April 11, 2014 by Bhavya Sharma
It takes a lot of nerve to entertain more than 500 people anticipating a bedazzling performance. But to do so in eight-inch heels and garish attire takes a certain audacity particular to performers at the Drexel Drag Show. The Drexel Drag Show took place April 3 and featured Shangela Laquifa Wadley from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” along with many student performers. The show was sponsored by Drexel University’s Student Affairs, Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality, and Enrollment Management. It marked the integration of events organized as a part of Welcome Back Week.
On the night of April 3, two events persisted — the unremitting drizzle and the drag performers’ ability to leave their audience awestruck, the latter of which was not surprising to me. The auditorium in Main Building was brimming with enthusiastic people, many of who, like me, were new to the concept of a drag show. While I stuffed my mouth at the free pretzel station, the auditorium quickly filled up with more than 500 people who were more excited about the show than the free pretzels (a concept unfathomable to me).
After a brief introduction by Mr. John Cooke, associate dean of Campus Engagement, the stage was occupied by the performer extraordinaire, Shangela. Shangela revved up the place with her energetic moves and aggressive twerking— something last showcased by Christina Aguilera in “Burlesque.” In fact, the entire show had a very Burlesque-y vibe to it, without, of course, the splendor of the scintillating sets or Christina Aguilera in thongs. As the night progressed, the audience was exhilarated by performances from Bijoux, Nicki Mahal and Liz, among many others. The crowd lauded and enjoyed the performances, some of which were borderline lecherous but nevertheless thoroughly entertaining.
I often caught myself hollering uncouth phrases like “Damn girl!” something I have not engaged in since I last heard “Sexy Bitch” in ninth grade. Mahal’s performance deserves a special mention as she capered about to “Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga and enticed the audience. In an online interview with The Triangle, Ajay Raghavan, a junior who performs as Mahal, revealed that although the audience was the largest he had ever performed in front of, he was not apprehensive.
Raghavan claimed to “thrive off the energy of the audience,” which is characteristic of his self-effacing demeanor. For many performers like himself, the April 3 show marked an unforgettable night, thanks to the audience’s constant encouragement and heartening ovations. I inquired if Raghavan was anxious about performing in heels taller than the size of Willy Wonka’s top hat. He replied that although he was slightly nervous, he never let the fear of falling or costume malfunctions deter him from putting on a good show. I could sense this confidence in every performer — despite tripping multiple times, they all re-emerged gloriously, only adding to the hilarity and entertainment of the audience.
My only gripe is that after a while, the show appeared hackneyed with its somber sets and repetitive performances. The drag queens’ confidence and playful stripteases were not enough to sustain the audience’s attention for the entire night, as more than half the people left after the first half of the show. However, what managed to keep the show going was Shangela’s witty commentary and spontaneous humor. Another saving grace was that the show was very engaging. The drag queens often marched up all the way to the back of the auditorium to involve the audience and surge their enthusiasm.
Banality aside, the show delivered what was promised with admirable performances and zealous energy. While I still believe that the show has a lot of potential to develop its characters with more stimulating performances, the drag queens held the show together with their committed performances and astonishing balancing prowess.