Dragfest returns with renewed vigor

Christy Carley

Whitman’s annual Dragfest has returned this year in the form of a three-part series organized by GLBTQ.This year Dragfest consists of three events; the first of which, Vanity Fair, took place Saturday, Sept. 27. Mainly planned by Sophomore Jessica Beccari, co-president of GLBTQ, the event aimed to teach people about what goes on behind the scenes in Drag.

Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

In addition to Vanity Fair, this year’s Dragfest included a showing of the movie “Venus Boyz” on Monday, Sept. 29. The movie explores the lesser-known culture of drag kings (women who dress as men).

The series will conclude with an event called “Dragtastica,” a drag show and competition that will include both lip syncing and a catwalk to take place this Friday, Oct. 3. Aleksa Manila, a professional drag queen from Seattle, will serve as emcee for the event.

Originally hosted by the Coalition for Gender and Sexuality Awareness, a group that included both queer and straight identifying members, Dragfest has, in the past, consisted of a one-night dance party, providing a space for guests to experiment with their gender.

“In the early 2000s dragfest was … a huge thing,” said senior Tyle Schuh, social chair of GLBTQ.

Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

In more recent years, however, attendance has begun to decline.

After Coalition disbanded last year,  GLBTQ decided to take on Dragfest, beginning a six-month planning process with the goal of revamping the event to attract a larger number of students.

Last Saturday, the walls of the Reid Campus Center Young Ballroom were lined with tables, each set up to explore a different part of the process that goes into creating a successful drag look. With a table for everything from contour (an intricate process of applying makeup to change the appearance of the features of one’s face) to bright lipstick, wigs and false eyelashes, guests were encouraged to explore any and all of the options presented to them. The fun music and glittering sequined dresses on display created the perfect atmosphere for such exploration.

“It feels amazing,” said senior Maikor Pereira Azuaje, chair of fitness and sports for GLBTQ. “These rules [regarding gender expression] were invented. They can be broken so easily … All it takes is to get a little sponge and put some makeup on your face.”

Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

Schuh believes Dragfest is important for the Whitman community to showcase how fun experimenting with gender can be.

“If you identify as a man, you may find putting on false eyelashes or makeup could be fun, and that doesn’t diminish your masculinity in any way,” said Schuh.

When asked about common misconceptions regarding the culture of drag, Beccari emphasized all the possibilities that drag encompasses.

“There’s not just cross-dressing where a man dresses like a woman and a woman dresses like a man. There are also things called hyper kings and hyper queens,” she said.

The idea behind a hyper king or queen is the possibility of a woman being hyper-feminine or a man being hyper-masculine.

“[Drag] allows for fluidity of becoming either yourself or something else … [It] goes to show that our gender is performative.” said Schuh, making reference to prominent gender theorist Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity. “You aren’t born into a gender. You are assigned a gender at birth, and with that gender comes certain rituals and certain customs.”

The overarching goal of the three events is to rethink Dragfest, creating an event that will immerse students into the culture of drag.

“I’m most excited about getting this event to be something that happens continuously –– it’s very important to have an event that’s queer-centric that is very big on campus and that everyone feels PL (OK) to attend,” said sophomore Angela Tang, co-president of GLBTQ. “The goal is to make sure everyone’s having a good time.”

Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.