explore their gender, but is also a way for them to educate others in a fun way. Moor typically dresses up as a drag king. This year, Moor, known as Damon Dukes in drag, performed a classic rendition of “Stacy’s Mom.”

“For non-binary performers, such as myself, it’s more so just an entertainment persona and the gender is up to them,” Moor said. “There are even performers who don’t identify with a gender that’s just a bigger version of who they see themselves…I know a lot of individuals who float the gender spectrum.”

Photo by Kyle McGinnis
Zech “Miraja Monet” Saenz performed as Sandy in a “Grease” remix. This was his second performance.

While the drag show raises money for at-risk LGBT youth, it also allows students such as Cox and Jackson to express themselves. Jackson believes that the drag show is special. He has been participating in the drag show for seven years and said that he spent a little over a month and a half practicing and choreographing a routine with his friends this year. The drag show is something that he looks forward to doing every year, Jackson said, because it allows people to see how accepting the university is of the LGBT community. However, Jackson said that he does sometimes face criticism for doing drag, but he’s learned to accept the negative comments and questions and continues to have fun.

“I’m just a gay man. That’s literally it. And I have fun dressing up like a woman once a year,” Jackson said.

Like Jackson, Cox said he believes that the drag show is important to UIndy and its community. Cox has been participating in UIndy’s Drag Show for three years. Because he came from a small, conservative town and struggled with his sexuality in high school and his first year of college, Cox said the drag show allows him to express himself in ways that he cannot on a day-to-day basis.

“Drag to me is like a safe space,” Cox said. “One of the biggest things I love about UIndy is that it’s a space to allow you to be who you are and live out who you are.”

Cox believes that being involved with the LGBT community is important for those in it and the people outside of it because of the hardships and discrimination that they face every day. Cox said one of his favorite aspects of UIndy is how diverse the campus is, not just because of the LGBT community but also because of the number of international students who attend the university and the different religions at UIndy.

“I think it [the drag show] is a commitment to a promise of diversity on campus,” Cox said. “The drag show highlights how incredibly diverse the university is. And it shows the positive impact [it has] to our students and our faculty.”