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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

A werk in progress: diversity and dance at Drag Show

Weeks of preparation will come to fruition this Saturday as queens and kings take the stage at the Harris Center for Grinnell College’s semesterly Drag Show. The glitter and glamour on stage is the result of a lot of sweat and hard work on behalf of the performers and organizers.

The student organization Queer People of Color (QPoC) has spent weeks working to secure the budget, find items for the set, get a rehearsal area and pick the best of the best groups to perform. This semester, all proceeds from the performance will go to the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, a non-profit feminist healthcare organization.

After performing in previous Drag Shows, QPoC members Errol Blackstone ‘21 and Tucker Haddock ‘21 have taken the lead in organizing this year’s Drag Show. Older QPoC members usually run the show, and younger members learn the ropes from these soon-to-graduate leaders.

“[Former] QPoC leaders kinda showed me what they expect out of the organization,” Blackstone said.

Blackstone said that it’s only right for groups like QPoC to be in charge of the show.

Blackstone highlighted the larger history behind the art of drag performance, and especially the role of people of color in drag.

“Queer people of color have a stake in drag, and really influence drag culture in general. It’s fun and cis [gendered] people come, and straight people come, but it’s a way to celebrate the history of people who have fought for queer rights, trans rights, especially people of color,” Blackstone said.

This semester marks the debut of the drag group “Coochie Gang.” Rande Nieto ‘21 and Juliet Torres ‘21, members of the Student Organization for Latinx (SOL), founded the group to keep the focus of Drag Show on people of color and the empowerment of women.

Nieto wants to help student groups, especially SOL, integrate more into the LGBT community. “We do have members from the LGBT community in our groups and we really want to represent that in our performance,” he said.

This is the first Drag Show performance for the members of Coochie Gang. The group’s background in drag culture comes from Nieto’s drag queen friends in Miami and Torres’ knowledge of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.”

“We are trying to be conscious that we are participating in a drag show,” Torres said. In line with this intentionality, Coochie Gang will perform to a variety of hip hop songs by women of color. Torres and Niteo acknowledged that there was a steep learning curve in the rehearsal process, as only two of the group members had previous experience in hip hop, but the group has found its footing.

“We haven’t done anything this complicated,” Nieto said. “We want to really accentuate that with a lot of fast movements and a lot of fast transitions.”

Coochie Gang will be performing alongside the long running Nasty Gals group, membership within which has been passed down for years. Emily Gold ‘19, drag name Emily ‘This Kitty’’s’ Gold, is one of the current members and the group’s choreographer. Gold introduced a more androgynous style of dance into Nasty Gals’ numbers when she took over from previous upperclassmen.

“ I realized that I wanted to do more of a [masculine] element,” she said.

Some members of the group are new to dance when they first start, while others have been dancing their entire lives. Vincent Noh ‘19, drag name Vincent ‘No-means‘ Noh, was involved in other dance groups on campus but had never tried drag before being asked to join Nasty Gals by an upper classman.

“Doing it for the first short while is kind of uncomfortable,” he said. “It is a different kind of dance and it’s a different kind of gender expression.”

Throughout his semesters with Nasty Gals, Noh has been gradually embracing more and more of drag culture. He will be wearing heels while dancing for the first time this Saturday.

“[Drag] was definitely pushing myself into things that I definitely wasn’t comfortable with before,” No said. “Each semester I hope that it can push it a little further.”

Multiple generations of class years make up Nasty Gals, an established drag group who will be performing this Saturday, April 13. Photo by Scott Lew.
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