In honor of Homecoming Week, Florida Atlantic University will be celebrating 60 years of being on campus. In which there will be many activities and events for the faculty and students to enjoy. One of which was Flordia Atlantic University’s 11th annual drag show that was hosted by FAU’s Center for IDEAs, also known as Inclusion, Diversity Education, and Advocacy. It has fully returned in person, due to the sudden and the long-overdue halt of the pandemic. The show featured many performances from the most popular Drag Queens located here in South Florida: Ariel Rimm, Kat Wilderness, Rianna Petrone, TP Lords, Velvet Lenore, Sasha Lords, and the one and only Aja.
The show starts off with a pre-show being done by the one and only Sasha Lords performing Scream by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson with a few backup dancers. As she then transcends down the stage and into bringing back the 2000s with performing songs from Brittany Spears of Circus and Womanizer, bringing the crowd to abrupt in applause as the opening act. With a 15 minute intermission, the show resumes with the hostess of the evening Ariel Rimm, doing an elegant performance with a white dress and an umbrella to accompany the look of It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Celine Dion. Next comes Rianna Petrone as who comes on with a black sparkling sheet, but then reveals a bedazzled yellow and purple bodysuit as she sashes along the stage and interacts with the crowd with her amazing performance. Soon to follow was drag queen Sasha Lords as she enters the stage with a green fur coat with her first performance of the cover of Beggin’ which is originally sung by Madcon. To end her set, she sets the crowd onto their feet as she performed Have Mercy by Chloe. TP Lords and Velvet Lenore’s performance was a crowd favorite as well with their stunning dresses and song choices.
Out of all the performances, drag queen, Kat Wilderness brought the best reaction to the crowd as she enters the stage with a sheer cheetah top, a skirt, and a wide-brimmed hat, in which her look was similar to Beyonce’s look for the Black is King visual album. Kat performed an array of songs from Beyonce’s Live Album of the Homecoming. Kat’s performance was very interactive as she was going to and from the stage to the audience members. She took it upon herself to bring on a few backup dancers to dance with her and the audience members as well bringing the crowd to roaring applause.
The famous and well-known drag queen Aja, who was featured on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, was last to grant the stage with her presence. Which was well worth it judging by the crowd’s responses of ongoing cheers and applause as she performed one of her original songs. Aja was then able to wrap up the show by interacting with the crowd and allowing students to go two by two to participate in a Ballroom contest. She goes on to explain to the crowd the different categories of the ballroom like All-American and vogueing. Many students were able to express themselves as the strunt along the stage with a full face of attitude and giving their all: which was confidence. Aja, her two backup dancers, and the crowd were the judges as they were able to decide who out of the two students, gave their best.
Sophomore, Doriyan Caty, who was one of the ballroom participants, says that he enjoyed partaking in doing ballroom with the other students. “It felt fantastic. I’ve always been interested in stuff like that, but I’ve never actually tried, so to have a safe environment like that to get up and do it was so great. And it’s so different from theatre since that’s my major. And it was my first time seeing a drag show as well.”
For some students, it wasn’t their first time seeing a drag show. Michaela Wooten, a Senior, recalls, “Nope, it wasn’t my first time but it was definitely a moment I wouldn’t forget. They were very entertaining and captivating. Kat Wilderness and Velvet Lenore really snapped and had the audience involved.”
At the end of the show, the drag queens were able to do a quick meet and greet with a majority of the students who attended the show. Many students in the LGBTQ+ community who attended the drag show, were able to verbally express to the performers how this was all starting to not only feel inclusive for them but also a safe space for them and being able to express themselves freely and watch them perform.
With the pandemic putting the in-person drag show on hold for a year, making it go virtual last year, it was surreal for the drag queens as they were able to finally come back and perform on stage for the first time here in Florida Atlantic University. Drag queen persona, Ariel Rimm, who is an alumna here at FAU, says, “When I came here, everyone liked loved me from the getgo. FAU has been so wonderful to me, to the show, allowing it to grow to where we are today. We started off in a conference room with 50 people, and look where we’re at today, so that shows you that the school has belief in me, our show, and our community.”
Sasha Lords was even able to share how just in general of coming back and performing onstage for people who’ve never been to a drag show, is something that she and many of the other drag queens love to do. “To be able to produce our talent to new people who haven’t got to see us over the years, those who are coming to into themselves, and finding out about our drag is very humbling at the same time.”
Kat Wilderness also says that “When they (students) watch us, you never know who’s going to be the next one on the stage.”
Behind the sparkling outfits, dramatic makeup, and wigs come performers ready to give their all for people to be left confident and inspired into knowing who they really are. With the long-overdue return of the annual in-person drag show, it was worth the wait as it left the audience members and drag queens positive and feeling excited about next year’s drag show that is soon to come.