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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
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QPOC Cabaret: Drag celebrates with Burlesque

Sex appeal, rebirth, Jesus and Judas as toxic lovers — these are just a few words to describe the drag show that took place on Friday, April 26. The program’s theme was burlesque, and the student organization Queer People of Color (QPOC) hosted it.

Angel Arroyo `26 and Chikako Inoue `26, QPOC co-leaders, led the planning of this drag show as well as last semester’s edition. Arroyo stressed the importance of booking the Harris Center and making general plans for the show in advance. Inoue echoed this statement, citing budgeting mishaps last semester as the motivation to begin planning earlier this semester.

Additionally, the planning for this spring was different from previous shows because all performers made their own costumes, Arroyo said.

“Historically, we’ll place a budget and buy all the things straight from Amazon, and that’s what the performers will use for their costumes. But this year, we wanted to have it be more like traditional drag, where people make things from scratch with things they already have, with materials that can be used in different, ingenious ways.”

Inoue and Arroyo said they helped create a drag closet in the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC), where performers could get what they needed to create their drag personas, including a sewing machine, accessories, fabrics, etc. Inoue also said that they thought performers creating their own costumes would be more sustainable than purchasing from a company like Amazon.

The show started off with the QPOC introduction, a dance number to set the tone for the rest of the performance, said Fabio Montilla `24, who emceed the show and performed in the introduction. Arroyo wrote in an email to The S&B, “This performance was choreographed by Jadyn [Al-Fatah `27] (J Lust) and really emphasizes the vintage cabaret energy we wanted for the show. We have been practicing like crazy, so we know it’ll look amazing once we’re on stage in full drag.” The QPOC group performance was set to “Overture” and “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago,” Al-Fatah said.

After a content warning for “nudity, blood, blasphemy and gay,” the showcase began, witnessed by a full Harris Center. Against a backdrop of red curtains and marquee light-bulb lettering spelling “QPOC,” performers dazzled under red stage lights. Even after a tornado watch was announced midway through, the show went on.

Chikako Inoue `26, “Sarah Lee Mann”

Inoue performed to the song “Kuchibashi Ni Cherry” by Ego-Wrappin’. This is their third time performing, and in an email to The S&B they wrote, “This time, I have a more masculine costume/choreos along with even more feminine features. My focus this time is more on enjoying going beyond and questioning the binary gender.” They wrote, “Since I had minimum knowledge of burlesque/cabaret, I did research on the current burlesque scene in the U.S. and the cabaret history in Japan. I wanted my performance to be both relatable to the topic and myself, so I made a kind of ‘storyline’ that reflects both my desire and the topic.”

Sarah Lee Mann performing “Kuchibashi Ni Cherry” by EGO WRAPPIN (Meilynn Smith)

Angel Arroyo `26, “Steamy Cachorro”

This is Arroyo’s third drag performance at Grinnell, and they performed to the song “Beau” by Liniker e os Caramelows. In an email to The S&B, Arroyo wrote, “Each semester I perform is different seeing as my queer identity is always changing and developing in beautiful ways. This performance is especially meaningful as it is a love letter to myself and to my trans and queer community.” Arroyo said that they believe burlesque is all about reveal. They wrote, “By the end, I am left only with a garter belt, panties and stockings. Having my trans bod on full display is truly empowering. Leaving nothing to the imagination, the crowd can bask in this gender deviant glamor.”

Steamy Cachorro performing “Beau” by Liniker e os Caramelows (Meilynn Smith)

Dayana Garcia `26, “Ms. Cash Monet”

Garcia changes her drag name every show, stating that she likes to make it fit the theme. They performed to “Big Spender” by Shirley Bassey. “Basically, my character starts off in male drag and then reveals a little costume that is basically supposed to be the narrator of the song. So it starts off as first the object of the song, and then the narrator, ” Garcia said. She said that she found inspiration from songs she found on Spotify, as well as the movie “Burlesque.” She said she created her own choreography, looking for inspiration from other people online who have danced to the song as well as leaving some parts up in the air to allow for crowd interaction.

Ms. Cash Monet performing “Big Spender” by Shirley Bassey. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

Nicole Rueda `27, “Sincolas”

Rueda began coming up with her performance idea by listening to a bunch of music she thought fit the theme, and eventually settled on “…baby one more time” by The Marías, a cover of the Britney Spears song. She choreographed her performance herself, also saying, “Right now it’s not really a solidified dance either, but I feel like that’s a lot of the culture about drag, nothing is ever really set in stone. It’s about expression, and going with the flow and doing whatever.”

Sincolas performing “…baby one more time” by The Marías, a cover of the Britney Spears song

Oliver Shoenborn `24, “Phallustia”

Shoenborn said that his drag name came to him in the middle of the night after taking melatonin. This was his first and final drag performance at Grinnell, and he danced to “MAMMAMIA” by Måneskin. He said, “It’s a very sensual dance routine. It’s very much, like, stripping, and very much getting up close to the audience. The song itself is very risqué, so I’m going to match those vibes.” Shoenborn said that although the song is not classically cabaret or burlesque, he wanted to carry the theme in his outfit, which includes pink feathers and iridescent trim.

