After a one-year hiatus, University Program Board’s (UPB) Drag Show returned to campus May 4, following a cancellation last school year after a five-year run.
Drag performers walked the stage in Argyros Forum, but also took time after the show to answer questions ranging from opinions on this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race to how they deal with racism and body standards in the drag community.
RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Jaidynn Fierce opened up to the audience about her struggles as an African-American drag performer.
“I knew (racism) existed, but I didn’t see it right in front of my face,” Fierce said. “But when I got on (RuPaul’s) Drag Race, the amount of hatred that is still in our world, our community and the gay community was mind boggling. Let’s stop spreading so much hate and start spreading more love.”
Many see the event, which also featured well-known drag performers Morgan McMichaels and Vicky Vox, as an important statement of inclusion from the university.
“There is a certain demographic (the event) is catering to and you can’t force people to come,” said Rachel Kelly, a freshman theatre studies major. “But by having (the drag show) on campus, (Chapman) is showing that they accept people no matter what their interests are.”
UPB members Natalie Snyder, a sophomore creative writing major and Riddhi Mehra, a sophomore public relations and advertising major, organized the event.
“We noticed (the drag show) was a Chapman favorite, so we wanted to bring it back,” Mehra said. “We knew it would be a really popular event and that if we worked hard, it could be a really good event.”
Snyder and Mehra declined to comment on why the show was cancelled last year, as they were not part of the decision. Members of UPB did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the funding and cancellation.
Four of the seven performers that took the stage were Chapman students. Nikki Reifler, a sophomore creative producing major and one of the night’s performers, was excited that UPB decided to continue the tradition. While Reifler has been doing drag for around three years, he hasn’t had many opportunities to get on stage, he said.
“I just don’t perform a lot because I’m a busy student,” Reifler said. “This is a really neat opportunity (since the drag show is) right on campus, and (had) actual people like Morgan McMichaels (attend).”
The audience cheered as the drag performers strutted down the stage. McMichaels even pulled a few audience members, including Kelly, on stage to dance and interact with her.
“The room was full of good energy,” Kelly said. “Everyone was smiling and laughing and singing along.”
McMichaels and Fierce have both been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race – a competition-based TV series about making it as a drag superstar that culminates with a $100,000 prize. Vox, who hosted Chapman’s drag show and performed, has not been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but has nearly 80,000 followers on Instagram.
“We worked really hard to plan (the show) and to get (McMichaels, Vox and Fierce),” Mehra said. “We had a full house.”
Drag shows are not just men impersonating women, but character impersonations, Riefler said. Performers create their own unique persona and plan out artistic, fun and sometimes serious acts.
“You can’t define drag … every artist has their own thing,” Reifler said. “There are so many umbrellas and genres within it.”