The auditorium is packed, rainbow-colored lights shine above, and the energy is electric as the Fall Gender Bender Drag Show is about to begin.
MNSU’s LGBT Center welcomed back Miss Victoria Deville and her fellow queens from the Twin Cities. The show also included MNSU student performers.
David Gardner, the director of MNSU’s LGBT center on campus sat down with me to explain the process of making an event like this occur. The drag show has been around for a plethora of years, Gardner estimated 10-15 years. The director also stated performers range from queens from the city to the local area. However, Gardner stated they try to encourage student performers to participate in the show as they are typically a fan favorite because of “peer to peer encouragement, and because you always want to root for the person you see on a day to day basis.”
The show began with Deville going through some rules and reminding the crowd to be respectful to not only the performers but to one another as well. Deville also humorously added that donations are accepted because “it’s expensive to look this cheap.”
In between the exuberant performances and playful banter, the sense of community amongst the queens was evident. However, it was showcased even more when Twin Cities performer Crystal Belle explained that she had forgotten all of her costumes and necessities, but the whole group had graciously offered up their costumes for the show. Belle joked that without that support the crowd would have been left with a “bald guy in underwear.”
Perhaps a personal favorite performance from the show was one of the queens dressed as a glittered crab lip-syncing to Arianna Grande’s “Side to Side”. The performer scuttled side to side and snapped along with to the beat with her costume’s claws.
This was MNSU student Taylor Oeltjenbruns third year attending the show. He explained that each show was uniquely different and therefore, not one was better than another.
MNSU student Cerra Watkins, when prompted on which performer was her favorite, explained that she “liked them all in different ways.” Watkins continued explaining her appreciation for the variations of music performed, from Hannah Montana to more popular Arianna Grande songs.
However, despite the fun and glitz of the event, there were serious conversations interjected throughout. Deville brought up the Mankato Chick-Fil-A and their controversial actions regarding the community LGBTQ. She explained, “I know their sandwiches are amazing…I wouldn’t know I’ve never had one. But what I will tell you is that they take large amounts of their money and put it into action to use it against us [the LGBTQ community] anyway they possibly can.”
Talking after the show Deville further described her aggravations with Chick-Fil-A and expressed her seriousness on protesting against the business. She even stated to “let her know if anything ever happens with it” because she would “come down fully dressed in drag to support.”
Despite the seriousness of the topic the show seamlessly bounced back to its light-hearted mood as soon as the next performer sashayed to the stage.
Student performer Alec Otto, or her stage name Avocado, discussed that this was her second time participating. One of Avocado’s performance was one of the few that wasn’t lip sung. She explained she chose to sing Dianna Ross because of her strong love towards the artist and that to prepare for a show she listens pump up music while doing her makeup.
Avocado also offered advice to fellow students struggling to come out or find themselves, “I’d say just take your time. The moment will feel right when it’s right and when you see other people walking around being themselves, just know that will be you someday. Maybe right now isn’t the safest moment so it doesn’t have to be right now.”
Header photo: The master of ceremonies prepares to bring out the acts for MNSU’s annual Fall Gender Bender drag show at the Ostrander Auditorium Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. In addition to a lavish night of dancing and music, patrons were able to bring donations to the Stop Hunger Food Drive put on by MNSU’s LGBT Center. (Andrew Bravo/MSU Reporter)