Students gathered in the Emory Student Center multipurpose rooms on Oct. 29 for Emory Pride’s 19th annual drag show.
(Jack Rutherford/Staff Photographer)
In addition to dazzling performances from student groups, the student-run organization catered food from Tin Drum Asian Kitchen and provided soda and Thai iced tea, mini bundt cakes and a chocolate fondue fountain. The club also offered free pride-themed merch, including glittery cowboy hats, sunglasses with colored lenses, glow sticks, enamel pins and stickers.
Next to the merch tables, students took photos in a photo booth with a sparkling, silver sequin background. Music by Kesha, Cher, Pet Shop Boys, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and other iconic artists in the queer community blasted through the speakers as event-goers socialized, collected merch and grabbed a bite to eat.
The show opened with host Olvr M Face, an Atlanta-based artist, hyping up the audience, encouraging them to cheer louder. Sporting an orange and green cheerleader costume and blonde wig, they performed a choreographed solo dance to the song “Mickey” by Toni Basil, complete with sassy looks, eye rolls and pom-pom waving. At the end of their performance, Olvr said, “Y’all like that? Give it up for this hair!”
Pink lights flooded the stage as Jewish a cappella group ChaiTunes followed Olvr’s performance. With lead vocals by Hayley Powers (24C), the group sang a cover of “Hypotheticals” by Lake Street Dive. The members sported baseball caps, jerseys, polos and sunglasses as they sang the romance song.
An Emory student who performs under the name Taylor Novella took the stage next with a solo performance, dressed in a sequin flapper dress, fishnets, red gloves and pearl necklaces. She started the performance behind a giant spider web before emerging from under the web. She danced to the song “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” by Fergie featuring Q-Tip and GoonRock. Her performance reached a climax as she jumped off the stage, strutted around the audience’s tables and removed her gloves to spread colorful scraps of paper like confetti, reminiscent of Sasha Velour’s iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine lip-sync performance.
Emory’s women+ dance group Persuasion Dance Crew followed, giving an energetic hip-hop performance. The dancers hit every beat with their synchronized moves as they performed four songs.
After the first three performances, halftime activities commenced. Students volunteered to take the stage, showing off their elaborate outfits and dance moves.
Eight groups of students went up on the catwalk to do handsprings, strip or simply strut in a competition. Group two, consisting of Theo Nguyen (26C), Lilith Ragsdale (26C) and Nico Lung (26C) ultimately won. The crowd went wild for Ragsdale and Lung’s confident walks and stylish outfits as well as Nguyen’s voguing across the stage. Nguyen, who was already familiar with the ballroom dance scene, appeared confident on the stage.
“[Ballroom] is about being radically, resolutely queer and is designed to facilitate it,” Nguyen said.
(Jack Rutherford/Staff Photographer)
After the short intermission, host Olvr returned to the stage, now donning a fluffy blonde wig, lacy crop top and matching patchwork pants and vest set. They introduced an Emory student who goes by the stage name Sasha Rosa, a solo drag queen performer.
Rosa wore sparkly black flared pants and a flowy crop top. Her red gloves matched her red graphic eyeliner and long orange wig. Set to Beyoncé’s “PURE/HONEY,” Rosa mesmerized the audience with her expressive hand movements, facial expressions and eye contact. The audience hollered uproariously as she removed her shirt halfway through her performance, revealing a black velvet crop top and gold belt. Rosa made her way into the audience, snaking through tables and passionately lip-syncing.
TNT Dance Crew stylishly took the stage in matching black pants and T-shirts with red text that read “TNT Dance Crew.” They gave a gender-bending hip-hop performance, as the girls danced with traditionally masculine moves, and the boys vice versa.
Addressing the crowd as “ladies, gentlemen and people with mullets,” Olvr gave the final performance. They started whimsically prancing around the audience to an old-timey song about Captain Hook before transitioning to a sensual performance to a remix of “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande and “Bongos” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.
All the performers returned to the stage to hear the verdict of the contest. The judges, consisting of Emory faculty in the department of women’s, gender and sexualities studies, chose the winner. Though Persuasion, Rosa and TNT were all finalists, Rosa ultimately won. The crowd erupted in applause.
Lucy Corkman (27C), an audience member, reflected on the drag show as one way queer people can find community with one another.
“Seeing queer joy makes it feel like there’s a place for you, and I know that sounds really corny, but when you don’t see yourself and you don’t see people like you, you feel crazy and weird,” Corkman said. “But when you can be around other people that have the same experiences and feelings, it’s just so joyful and happy.”
Nguyen explained that Pride started as a form of political protest and is still inherently political today.
“A big part of why this is a celebration is because of exactly the philosophy,” Nguyen said. “So much about Pride [and] drag shows is about being unapologetically queer and being able to create a consolidated space for that to exist.”
Alyssa Colen (25C), Emory Pride’s diversity, equity and inclusion chair, expressed that Emory Pride’s drag show is an important opportunity to support peers and partake in queer history.
“The support that we can give our peers who would like to try or get into drag is important, as well as keeping on and respecting the tradition and history of drag,” Colen said.
Alexandra Kauffman (26C) is an English & Creative Writing major from Phoenix, Arizona. At the Wheel, she is an Emory Life section editor and Arts & Entertainment campus desk. Outside of the wheel, she is a member of Alloy Literary Magazine. She is also a science fiction enthusiast and enjoyer of the bizarre.