The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

They Better Work!

Heike Chaney
Emoji Nightmare & Roblin Bettis

Why else would we all not want to give a rousing “Okay, queen”? For students who have seen Emoji Nightmare, one of Vermont’s leading drag queens, perform the previous school year, who would have thought she would return with a bang?

On March 8, Nightmare appeared at the Badger Burrow for a live Drag Makeover demonstration, presented by Student Activities and the Unity club. She then went on to perform at the Dibden stage with a diverse array of other drag and burlesque artists. The event featured performances from Rhedd Rhumm, Sacha Siracha, Katniss Everqueer, Pizza Party, Alexis Technical Crisis, and Mochaccino (a king), a Johnson alum. Surprises were made, hearty laughs ensued, and multitudes of rainbow fans flapped for joy in midair!

“She’s charismatic,” said Roblin Bettis in reference to Nightmare. “She has a way of making you feel comfortable in the room when she’s wearing a three-foot-tall wig and two inches worth of makeup in a way that nobody else would.”

“I think there really couldn’t be, like, a better host,” said Cohen Reppacci, a third-year student. “She’s just awesome! I love her!”

Students and a trickle of alumni were hit with many electric, lavish spectacles from each queen. From a melodrama about wrangling a “YAS”-ified cat in its witch hour, to praising for one’s “weenie dogs,” to ringing out the true goddess through sensual dance, Nightmare, and her electrifying army of queens, plus king, touched the hearts of Johnson audiences!

“I thought it was astonishingly good!” said Sophie Brown, a second-year student.

Bettis was additionally featured in the live makeup demonstration. Over pizza and soda in red solo cups, hopes were high for a far from simple inside scoop into dressing for the part! The Badger Burrow was perfectly accessorized with an audience of nine students.

Bettis, regarding her trans identity, described her experience with getting her makeup done as affirming. Bettis explained that while Nightmare conducted her makeup demonstration, she was gentle throughout the process and considerate through each step in achieving the finished product.

“I am very recent in my transition,” said Bettis. “So, I haven’t really had anybody to do my makeup. So not only having a makeover done, but having a makeover done from the most prolific drag queens around was kind of like a dream come true.”

Nightmare has been gracing the New England region with her glitz, dignified humor, and her sharpened “girl-boss-ery,” since 2015. According to her website, she has performed in countless LGBTQ+ pride festivals, as well as similar events such as New Queer’s Eve. Nightmare has also received multiple nominations from Seven Days’ annual Daysies Awards. Nightmare, also known as Justin Marsh, graduated from Johnson State College in 2008.

Marsh’s journey into the drag-verse began when they attended a showing of First Friday, a series of monthly dance parties at South Burlington’s Higher Ground, with a friend. Luci Furr-Matrix, another Vermont-based drag artist, was the original producer and one of First Friday’s leading performers. Nightmare would go on to succeed her in that role.

“She encouraged me to start performing,” said Marsh. “She said ‘you’ve kind of got a look going on, and you’re lip-synching some of these songs from the audience. So, the next step is to get you on stage.’”

Matrix’s offer was beyond anything that Marsh could have expected. At first, they were uncertain and did not know whether drag performance was what they wanted to pursue. But according to Marsh, after receiving encouragement, they eventually made their debut at a First Friday performance several months later.

Indeed, working as leading producer for Higher Ground’s Pride Ball, an LGBTQ+ pride event occurring annually each September, and New Queer’s Eve, a similar event occurring annually every New Year season, gives Marsh an immense thrill. In acknowledging previous performances for both events, Marsh has been privileged to work with many local and regional drag artists, including queens featured in RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“That was several years ago at this point, but that was a moment of distinct pride for me, being asked to do that,” said Marsh. “And, you know, as a lifelong Vermonter and very active queer person.”

Over the last nine years of their trailblazing artistry, Marsh has taken drag very seriously, to a point where everyone began to take them seriously. Studying business at Johnson and considering financial management for traveling venues, costumes, makeup, and more, led them to take drag on as a business of their own making.

“Drag is a pretty expensive hobby,” said Marsh. “So, between the makeup, and the outfits, and the hair, and everything else that goes with it, the travel to and from, I decided that it should fall under the umbrella of business.”

The more offers Marsh received to work with colleges and other businesses, the more they realized they needed to re-evaluate what constitutes an uplifting hobby versus a second job. Marsh credited a conversation with a friend who is a specialist in mental health with helping them come to this realization

“Vermont’s such an important place to me as a place that I’ve dedicated my life to,” they said. “And, you know, I grew up here as a queer person, and I’ve done a lot of work for, you know, queer youth, and queer Vermonters throughout my lifetime so far.”


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About the Contributor
Heike Chaney
Heike Chaney, Staff Writer, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Transfer Student, Interdisciplinary Studies (Theatre & Communications) Based in Hartford, VT Fall 2023-Present SLAP Coordinator & DANCELAND Club Member I can do a shockingly good Judy Garland impression, and I have been in over 22 Theatre productions since the sixth grade! ;) Favorite Roles: Adela Van Norman (THE IT GIRL); Martha Cratchitt (A CHRISTMAS CAROL); Chutney Wyndham (LEGALLY BLONDE).