Student drag performers emphasize importance of community

Student drag performers emphasize importance of community
Miss Adelia Shoe, Miss Anita Coxx and Miss Dee Ranged perform at the Halloween drag show. Photos by Tarah Hill.

A number of Augustana students concluded Halloween weekend in the Back Alley on Oct. 29 as excited attendees settled into comfy chairs to watch a drag show performed and organized by their peers. 

A spooky playlist set the mood as the queens behind the curtain put finishing touches on their ensembles. 

For many, it was a night of firsts.

Adopting a theme of black and red, Miss Anita Coxx stepped onto the stage to host a drag show for the first time.

“I’ve been watching people do drag since I was a kid. It started out with 'RuPaul’s Drag Race,' and that’s kind of how I ended up here,” Miss Coxx said.

After doing drag for three years, Miss Coxx felt that hosting was the next step. 

“It’s good for people who are wanting to be bigger in drag – hosting drag shows. It’s kind of like an initiation,” Miss Coxx said. 

And initiate she did, welcoming the crowd and introducing fellow queens with high-energy banter. 

For one student, the show was their first time ever participating in a drag performance.

“I had so much fun after I finished having a mental breakdown in the dressing room,” Miss Dee Ranged said. 

Clad in a Beetlejuice-inspired ensemble with pinstripes and a wild green wig, Miss Ranged took to the stage like a natural with “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing” from the Broadway show. 

Miss Ranged’s favorite part of the show, however, wasn’t any of their solo performances. Winning the lip-sync battle against host and friend Miss Coxx was what stood out to the first-time queen.

The two shared the stage for “Granite” by Sleep Token, with the winner decided by rock-paper-scissors until applause from the crowd yielded a tie. 

Though Miss Ranged delighted in their newfound bragging rights and Miss Coxx dramatically pretended to be offended by the outcome, they were clearly friends both on-stage and off. 

“This is gonna make a very interesting debrief,” Miss Coxx said to her fellow queen with a laugh.

The night’s third performer was Miss Adelia Shoe, whose upbeat pop music cast a delightful contrast to the overall spooky theme. Though she is only in her second year of doing drag, she looked right at home opening the show with Charli XCX’s “Speed Drive” in bright purple and pink florals.

Miss Shoe performed in her first show last spring with the Augustana Collaborative Theatre Society. Having enjoyed the experience, she decided enthusiastically to return to drag. 

For each of her songs, Miss Shoe affected an accompanying persona, including a comically shy character during “Be the One” by Dua Lipa. When interacting with her self-proclaimed “roommate and bestie” Scott Shlanta in the audience, however, Miss Shoe dropped the act to pull her friend up for a bit of spontaneous swing-dancing.

Both seniors, Shlanta and Miss Shoe learned to swing-dance two years ago.

Shlanta said he attended the show to cheer his best friend on. 

“I thought her crowd-work was especially incredible,” Shlanta said. 

Shlanta wasn’t the only one showing support that night. Many friends came to the show to see their fellow students on the stage, and for Gender and Sexuality Alliance co-president AJ Heckenlaible, that was the best part of the event. 

“This particular drag show is special to me because it’s students that are performing,” Heckenlaible said. 

As a GSA fundraiser for future events, like an inclusion prom this spring, Heckenlaible said they believe shows like the Halloween Drag Show are all about the community, a sentiment that each of the queens echoed throughout the night.

“It’s always super cool to see the students perform and express themselves through drag and our fellow students coming to support them,” Heckenlaible said.