New Paltz was recently home to all sorts of royalty as drag queens and kings took the stage during “Gender is a Drag,” held in the Student Union Multipurpose Room on Saturday, March 8.
Facilitated by fourth-year Women’s ,Gender and Sexuality Studies major Brendan Wright, the show was created in conjunction with an independent study class Wright took with Associate Professor Karl Bryant on drag and gender performance.
The event featured a drag performance followed by a meet-and-greet of the onstage acts. Wright said he had never seen a drag show on campus throughout his four years as a student and thought it was something the community needed and would enjoy.
“In putting together and hosting this drag show on our campus, I really wanted to bring some of my passions together into one event,” Wright said. “Through this experience, I was able to apply my academic background in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies while also melding that with my love for campus programming and working with students, especially on events which help to promote diversity.”
With help from the Director of the Student Activities and Union Services Department, Mike Patterson and Graduate Assistant in the Student Activities and Union Services Department, Kenji Kaneshiro and funding from Student Activities and the Residence Hall Student Association, Wright was able to organize and fund the show.
Wright booked well-known acts to perform, including Shangela, featured on seasons two and three of the Logo Reality Series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to headline the event and Albany-based drag queen Eva Destruction.
Wright also invited performers from the newly-created drag-based club, The Queens and Kings of New Paltz, to participate in the event, and the club’s Co-Presidents, Connor Henderson and Michael Persico, seized the opportunity to take the stage.
“We opened the performance to everyone in the club, but no one else was prepared to perform in front of a crowd,” Henderson, a first-year photography major, said. “We had a couple people attend the show in drag just for experience. I’m glad Brendan put this event on because drag is something in the LGBTQ community that comes with a lot of misconceptions, and I think it’s great for people to learn what it’s about for themselves.”
Henderson’s drag name is Kandyy Apple, and he has been performing the art of drag for a year and a half, mainly participating in shows near his hometown. He impersonated pop artists Lady Gaga and Cher during “Gender is a Drag” and said he enjoys interacting with the audience while he performs and feeding off of what they like.
Persico, a first-year psychology major, also performed at the show, using the drag name Victoria Precise, and said he draws stylistic inspiration from the winner of season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Sharon Needles.
“I’ve been doing drag for almost a year but I only recently started performing,” Persico said. “I’m more of a weird, spooky queen, and I like to act out a story with my lip syncs.”
Wright said although gaining funding for the show was one of the more stressful components of facilitating it, he enjoyed bringing the event and the performers to campus and making it possible for students to meet such inspiring people.
“I think it was beneficial for students to attend the show because it is inherently rooted in LGBTQ awareness,” Wright said. “Drag queens are certainly part of this diverse community which make up this acronym, and I think this event was a celebration of people from diverse backgrounds. Many of our students may not have had the opportunity to attend a drag show before, and this event gave our students an opportunity to have a new and different experience. If anything, I hope this was a chance for students to celebrate and interact with the diverse population of people that comprise our campus, and maybe even have a greater appreciation for it as well.”