By Allyson Noenickx, Chief News Editor
On Friday March 17, Holy Cross Pride and Campus Activities Board (CAB) presented “Art, Expression, and Liberation: Drag Through the Ages.” Students, faculty, staff, and Holy Cross GLBTQ alumni gathered in the Hogan Ballroom for the show, which highlighted the history, contemporary significance, and artistic genre of drag in the LGBTQIAP+ liberation movement.
The event was hosted by Alyssa Edwards, drag performer, dance teacher, and businessperson. Edwards is a veteran from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2. Edwards is also the winner of several gay pageant titles, has performed with Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards, and has her own popular YouTube series––Alyssa’s Secret. In addition to hosting, Edwards herself performed during the show, dancing and lip syncing.
According to Keith Plummer ’17, Senior Advisor for Pride and main coordinator of the show, “Alyssa was chosen because she is a drag queen who can both perform jaw-dropping lip syncs and comedy routines. Alyssa Edwards is one of the most notorious contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She has a dancing background and is generally hilarious!”
This year’s theme, “Drag Through the Ages,” acknowledged drag as an important historical cultural practice that has long roots in the LGBTQIA+ community. “Drag queens and other gender-expansive persons were on the frontlines of the earliest riots for queer liberation in the United States, such as Compton Cafeteria in 1966 and Stonewall in 1969,” explained Plummer.
Dylan Oliveira ’17 and Raha Maalin ’17 served as emcees for the event. They kicked off the show with a lip sync competition as they reprised their roles as Orgasma Sanchez and Foxy Brown from past drag shows. After the initial introductions, Plummer and Jacqueline Bashaw ’17 took the stage to educate the audience on “drag lingo.” The pair walked through a series of terms related to drag and their meanings. The presentation was followed by a dance performance by Paul Endres ’18 and Michael Chaoui ’19 to Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.”
Plummer returned to the stage with Ellen Chen ’17 to give a brief overview of drag history. Plummer opened by providing a definition of drag. “Drag is performing as another gender for self expression and entertainment,” said Plummer. Chen then went on to discuss drag’s origins in ancient Greco-Roman and ancient Chinese culture, it’s underground period in the 1950s and 1960s, and it’s rise to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. The pair also spoke about different genres of drag including fish, impersonation, pageant, androgynous, and camp.
After the presentations the woman of the hour, Alyssa Edwards, took the stage with an opening dance number. Edwards spoke about what it was like growing up in a Christian family in Texas and how she originally became interested in drag. Edwards also engaged members of the audience throughout the night, asking audience members about themselves and their experiences with drag. Later in the night Edwards organized a “twerk-off” on stage featuring eight audience members.
Plummer, who spearheaded Holy Cross’ first drag show in 2015, was pleased that the show took place on a Friday night in Hogan Ballroom for the first time in its history. The event was well-attended with a turnout over 300 Holy Cross students, faculty, staff, and GLBTQ alumni. Plummer commented on how important it is that Holy Cross host such an event. “It is important for students to attend so they realize that gender is something you can experiment and play with. These drag queens mock gender through hyperfeminine or androgynous performances showing that gender is something one can just take on and off based on certain presentations. Drag as an art form and cultural practice shows that identity, to an extent, is an illusion one buys into, and that the social categories we think are essential for an organized and coherent society are not very stable or fixed at all” said Plummer.
Edwards also praised the educational component of the night and the presentations on drag culture and history. “I have to tell you, I travel and crossdress almost every night of my life; I was thoroughly entertained by this presentation they were giving. I never got to take a gay queenery class, so that actually was my very first one,” said Edwards.
All proceeds from the event went to Safe Homes Worcester. Safe Homes supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people, and their straight allies, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-three. The group is led by youth peer leaders, professional staff, and volunteers who offer support, resources, and opportunities for socialization in a safe and nurturing environment.