The first thing I saw upon walking into the neon-flashing, music-throbbing KnightSpot on the evening of March 8 was a tall girl stomping around in black pumps. With a flip of her hair and a pop of her hips, she turned around and I realized she was really a he: a guy who looked better in heels and a mini dress than I did.
This subversion of social expectations turned out to be a theme of the evening’s Drag Ball, an event presented by Geneseo Pride Alliance and Geneseo Late Knight. The show featured a mix of professional drag queens from Rochester’s Tilt Nightclub and Ultralounge alongside student performers in drag, and was hosted by the colorful DeeDee Dubois: a queen whose big personality was only trumped by the size of her emerald-green wig.
“Drag Ball is a special night dedicated to breaking down social constructions and reveling in the beauty of being extravagant, unconfined and fabulous,” Student Association representative sophomore Louis Marzella said. And the night was certainly fabulous.
Standout performances included Samantha Vega’s rendition of “Let’s Get Loud” in ruby peacock feathers, student performer Mama Clit’s encore of “Timber,” and “Like a Virgin” lip-synced by student Rosie Cheeks in full wedding gown and veil.
For professional performer Kyla Minx, these student performers are the most rewarding part of working with Pride.
“It’s great when we encourage students to come out in drag and we get to see them actually do it,” Minx said. “This is the only opportunity some of them have to express that part of themselves, and for them to be able to do that here, in a safe space, is really cool for us.”
Minx also added that it’s important to introduce drag on a college campus in an effort to defy normative gender roles and break misconceptions about drag.
“Drag is a higher form of homage to women,” Minx said. “Some people think it’s misogynistic, based on the attributes we choose to exaggerate. But those are what we feel make women empowered and what makes them gorgeous.”
“The common misconception is that drag queens want to be women, but I don’t want to be a woman at all,” Dubois said. “This is just an art form. It’s all about making people laugh – seeing people have a good time. We can go out there and pass gas on stage, and as long as they have a good time, then we’re happy.”
While it didn’t come to that, the dancing and cheering crowd sardined into the KnightSpot seemed to be enjoying themselves regardless. Dubois and Pride Alliance executive board members said they were particularly pleased with the Drag Ball’s turnout, with 11 total performers, a “hot body” contest and an upgrade from last year’s sound system with a professional DJ.
Dubois said it’s important for students to open themselves up to the drag experience, whether they’re on stage or in the audience.
“It’s like when you’re a kid and your mom makes you eat your vegetables,” Dubois said. “You find that certain vegetables you don’t like, but you can’t say you hate broccoli if you’ve never eaten it. So how can you say you don’t like a drag show if you’ve never come and seen one? You’re not gonna ‘catch the gay.’ Drag is a fun way to make people feel more comfortable about diversity – it’s just a good time for all, and people need to try it.”