Drag show stays abreast of spring fashions


Adriana and Marisa Eldred pose with drag queens

Johnson State College hosted their second annual Drag Show Competition in the Stearns Performance Space on Friday, April 27. Hosted by professional drag queens Emoji Nightmare and Nikki Champagne, this competition features a drag make up tutorial a few hours before show time, several hilarious performances by the hostesses and friends, and students performing their own numbers in hopes to win the crown at the end of the night.

Drag, while not new, has recently risen into the mainstream eye through media. This includes the extremely popular show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag queen make up tutorials, and drag queen story hours for young children. The goal, as explained by Champagne, is to help people become more comfortable with their bodies, as well as a different concept of gender.

“Anyone can come to this space and know that they’re going to feel welcomed,” says Champagne. “They can present in any way they want, and they can just have a really good time and not have to worry, for once in their life, how they’re going to be perceived by the other people in the room.”

Both years the performance has run, the audience has been completely packed with an overflow of people standing in the back. “For a place like Johnson, there’s not a lot of diversity in Lamoille County,” says Nightmare, a JSC alum. “It’s a great way for folks to get that without going into Burlington. There’s no nightlife here.” Nightmare believes the crowded audience points to the fact that students may be expressing interest beyond what is commonly offered for entertainment on campus.

Nikki Champagne began her career in a setting similar to this. “This is my personal favorite [event] because when I got started with drag, it was through an amateur drag competition,” says Champagne, who has been working in the professional drag industry for four years. “You’re just getting up there for the fun of it, trying it out, experimenting, and finding your way and working your way through it. If I can foster that for someone here at Johnson State then great, that’s exactly what I want to do.”

Hailey Frechette, a first-year student and one of the three judges for the night, enjoyed the entire experience. “I think that it’s just a way for everybody to be able to express themselves, and it’s just a safe place to do that,” says Frechette.

Student performances included both female and male students presenting as different genders, lip synchronizing and dancing to fun, high-energy songs and, by the end of the night, receiving the most applause from the audience and judges.

“I’ve watched the entirety of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ with my mom, and I’ve just been interested in drag for a long time,” says Drexel, one of this year’s contestants. “There’s so many people out there who have a hard time with their body image and really, it doesn’t matter.”

Tamara Peel, another student contestant, improvised for much of her performance, but still had fun. “I just had fun getting make up on, getting into character and getting to know what it’s like being masculine,” says Peel.

Fun and experimentation are the biggest things the hostesses hoped contestants took away from the night. “For me, it’s about being completely comfortable in who you are and not letting the media or society tell you how your body should be,” says Nightmare. “As long as you are content in your own body and in your own skin, that is more important than anyone’s opinion.”

An interesting and powerful number done at the end, led by the hostesses with all of the contestants as back up dancers, was the lip syncing of “My Body” from the Broadway musical “The Life.” Champagne and Nightmare chose this number because of the meaning behind it.

“We are up there doing numerous things to our bodies, between corseting, layers of tights, pounds of makeup . . . but we have a great time because these are our bodies and this is how we chose to change ourselves,” says Champagne. “But at the same time, drag is making fun of the gender stereotypes we’re being told every single day.”

Drag is an art form that has made headway in a social movement that questions gender roles, gender norms and how beauty is defined. Overall, drag is about having fun and being yourself, however you wish to present and whoever you wish to be.

Champagne and Nightmare look forward to coming back in the spring next year.