Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hosts ‘Say Gay!’ drag show

The two-hour event features an array of local performers to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture
Dylan Nguyen
Ruby Monroe

On the evening of Sept. 8, a crowd of over 200 students attended the “Say Gay!” drag show in the Bromery Center for the Arts lobby. In partnership with the University of Massachusetts Stonewall Center, the event featured seven performers from the House of Hors, a Pioneer Valley-based drag company.

The lineup included Loo D’flyest Priestly, Damela Cuca DeVille, Ivanna, Lance Mandible, Xiomarie LaBeija, Ruby Monroe and Adam Apparition.

Genny Beemyn, director for the Stonewall Center, said last year’s drag show saw a lot of student engagement. “We thought it was important to do this kind of event to send a signal of inclusion, and welcome individuals to present in various genders to be able to express themselves,” Beemyn said.

Host Hors D’oeuvres greeted the audience and talked about the purpose of drag, providing an explanation for first-time attendees on what to expect. “Queer people use drag to critique pop culture, to celebrate pop culture, to live their best lives,” D’oeuvres said, as they walked through the crowd.

A central part of drag shows include audience interaction, where performers “feed off of the energy,” D’oeuvres said. While this interaction is essential, D’oeuvres added that consent must be provided first, in which students were instructed to cross their arms over their chest if they didn’t feel comfortable.

Fashion was an integral part of the night. Reflected through several performer’s outfits, inspiration was drawn from the Marvel universe to political and social attacks on drag and trans communities, said D’oeuvres.

The event featured 13 individual acts, with drag king Loo D’flyest Priestly kicking off the first half. Priestly danced to a medley of ‘90s songs, impersonating a male pop star. Damela Cuca DeVille strutted out shortly after, preceding an act by Ivanna, lip-syncing Lady Gaga’s “A Million Reasons.”

Throughout each act, students clapped along to the music and cheered on each performer. Students also gave out tips to the performers – common drag show etiquette, as they help offset costs for transportation, hair and makeup.

“Ivanna’s really cute because she thinks I’m gonna pick up her tips, but I’m not,” D’oeuvres joked afterwards.

Lance Mandible performing “I’m Just Ken” from the “Barbie” movie (Dylan Nguyen)

Following Ivanna’s performance, Lance Mandible, who is also a professor at UMass, ran out wearing a jean vest that read “I’m Kenough” – a phrase coined from the recent “Barbie” movie – gliding through the lobby as the famous “I’m Just Ken” played overhead.

Shortly after, a curly-haired Xiomarie LaBeija performed to the 2005 hit song “Don’t Cha?” by The Pussycat Dolls, standing up on chairs and sitting on laps.

Ruby Monroe (Dylan Nguyen)

As the last act before intermission, D’oeuvres introduced Ruby Monroe as “kind of a big deal,” in reference to Monroe hosting this year’s Springfield Pride Parade Block Party. Twirling around in a red wig and bodysuit, Monroe danced to songs by artist Doja Cat, including “Woman,” “Like That” and “Say So.”

D’oeuvres walked out after each performer to ask the audience how they felt, and joked about the venue as they noticed that some students were locked outside. One of the students waiting to go inside was freshman education major Kaedin Wolff, who had never been to a drag show before.

“It was a tad bit aggravating as I had gotten here pretty close to the start,” Wolff said. They added that they are a big fan of drag, and they were able to enter the lobby during intermission.

According to Beemyn, UMass has organized several drag shows in the past, but prior to last year, there was a bit of a hiatus. “We were trying to appeal to different audiences but there was also given that in a number of states, protests against drag were being done,” they said.

A number of these protests took place at events such as a drag queen story hour in San Lorenzo, California. While not to the same extent, a protest at a story hour in Amherst occurred  where demonstrators came to Jones Library.

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found that from the beginning of this year, state legislatures introduced more than twice the amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation than last year.

One of the most notorious pieces of legislation included the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed last March, formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act.

As part of the planning process, D’oeuvres said they used the bill as inspiration for the event’s title.

“We want you to ‘say gay,’ we want people to know about queerness and the broad spectrums of sexuality and gender, and that is very near and dear to our heart,” they said.

Before Priestly’s second performance, a newscast clip played to represent the tension that has arose from these protests.

Xiomarie LaBeija (Dylan Nguyen)

DeVille, Ivanna, LaBeija, Monroe and Mandible also performed twice, featuring a Bob Ross outfit, a gold-sequined dress and a Wonder Woman costume.

After the show, students were able to take photos with each performer. Mary Burt, a sophomore animal science major, was talking with friends and said that it was their second year going to a UMass drag show, and it was “just as fun” as the first time.

“I have bad anxiety, but the show is so great that my brain can’t even think,” they said, laughing. “I feel safe coming here.”

Burt added that they grew up in Springfield around a strong LGBTQ+ community and attended a performing arts high school in Hadley where students could practice drag.

“People are who they are, and it’s fantastic,” Burt said. “I feel like the nicest people are in drag because they don’t care about a lot, they just care if you’re a good person.”

Olivia Capriotti can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @CapriottiOlivia.

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