This semester, New Paltz is getting an injection of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent from one of its newest clubs.
The Kings and Queens of New Paltz, SUNY New Paltz’s Drag Performance club, has opened its doors this semester to welcome students interested in drag performance and culture. Though the club is still in its infancy, co-founders Mike Persico and Connor Henderson already have grand plans and aspirations for their inaugural semester.
“We don’t want to exclude anyone,” Persico said. “This is a place for people with experience and it’s a place where people can start off. It’s basically like drag boot camp.”
Both Persico and Henderson have already started doing performances in drag. Henderson, a first-year photography major, was first introduced to drag through a friend and found inspiration from him.
“I always thought it was really cool and I wanted to try it out,” Henderson said. “He really got me started and taught me the tricks of the trade.”
Persico, a first-year psychology major, has been part of the drag scene for less than a year, with his first experience being his high school’s spirit week and dressing up as a notorious literary figure.
“I didn’t even know what drag was until last April and a friend introduced me to ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” Persico said. “I fell in love and was later asked to go to school as the Queen of Hearts. After that I just bought a ton of make-up and started doing it all on my own. It’s become my creative outlet.”
As the club’s co-founders, the two have discussed some of the goals they have for this semester. The club was asked to perform in the March 8 Drag Show that will feature “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season three contestant Shangela Laquifa Wadley. On top of this, Persico and Henderson said they plan on having several small performances throughout the year.
In order to get club members who may be new to drag culture comfortable with performing, the two co-founders want to host a series of mini-drag shows and have a “big drag ball” at the end of the semester. They also said they were interested in hosting a “New Paltz Drag Race” at some point during the semester.
“There are so many things we want to do,” Persico said. “We want to do be able to teach girls make-up tips and host performances throughout the semester. There’s so much we can and want to do.”
However, performance and programs aren’t the only focus the club has. Henderson said being comfortable in drag is a “liberating” experience, but it takes time and encouragement to become comfortable in your own skin.
“The first time I was in drag my friend painted my whole face for me and when I looked in the mirror I couldn’t believe it was me,” Henderson said. “I looked like a different person. I could totally change who I was, and I think it’s really liberating to have something where you can change so much about yourself, but you can still be you.”
Persico also said that acceptance and self-worth are part of the club’s mission, and that he and Henderson will use every opportunity they can to help club members thrive not just in drag, but in all facets of their lives.
“We want to inspire people to be comfortable in their own skin,” he said.
The club meets on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. in Student Union 414.