By Tristan Leach
With nearly all 400 seats in the Yvonne Theater occupied, Rider held its annual Drag Race on Sept. 25.
Of the nine performers of the night, four were Rider students. The first to perform for the students was sophomore dance performance major Maikol Calixto as Aristocrats, followed by freshman musical theater major Mia Mintz as Miss Texas, then junior Spanish major with a philosophy minor Joe Giambelluca as JJ CoolWhip and finally senior musical theater major Jack Wood as Vicky Vibrato. Each performer chose one song to which they lip synced, danced and interacted with the audience. This year, the event was not a competition as it was in past years.
Audience members were given paper fans and disco ball necklaces of different colors. The Drag Race has been happening since 2004 when it was started by former student and current faculty member Nick Barbati. Barbati started the event after a friend encouraged him to do drag. According to Barbati, his friend “dragged him out of the closet.” Barbati reflected on the fact that his mom was in the audience, and he remembered the pride in her eyes.
Barbati asked his friend who goes by the drag name of VinChelle to host this year’s event. The Philadelphia-based drag queen sported a lovely yellow floor-length dress embellished with black and pink stars. She kicked the event off with a lip-sync performance of “Make It Happen” by Mariah Carey. VinChelle encouraged audience participation by requesting the audience to shout “Oh Yeah!”
Mintz said, “I have always really loved drag since about middle school, and I always thought it was just a boy thing until very recently. I watched RuPaul’s [Drag Race] of course cause who doesn’t? My best friend is a baby drag queen, and as I’m helping him figure out makeup and tricks and music, I also gained a huge interest in it myself. … I saw Victoria Scone who was the first female drag queen on ‘UK RuPaul’s Drag Race’, and I suddenly realized, okay, women can do this.”
Mintz performed Britney Spears’ “Circus” in a homemade bedazzled outfit. This was her first ever performance, and she was met with a standing ovation.
Five professional drag queens also performed: VinChelle, Pumpkin, Phoebe, Cyannie and Morgan Wells. Each queen performed two numbers, and each made an outfit change, with the exception of VinChelle.
When asked why she chose to come to Rider and why she does drag, VinChelle said, “I know Nick. We did a play together; we did ‘My Big Gay Italian Wedding’ together, and so he saw me there and I told him I do drag full time. He got me to the gig. I started doing drag because I actually went to The University of The Arts for Musical Theatre and then I decided maybe full-time theater was not for me, but I still wanted to be on stage. And so, I decided to become a drag queen.”
VinChelle closed the show with an ecstatic performance of “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston. The queen danced in the crowd with the audience, at one point ripping her dress on one of the railings next to the seats.
She enthusiastically said, “I’d only ruin an outfit for Rider.”