The kings and queens came to Youngstown State University on Thursday clad in their royal attire, and the Chestnut Room in Kilcawley Center was packed, with nearly 230 attending the annual YSUnity Drag Show.
For YSUnity Vice President Tim Bortner, it’s his third year attending the drag show, as well as his first organizing the event with YSUnity President Lisa Ronquillo.
“The point of the drag show first is for entertainment purposes, but also to serve an educational purpose,” Ronquillo said.
Danyel Vasquez, a performer, has hosted the YSUnity drag show for three years. She typically performs six college shows a year.
“College shows are the most fun,” Vasquez said. “It’s a different atmosphere than a nightclub.”
Vasquez’s performance at the YSUnity Drag Show mixed dancing, lip-syncing and comedy. She has been doing drag shows for 17 years.
“Really, it’s an outlet to be creative,” she said, adding that she produces her own mixes for the music she dances to and decorates her own costumes.
Vasquez said she enjoyed the audience interaction during the show, and even brought Ranise Kindell, a YSU freshman, on the stage to help during the Q-and-A session.
“I love it. They’re hilarious,” Kindell said. “I was nervous at first, and then she made me sit on her lap. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Denise Russell also performed. She said drag shows have fueled her creativity. “Drag is interesting because you can build your character from the ground up,” Russell said.
Next month, Russell will celebrate her 32nd year doing drag shows. She got her start while bartending in Warren, but what has set her apart over the years is her live singing.
“In the early years of drag, all they did was perform live,” Russell said.
For drag king Jeremiah, performing is an escape from everyday life.
“Once you hit that center stage, it’s a place to be who you want to be and have no second thoughts,” he said.
Jeremiah has been performing for four years and said he enjoys dancing the most. He said his friends have been supportive of his passion, but that he’s lost the support of his family.
Russell said she has also lost friends along the way, but that her family is now supportive and has attended shows. She added that attending drag shows can be educational for students.
“People do have preconceived notions about it and about the gay culture,” Russell said. “Open your mind. You’re in college, and it’s good to be exposed to as many things as possible.”
Before intermission, attendees had the chance to ask questions of the performers.
“I’m positive our students will remain respectful, “ Ronquillo said prior to the drag show.
Questions asked ranged from comedic — such as, “What’s your favorite sex position?” — to serious, such as, “Is your chosen gender recognized on your birth certificate?”
The Q-and-A session allowed performers to both educate and entertain. Bortner and Ronquillo said it’s important to inform others about transgenders, because they are humans with feelings and are trying to live like everyone else.
Three of the four performers are transgendered, including Vasquez.
“It has to be hard for her. I know it’s not the most accepted lifestyle,” Bortner said, adding that educating their peers is a driving force for YSUnity members.
Ronquillo said she is looking forward to next year’s drag show, and hopes to make it bigger and better.