Drag queens are defined as men who dress like women for the purpose of entertaining. However, there is a much easier definition to remember: drag queens are fabulous. At least the ones hired to perform at the Gay Straight Student Union (GSSU) and Tau Delta Phi’s Eighth annual Drag Ball, “Rio Carnival!” With professional queens and amateur performances from students, the DSU Ballroom was filled with sequins, sparkle and a certain “Je ne sais quoi.”
The entertainment for the night was provided by the always extravagant and astonishing Naomi Black, our host. Her entourage of professional drag performers included Amore Diamond, Annie Rexic, Fushia Deville and Raven Del’Raye. Each one of these breathtaking ladies had at least four costume changes throughout the night including wig changes and performed at least four songs each.
The outrageous performances by each individual lady had everybody in the audience exhilarated and ready to have an amazing night. Each lady had her own style and flair throughout the night, making each of them stand out from the other. Naomi Black, as the host, was the loudest of them all but she worked the event like nobody’s business. Raven Del’Raye was the more subdued of the group, but she still got a rise out of the crowd. Amore Diamond and Annie Rexic were both the dancers of the evening, showing off some moves that are rarely seen by anyone in six-inch heels. Fushia Deville had the more extravagant costumes, next to Naomi of course, and she strutted her stuff around the dance floor more than any other performer.
Watching these performances and sometimes being a part of them, it’s easy to forget that underneath all of the makeup and glue, behind the sequins, feathers and glitter, there is an average person like you and me. Witnessing Annie Rexic make a student her boy toy in a performance, you wouldn’t think that she is actually a hairdresser in a local salon with a degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and has a loving fiancé waiting for her when she gets home.
The majority of these performers have significant others in their lives, whether they are boyfriends, fiancés or even husbands, as is the case with Fushia Deville. She and her husband have been married almost three years now and they couldn’t be happier. Her husband comes with her to every performance, helps her with costumes and basically assists her with whatever she needs. Naomi Black has a similar situation, although her boyfriend has a job that takes him away from her performances so, as with most of the ladies, when Naomi has any down time, she spends it with her boyfriend.
The life of a professional drag queen is fun and it’s easy to enjoy the performances themselves, but with any job there is a lot of work that the attendees don’t see. The elaborate costumes, hair and makeup don’t just magically appear before every show. These ladies do their own hair and makeup before every performance, which takes a couple hours at least. The costumes, although some parts are bought, are predominately made by hand by each queen herself. Fushia Deville is the best at applying jewels and sequins, while Annie Rexic enjoys sewing and full construction of her costumes.
Each of these ladies has at least one decade of work behind her, but the lady who has been doing this the longest is the incomparable Naomi Black, who has been performing for almost 30 years. They all started in very similar ways where they performed as amateurs in small venues and competitions. From there, their careers grew and expanded. In Annie Rexic’s case, she didn’t even want to do the amateur competition; her friends in college, even a professor, pushed her to do it. Now she says she’s grateful they pushed because so many of the great things she has in her life would never have happened without this job.
When these beautiful, professional ladies were not performing on the stage, there were several amateur performers who made their mark that night. The amateur performers were Madame Fritz, The Cosmic Brothers of Rock, Jack Rebel, Eddie Quicksilver, Keeyan Brightwell, and Paula Dean White. One of the outstanding performances was done by Giulianna Mortimer, a freshman who came dressed as a man – a drag king. She said she wanted to display a different side of drag that people don’t normally see. As a double major in theater and French, Mortimer is used to working hard and being on display for the public, so dressing up as a man and singing Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” was not a difficult task, not even for her boyfriend.
Junior Brandon LaReau has been attending the ball in drag every year that he has attended CNU. “Drag Ball is more than just a gathering of queens, it is symbolic of progress. Progress here on campus, progress within the community, and progress within the country. Forty-five years ago everyone in that room would have been arrested,” said LaReau. “Drag ball is a tribute to all the people who suffered, died, or were imprisoned so that the GSSU, Acess AIDS, and thousands of other simmilar organizations can spread understanding without fear.”
Benjamin Godwin, former president and current Event Chair of the GSSU, was the primary logistics organizer for Drag Ball 2013. “What I love about Drag Ball is that it allows people of any background to come out and enjoy themselves while being exposed to the LGBT culture,” said Godwin. “Drag Ball also allows people to artistically express themselves in a friendly and non-judgmental environment. Gender norms and barriers are ignored and broken down for one night. When in drag, you can be whoever you want to be. That, in essence, is probably the greatest part of the Ball; to see everyone happy, having fun, and being who they aspire to be.”
Godwin would like to thank the Events Staff of Auxiliary Services, including Alicia Brown, Patty Burgoon, Nicole Oman, Christine Mellish, and Erika Nestler. The Student Assembly Appropriations Committee and Office of Student Activities also helped fund and promote this event, respectively. Huge thanks also go out to the co-sponsors, Tau Delta Phi Fraternity, for helping with the setup and breakdown, and WCNU (specifically Jenn Asselin) for DJing the event.
The event was free and open to the public, although those who wanted to could donate money to the AccessAIDS Care Center of Hampton Roads (accessaids.org), which helps those directly and indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS in the region while providing information and support to those in the LGBT community. At the end of the night, with 220 people in attendance, the GSSU tallied up $100 as the amount donated to Access AIDS, however there were several more donations made after the event commenced.
With music and technical support provided by WCNU Radio, there were fun dance breaks for all those attending the ball while the performers went off to get some rest and spruce themselves up a bit. The evening lasted three and a half hours, but ended too quickly. The fun, the laughs and the joy that emanated from the ballroom were too great to walk away from. One of the only things left to say at the end of the night was that it would be hard to wait until the next Drag Ball in 2014. In the words of RuPaul, an idol in the drag community, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag.”