By Joe Passero
One of Rider’s largest annual events returned for its third installment on Feb. 1. Students filled the theater in the Bart Luedeke Center to watch the Rider Drag Race as four competitors took the stage for a fun-filled, jaw-dropping night full of laughs and praise.
The event was co-hosted by junior musical theater major Anna Sanzone from the Student Entertainment Council and defending Rider Drag Race champion and junior English major Sean Hubert as Spectra Electra. The event was broken down into three segments: individual performances, catwalk with question and answer and lip sync.
Each of the four drag queens had unique and distinct styles in their personalities, looks and presentations, and, in the end, 20-year-old junior musical theater major Terren Mueller was crowned champion as his drag persona Diana Jettcrash.
“I actually just started doing drag,” Mueller said. “Rider’s Drag Race was Diana’s debut. She’s a character I’ve been developing over the past few months and bringing her to life was a pretty surreal experience. Being able to develop a character from scratch and have it be received so well by an audience was pretty extraordinary.”
Despite being a rookie competitor, Mueller was just as prepared as some of the show’s returning drag queens.
“The show took a lot of preparation and, ironically, performing it was the easiest part for me,” Mueller said. “I don’t think people realize how much work goes into doing drag. From the makeup to the wigs, the heels to the outfit reveals, the choreography to the quick wit, it’s not easy. I like to do conceptual drag where there is a clear story and character, so coming up with a funny and poignant mix is a lot of trial and error, but something that is beyond rewarding when achieved.”
Fans in the audience voted for the winner by donating toward a specific competitor through Venmo or with cash. In total, just under $1,900 was raised – over three times what was raised from last year’s Rider Drag Race. The money raised will go to Rider’s Relay for Life as well as to New Hope Celebrates, a local LGBTQ+ pride organization based out of New Hope, Pennsylvania.
The night also featured special appearances from two distinguished drag queens—Miss Pumpkin, who has raised over three-quarters of a million dollars for AIDS related causes, and Phoebe Manntrappe, who displayed a softer side of drag to the audience.
Nick Barbati, the assistant director of campus life, was thrilled with the turnout of the event.
“Two years ago, we brought it back as a small-scale program in the Rider Pub and we packed it out, and the event was awesome. So last year, we thought the event was big enough to try putting it in the [BLC] theater and we sold out,” Barbati said.
The 2019 edition of The Rider Drag Race was also a sold-out crowd.
For the people involved and for many of the spectators, the Drag Race was not only about having a good time, but rather it was a way of respecting and inspiring people to be themselves and do what they love and feel in the harsh world of social politics as well as reflecting on how far society has come in its acceptance.
“It’s almost impossible to put into words,” Barbati said. “It is a sense of pride and satisfaction that I didn’t think I would ever be able to see in my lifetime. In 2004, you truly had to shield yourself and get to the theater and you weren’t able to put on that much make-up or that much for costumes, and to see students now, living out loud, in a way that is so authentic to themselves, it really puts into context how many people, over generations, built us for this moment. It’s such an experience to see the show out fearlessly.”
Mueller also had a message for the fans who attended the show:
“I want people to understand what drag is,” Mueller said. “It’s more than just looking pretty. I never wanted to create a character that conformed to the standards of beauty that we uphold today but instead mock that standard and subvert it.”
Mueller expressed that his goal was to make the audience feel both fear and attraction to his character.
“My character is dedicated to the freaks, weirdos and punk rockers that just don’t fit in. Diana is the perfect balance of glam and depravity,” Mueller said. “I also hope people walk away with an opinion on what they saw. If you love it, great. If you hate it, equally as great. Art can be polarizing and different people react to different things. The worst thing for me would be for the audience to forget my performance and that is something I promise Diana will never let you do.”
Published in the Feb. 6 edition.