Phallustia performing “MAMMAMIA” by Måneskin.” (Zach Spindler-Krage)

Marina Busby `24 “Jesus Christ Superslut” and Rowan Hutchinson `24 “Judas Is-very-hot”

This will be Busby and Hutchinson’s last drag performance at Grinnell and their second performance together. Busby and Hutchinson worked with the choreography done by Lady Gaga for the song “Judas.” Busby described their performance as “Homoerotic, blasphemous lovers Jesus and Judas. The betrayal can’t keep them apart. They’re so in love.” Hutchinson added, “Judas is a dominatrix, Jesus is in Birkenstocks. Kind of a queer ‘Romeo and Juliet’ if you think about it.” Busby said that instead of an extremely sensual performance, she and Hutchinson aim more for humor. “We lean into the sexy-campy, and I think that works really well for us,” Busby said.

From left: Judas Is-Very-Hot and Jesus Christ Superslut performing “Judas” by Lady Gaga. (Meilynn Smith)

Kelly Banfield `24, “Auntie Fa”

For Banfield’s last performance at Grinnell, he decided to perform to “Memories” from the musical “Cats.” Banfield has performed in drag three times. “I mean, I’ve gotten better in walking in shoes that are not comfortable,” he said. “I think I’ve understood what I’m going for more in my drag, which is part of why I’m going to be changing my drag name soon. Auntie Fa was just, like, a college era.”

Auntie Fa performing “Memories” from Cats. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

Jana Vadillo `26 “The Devil Faetality” and Kiera Rennick `26 “The Merciful Marilyn Michael”

Vadillo and Rennick performed to “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra and acted as devil and angel, respectively. They picked the song to explore the slower side of drag and traditional cabaret, Vadillo said. They were very excited to create their costumes, making devil and angel wings. “Drag historically has been something that is very scrappy and DIY, and it turns things that you make, or work with, into things that are glamorous and over the top,” Rennick said. “I feel so much more connected to the things we’ve worked on.”

The Devil Faetality and The Merciful Marilyn Michael, pictured above, performed “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (Zach Spindler-Krage)

August Ngo `27, “Bitch McConnell”

“[My performance] is very PG-18, not PG-21,” Ngo said. He performed to a song by Vietnamese rapper tlinh, with the title translated to English as “My Dearly Beloved.” This is his second time doing drag. “I feel more confidence just on the stage in that moment,” he said.

Bitch McConnell performing “My dearly beloved” by Tlinh. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

Jadyn Al-Fatah `27, “J-Lust”

Al-Fatah performed the song “Roxie” from the musical “Chicago,” a performance in which he sang the song and danced as the character Roxie, with four backup dancers, all of whom were in male drag. “For this year’s drag, the theme is burlesque slash cabaret, and so immediately I was like, okay, so I want to go back to when I did Chicago, when I did that for my last musical theater scene back home.” He choreographed the performance, taking some choreography from the show on Broadway and from their high school performance of “Chicago.”

J-Lust performing “Roxie” from Chicago. (Meilynn Smith)

Kenn Anderson `24, “KJae”

Anderson performed to “HISS” by Megan Thee Stallion. “I decided to be the last performance because the title of my performance is ‘KJae’s Karma,’ which is telling the story of my becoming who I am, what it took to get here, where I am now, where I’m heading,” Anderson said, also stating that to them, cabaret means “seductive storytelling.” Discussing their choreographing process, Anderson said, “I usually just … listen to the music and let my body react to it, and let my body try to feel out the romance between the song and my body and where the chemistry lies.” This was Anderson’s final drag performance at Grinnell.

KJae performing “HISS” by Megan Thee Stallion. (Meilynn Smith)
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About the Contributors
Evelyn Wilber
Evelyn Wilber, Staff Writer
Evelyn is a second year intended English and math double major from Chicago, Illinois. She enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music, her dog Ted, and the season of winter.
Zach Spindler-Krage
Zach Spindler-Krage, News Editor
Zach Spindler-Krage is a third-year political science major and policy studies concentrator. He is from Rochester, Minnesota and has an unbelievable amount of state pride. Zach spends his time hiking, playing and listening to music, trying to submit op-eds for every class writing assignment, and wishing he was in Minnesota.
Meilynn Smith
Meilynn Smith, Staff Photographer
Meilynn is a first-year from Vancouver, Washington. She is an intended biology major and wants to go into physical therapy in the future. She enjoys playing soccer, hanging out with friends, going on hikes, and photographing wildlife. 
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    Cynthia O. PaschenMay 5, 2024 at 5:55 am

    Outstanding! Great job, all.