On Friday night, four student drag queens and one king danced around the UC River Room and effortlessly lip-synched to classic hits like “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys and “Yes & No” by XYLO for a night of performances that was carried out in three rounds.
A zealous audience cheered as the performers wearing dresses, vests, heels and intricate makeup delivered energetic performances in the dim room filled with colorful, Halloween-themed lights.
Friday’s Halloween drag show was the hosted by the Stonewall Tigers Gender & Sexuality Alliance student organization. It was the second one that the group had put on at the University of Memphis.
“We had a drag show once before at U of M, right before the pandemic hit,” said Stonewall Tigers president, Emily Campbell. “We wanted to do one this year and was thinking about the timing of it. And I thought, what better time for a drag show than Halloween?”
Of the event’s five performers, one of them was drag veteran, Miami Rose. Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas she has been doing drag for five years. She likes to call herself a glamor clown because she looks really pretty and acts really crazy.
Rose developed an interest in drag after seeing a clip of a drag queen on YouTube in high school.
“I fell down this rabbit hole of drag, and I found drag race. It really inspired me to go to the club and it never stopped. They can’t get rid of me now,” she said.
Rose performs in many parts of Memphis and Arkansas. She also has a podcast on Spotify called “Are We Pretty” that she hosts with fellow drag performer, Analeigh Douché. The podcast includes a weekly topic as well as drag news and exclusive interviews.
Because it was Halloween-themed, attendees were invited to wear costumes to the event. During the intermission between rounds, a costume competition was held. The competition was divided into several categories including cutest and scariest outfit. Winners were selected based on the amount of applause they received from the crowd.
The event had to be organized weeks in advance to make sure it went as smooth as possible.
“We had to make sure we got funding, decorations, performers, food, everything to make sure we were ready for tonight,” Campbell said.
Besides Campbell, Chelsea Liddell, multicultural affairs program manager and Stonewall Tigers staff advisor, also played a big role in putting on the show.
Liddell helped with arranging the room location, contacting the performers and making sure the event came together overall.
“I think all the students had a really great time and it seemed like a great response. I consider this a success,” she said.
The show was significant because holding it showed that there is a safe space on campus for people in the LGBTQ+ community to be themselves, which is one of the main goals of the Stonewall Tigers.
“It’s already kind of hard to exist outside of this environment because there is judgement that comes about it,” said Stonewall Tigers’ publicity coordinator Charlie Ross. “These events are important not just to enlighten us on queer history and culture but as well as for people to be involved in it.”
With most of the seats in the room being filled Friday night, the drag show proved to be an attention-grabbing event that Liddell was right to consider a success. Sophomore Kat Chávez. said that she was excited to see that kind of event held at the U of M.
“The fact that you can have an event like this at a university now and it be loved and accepted is just amazing. It really makes for an awesome environment,” she said.
Miami Rose strutting down the aisle during the first round of the night. She has been doing drag for five years.
Performer Shiklina at Friday's drag show. “I never thought I was going to be good at it until I tried it, and that’s when I found out,” she said.