By Tristan Leach
The music pulsed through the speakers. Students and staff found their seats while excitedly chatting with each other. As the lights dimmed, the audience cheered and screamed.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Rider Drag Race was brought back by Rider’s Student Entertainment Council. The show was held in the Yvonne Theater and featured five professional local drag queens and three student drag queens.
Before the show had even begun, the audience was having their own performance. As Whitney Houston’s “Somebody Who Loves Me” blasted through the speakers, students sang and danced in their seats. The energy of one of Rider’s most popular events was infectious; joy and laughter was already filling the nearly packed theater.
After the famous song ended, the show began. This semester’s show was hosted by returning professional, VinChelle. The drag queen sported a floor length mono-chromatic dress and red accessories. VinChelle expressed her joy at returning to Rider and her hope for a wonderful time.
“I have on seven pairs of tights and I can’t see; we’re gonna have a good time, honey,” the queen yelled into the microphone. The audience cheered and clapped as Vinchelle handed off the microphone.
VinChelle kicked off the night with a performance of Mariah Carey’s “Emotions.” The performance included a quick change into a rainbow sequin bodysuit that had the audience screaming with anticipation. VinChelle made her way into the audience; excited attendees recorded as the queen sang her heart out.
After VinChelle finished her opening number, she passed the stage onto another professional drag queen. Going by the name Morgan Wells, the queen sported a Marie Antoinette-inspired pink and silver dress. Lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s famous “I’m Every Woman,” the drag queen pulled out all the stops, strutting around the stage and pulling out a fan to emphasize the drama. At the end of Wells’ performance, VinChelle praised the drag queen for making her whole costume by hand.
Next up on the roster was Jolina Jasmine. The blonde drag queen sported a pink and white bodysuit covered in feathers, pearls and rhinestones. Jasmine performed “Waiting for Tonight,” a popular Jennifer Lopez song. The queen not only came into the audience, but also performed several tricks that had the audience screaming and cheering.
“[Rider’s] different because of the age setting. I normally work in night clubs where everyone is over 21 and people tend to drink a lot,” said Jones. “I feel like here I have a lot of audience engagement because there’s no alcohol involved, so I feel like I have all the attention from everybody in the room versus trying to grab attention from people who are out socializing.”
After the stunning performance by Jasmine, VinChelle took a moment to take an Instagram story. The pink wigged performer asked the audience to scream “YAS VinChelle!” VinChelle then introduced her drag niece. Drag culture includes the element of found family and creating your own. Often young drag queens are adopted by older members of the drag community.
Going by the name Daught Landell, the queen entered through a door at the side of the theater in a red bodysuit with a cut up acid wash fabric overlaying the piece. Landell performed a remix of Missy Elliot tunes. The queen entered the audience, stopping along the way to twerk on an audience member or two. Students screamed and cheered as Landell ended the performance. She asked a student for help in removing her red, thigh-high, high-heeled boots, and then told the student to keep them.
After Landell was returner Morgan Ashe. Ashe sported a tan pantsuit and was tastefully covered in body glitter that shimmered in the spotlight. Ashe performed “Vibeology,” a song popularized by Paula Abdul. The queen strutted her way into the audience and used her black fan as an extension of her body.
Then it was time for the student drag queens to come out and show off their stuff. Up first was Ms. Kaela J (McKaela Jones, a senior marine science major). She sported a green sparkly romper and a pair of black heels. Kaela J lip synced to “I’m Coming Out” as performed by Diana Ross, and at the end of her set gave a motivational speech about loving yourself.
“The reason why I decided to do Drag Race is to show that drag is an art. It’s for anybody. It means love, empowerment, joy, spreading art and you can do that through love, and that’s what the show is about. That’s why I decided to do it, and it was absolutely amazing,” said Jones.
Second on the list of student drag queens was Astral Projection (Cassie Rudolph, a freshman game design major). Projection performed Marina and the Diamonds’ “Primadonna.” The queen wore a galaxy-themed outfit with a blue and silver sparkly mask.
Lastly was Sassy Boss Diva (Joe Giambelluca, a senior Spanish major) who performed Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The drag queen sported an orange wig with a yellow tutu and a pink Planned Parenthood T-shirt.
The night was far from over with all five professional drag queens coming back for one more performance. Wells returned to the stage in a black and green dress and cape adorned in LED lights while lip syncing to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Jasmine started off her performance of CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” in a gold tulle robe covered in stars and then wowed the crowd with a rhinestone bodysuit.
Landell was up next in a black mini dress with a black bodysuit underneath. For her second number of the night she performed “Show Me Love,” popularized by Robin S. The queen at one point took an audience member’s phone and videoed her performance. Next, Ashe returned to the stage to wow the audience in a gray, black and silver bodysuit. For her second set the queen performed Whintey Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight.”
The crowd was riled up and ready for more. To close out the night, VinChelle, who had changed into a floral dress with beads around her neck, performed a Destiny’s Child remix. The audience was on their feet as the music blasted through the speakers.
At the end of the show, VinChelle called out each drag queen one by one to take a bow. The audience clapped and cheered as the queens danced their way off
the stage and into the lobby for some photos with adoring fans.
Grace Kohansby, a senior global studies major, said “I chose to come tonight because I wanted to be with my friends and have a good time.”
Students certainly shared Kohansby’s feelings when it came to having a good time. With smiles on their faces and laughter ringing in the air, students left the theater and excitedly talked about Rider’s next drag show.
See more photos from the Rider Drag Show