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Harvey Wilhelm
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Drag Show Fall 201

Photo by Sarah Ruiz
Photo by Sarah Ruiz

This year’s Queer Cultures Week came to a close with Drag Show Fall 2016. Campus came together in a much needed celebration, and raised over $700 to be donated to support protests at Standing Rock. The S&B’s Emma Friedlander sat down with Queer People of Color (QPOC) leaders and Drag Superstars Gabi Matthews ’17 and Armando Perez ’17 to talk about the hottest performance, Drag in the time of Trump, and the future of QPOC.

The S&B: What was your favorite part of Drag Show this semester?

Gabi Matthews: I really liked the Britney group at the end. I love Britney Spears though so I’m biased. That group, during the first open stage rehearsals where they could test everything out for the first time, they brought all their costumes and it wasn’t even a dress rehearsal. By then they were so ready and it looked so good.

Armando Perez: Beyond that, the alums being there was pretty cool.

The S&B: Were there any challenges in putting together this Drag Show?

AP: Usually in the fall we’re in a place where we don’t have enough acts. We’re asking everyone to do it because we’re like ‘shit, we need to fill this.’ But this semester we didn’t have that, surprisingly. It worked really well because last fall some people put performances together the week of Drag Show. This, thankfully, was so much easier. Beyond that, it went pretty smoothly.

GM: This is the most fun I’ve had at Drag. We’re seasoned and don’t give a shit anymore.

The S&B: How did you decide to donate the money to Standing Rock this year?

AP: It seemed logical. It’s a prevalent issue and there are Grinnell students that are already going there. It is sad that Central Iowa Family Planning closed. Drag Show hasn’t always given its money there, but once it started to, it benefited more than just the Grinnell College community, it benefited people from the town.

GM: [The money] isn’t going to Grinnell students who are going to [Standing Rock], it’s going directly to one of the camps there so that it’s for sure going toward their supplies and it’s simpler that way.

The S&B: Did the election results coming out that Tuesday impact the show?

AP: On the Tuesday night of the election, QPOC was meeting and practicing the intro. We were so distracted because half the computer screen was the music and the other half was reflecting the election. In the moment it was very distracting. In terms of Drag Show, it had been a long week for a lot of reasons — because of the election, because of Central Iowa Family Planning, emotions were all over the place. For that reason, Drag Show was needed much more because it provided a break for students. Not saying let’s ignore [everything else], but the fact of the matter is we need to care for ourselves, and this might be one of those ways.

GM: One of the performances had “Fuck Trump” on their clothing. I was like ‘Woah, when did you do that?’ but also ‘Good job, great idea.’ [The election] was definitely distracting during our meeting, but it made me want to emphasize how important spaces like Drag Show are — celebratory spaces of resistance. They keep us going and challenge the systems that want to put you down. People needed an upbeat thing, I think.

The S&B: How has Drag Show changed over the years?

AP: What Drag Show started out as is different than what it is now. When we do Drag Show, one of the requirements for trying out is telling us how you’re interacting with or subverting gender or gender norms. Most of the times people just say drag.

GM: One of the problems I have with drag here specifically is how it’s become a lot about performances that are just about dancing and being cool. It becomes more about performing sex and sexuality than drag. The drag portion of people’s acts are usually ‘We’re going to have a dude who’s going to wear a dress but we’re going to do all these other things about being sexy.’ It’s good and bad in a lot of ways.

AP: Drag is not perfect. There are issues that we’ve seen over our time here — people that graduated, they’ve seen it before.

GM: But then where would we be if we didn’t have it at all?

AP: Exactly. Just because we have these downfalls or negative, we’re not going to not do it at all.

The S&B: What do you hope the future of Drag Show is after you graduate Grinnell in the spring?

AP: As long as it persists in one form, that would be nice.

GM: I don’t want it to die. I don’t want QPOC to die off, because it’s happened before. That’s all I can really hope for. If they can make it super awesome and more about what drag is supposed to be that would be cool.


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