I have only been to one live drag performance before, so I truly didn’t know what to expect from the annual Emory Drag Show streamed virtually this year on Oct. 24. As a proud bisexual woman looking forward to LGBTQ History Month this October, I was glad to see Emory’s LGBTQ+ community activated, engaged and celebrating their individuality. Little did I know that I would be treated to some high-quality entertainment and incredibly talented musical performances from eight glorious drag queens.
Planning the Emory Drag Show for LGBTQ History Month allows Emory Pride to highlight the beautiful drag community, history and culture in Atlanta, Emory Pride executive board member Angel Barrueta (22C) explained.
The night began with Pam, a non-binary drag queen and fellow Emory student, introducing the performers and welcoming the audience to the Zoom call. Pam’s energy was contagious. I felt my excitement for the upcoming performances continue to grow as their glorious silk gloves perfectly prepared me for the wonderful night to come. They decided to play their performance video first to avoid the jitters. Pam’s performance was an invigorating way to start off the evening, easing the audience into the energy of drag. My friends and I audibly gasped when Pam performed a jump in high heels off of a graffitied platform. Like at any good drag show, our breath was taken away.
The next three performers were local Atlanta drag queens, who all happened to perform to the contagious beats of Lady Gaga. As Pam put it, Lady Gaga’s recent “Chromatica” album is essentially the “album of the gays.” “Good Judy” podcast host Ella/Saurus/Rex donned a sparkling outfit with unique touches of flannel; CoCo Iman Starr executed gravity-defying backflips, kicks and repeated splits; and Brigitte Bidet served a video with the production quality of an Oscar-winning movie, matched by Bidet’s vibrant performance and sexual liberation.
CoCo Iman Starr’s sheer talent was evident as the audience appeared to be tipping her money in the video, and my friend who also watched on, Jamila Spears (24C), wished she could have too.
I could tell that the process of virtually recruiting these drag queens and navigating the digital platform was very well-thought-out. Planning for the show started in August, and “the process looked messy because we had to adapt to Zoom,” Barrueta said. The final product showed very little of that messiness, and the audience turnout was around 27 people, which seemed like a far greater number than I had experienced in other Zoom events these days.
The usual Emory Drag Show draws large crowds and is an event that both reinforces and creates the LGBTQ+ community on campus. While this may not have been able to achieve that in its entirety, Barrueta felt that this virtual drag show “at least strengthened the bonds within the people that were there.”
“It didn’t really create a community, it just kinda reinforced it,” Barrueta said.
Tommy Greenler (22C), a member of the Emory Pride executive board, agreed, explaining that usually turnout is very high, but with Zoom events, attendance can never quite reach the usual level. Despite this, Greenier did “feel like people were engaged and … there was community [that] night.”
I felt that community very strongly during the brief halftime show, during which audience members were allowed to show off their own drag outfits and the Emory Pride executive board voted on a winner. From “stealth pride” outfits covered in subtle rainbows to a full-bearded face of drag makeup, audience members showed the strength of Emory’s LGBTQ+ community and its unwillingness to be subdued by the pandemic.
The show resumed with drag king King Perka $exxx’s lip-synch performance of “The Sound of Silence,” which, as Pam eloquently put, balanced both gritty videography and lyric elements with classic music and costume.
The energy level began to escalate rapidly as Dotte Com, another local Atlanta queen, took the virtual stage and danced her heart out to “Who Run the World” by Beyoncé.
The night ended with two special guest drag queens from my home city, Chicago. I felt both my hometown and my LGBTQ+ pride burst as I watched their performances. The first was Derry Queen, who, as Pam noted, was “a comedian first, drag queen second.” She recorded her lip-synch performance of Carly Rae Jepsen’s nostalgic “I Really Like You” in front of various strangers on Omegle. This bold and artistic move was, of course, met with a myriad of reactions from Omegle strangers, one even asking, “What is going on?” Others simply danced along with Derry’s contagious moves. The final performer was rising star Denali Foxx, lip-synching and dancing along to one of Kesha’s most popular and catchy songs, “Blow.”
All of the drag queens and kings were truly stars in their own right. After a long semester of hard work, midterms, navigating pandemic solitude and trying to find community on campus, the Emory Drag Show did a wonderful job of lifting spirits, celebrating and reinforcing Emory’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community, providing the audience a moment to get their minds off of work.
To conclude, I encourage all members of Emory’s LBGTQ+ community, and even those who do not identify with this community, to actively look for unique ways to support the community. You can support and celebrate local drag queens and kings, LGBTQ+ organizations and businesses, LGBTQ+ performers and the overall community, as we all navigate the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic.