Pride Week culminated Friday night with the much-anticipated drag show.
The Johnson Center was cleared of all food court tables, making room for a stage and a few hundred chairs. But that wasn’t sufficient for the turnout. Spectators dragged chairs from other areas of the JC in order to get a good view of the show. When there still wasn’t enough seating, viewers climbed the stairs to every level of the building and lined the railings.
“I went last year and maybe the year before that. I just don’t remember,” said Jarrod Wadsworth, a junior communication major. “I was here last year with JuJuBee, and it was amazing!”
Mason’s drag show is the best known and most attended event of Pride Week, generating an audience filled with not only students but people from throughout the region.
“I know some of the professional people who are performing, so I thought I would come out and support,” said Manuella Hancock, a spectator in the audience from Washington D.C. “[I found out about the event on Facebook]. I guess I have the power of social media to thank.”
Alex Gant, a 2008 Mason grad and the show’s master of ceremonies for the past four years, took center stage and gave the crowd what they had been waiting for: Carmen Carrera, a contestant from season three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a Logo show which follows famed drag performer RuPaul in a search for the next drag superstar.
All eyes turned to the stairwell as Carrera made her slow and provocative descent toward the audience and the stage. Decked out in a bodysuit, similar to that of Britney Spears from her “Toxic” music video, it’s no wonder the crowd went crazy.
“I’m going to go change and get into something a little more revealing,” Carrera said as she sashayed toward the stage stairs. “It’s a drag show, so let me get out of this bodysuit and into something a little more revealing!”
Following Carrera’s exit, a slew of professional and student performances ensued.
The JC was booming to Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyoncé. With their exaggerated facial expressions and sporadic dances, performers wowed the audience and were showered with dollar bills by spectators as a form of applause.
“I got started in an amateur show,” said Jasmine Blue, a drag queen inspired by Beyoncé and Miss Gay United States 2011, as she began to wind down after her performance. “I was just there to watch and spectate. That was four years ago.”
Whereas many of the professionals have been performing for years, some of the student performers, like Mason student Kiara Rose, have been on the drag scene for only a year or two.
“It’s absolutely amazing. One of my good friends and I watched ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ in high school and decided to give it a try,” Rose said.
As the drag show came to a close, and viewers fought the crowd to get to Dewberry Hall in hopes of taking a picture with Carrera, a few lagged behind.
“It’s a big team thing,” said Ric Chollar, associate director of LGBTQ Resources, while the clean-up crew began breaking down the stage. “I’m more like a coach or a cheerleader guiding the team. Alex [Gant] is the one who did 90 percent of everything; she contracted the performers, set the line-up and created the playlists.”
Chollar has helped run the drag show for the past 11 years alongside other departments on campus. This year, LGBTQ Resources paired with Weekends at Mason. WAM was in charge of booking the celebrity, while LGBTQ Resources rallied together student drag queens and kings.
“The drag show is wonderful because it showcases students and the local talent, while at the same time bringing in a mixture of LGBTQ to be celebrated, as well as the general campus,” Chollar said.
One of the primary concerns brought up each year is whether the drag show goes too far. Whether it’s obscenities or partial nudity, knowing what the audience will and find offensive is paramount.
“A key element of drag shows is edge. Therefore, for it to be entertaining, it has to play on an edge,” Chollar said. “When I started this job 11 years ago, we felt like it was a big risk to have a drag show. We worried about coverage and how student media would report it because the JC is a public area where passerby can be affected by the performances. Each year, students are learning how much they can get away with, so each year, there’s a bit more. It’s interesting to see how something risky and small 11 years ago has turned into something as mainstream as you saw tonight.”
The biggest concern used to be whether or not people would be offended, now LGBTQ resources worry that other efforts are being neglected and students only recognize the drag show.
“I’m concerned that people equate Pride Week just with the drag show, considering it has been the most attended event for a number of years,” Chollar said. “The fact of the matter is that Pride Week actually consists of 16 to 20 events. This year there were 16 programs, three LGBTQ student organization meetings and a community service project hosted by Standout where they took collections for the Wanda Alston House, a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in D.C.”
Every year, LGBTQ Resources tries to top the previous year with Pride Week events. Keep an eye out for next year’s Pride Week and all the events—not just the drag show—that ensue.
Be sure to visit Connect2Mason.com for more photos from Friday’s performances, as well as video footage.