UCSB’s Pride Drag Show Lights the Night

Photo by Dominick Ojeda

Naima Sudjian-Carlisle

The alluring Shangela Slandering, Vaginal Flora, Sarahtonin, Coco Debauchery, and Camilla Chameleon were some of the many phenomenal drag show performers at UCSB’s Pride Drag Show last Thursday. Trixie Mattel, a well-known drag queen contestant from the T.V. show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” may have drawn the full house that attended the evening performance at Campbell Hall. However, it was UCSB’s very own talented students who owned the night. Their passion at the show lit the night and made this year’s pride week one for the books.

Students organized the free event, which was part of UCSB’s Pride Week, and drew a large and diverse crowd of friends, family, and interested community members. For many people, it was their first time seeing a drag show. UCSB student Dwayne Mosbey, a fourth year global studies major who goes by Maddie Mokes, performed and MC’d. Mosbey amped the crowd up with an energy that was sustained throughout the night.

Over a dozen queens prepared for weeks on end for this moment — from outfits, to make-up, bling, and voluptuous hairstyles. Some queens impressed the crowd with up to three outfits in one performance.

They impressed with their immaculate and creative appearances and also with their song choices, which ranged from throwbacks to more recent music. Rihanna’s “Higher,” “Kiss It Better,” and “S&M” provoked people to sing along and dance in their seats. A sweet moment occurred during a lip syncing of Selena’s “Dreaming of You,” when the crowd took out its phones to slowly wave them from side to side. Hundreds of lights illuminated the theatre.

Each performance was unique and innovative; the queens told a story well whether it was theatrical, funny, sensual, personally reflective, or comedic. The crowd howled and cheered for performers from the moment they entered the stage to the sight of an epic death drop. One pose could trigger a chill up the spine and generate goosebumps travelling down the arms.

Apart from the audience’s standing ovations, the drag queens received further appreciation in the form of tips from the audience, also known as “cabbage.” Many performers gathered a “full salad,” strutting up the aisles and dancing with lucky audience members. Tips are a great way to show appreciation, and they also help performers offset the expenses it takes to prepare costumes and makeup.

22-year-old Manni Nunez, who goes by Carla Mercedez on stage, is a queer-identifying fourth year environmental studies major. “I don’t know when I’ll ever get the opportunity to just perform in drag in front of a huge crowd and be fully supported,” said Nunez, in an interview with The Bottom Line before the show. It was Nunez’s second time in drag at UCSB. Unique opportunities like this don’t happen on every campus. Nunez thinks the drag shows should continue at UCSB, “It really allows people a moment to shine, to shape shift.”

Nunez also said, “It’s a huge confidence booster … if I didn’t have the drag shows I don’t think I would be so open about who I am. I don’t think I’d be comfortable breaking gender norms.” 

Like many drag shows, last Thursday’s performance showcased a wide variety of identities, breaking down social constructs that pervade our society. “If you’re thinking about it, you should do it,” Nunez said. “Going on that stage was really affirming.” Performers do not need to be queer; these events are inclusive, accessible, and supportive to everyone.

“The school can definitely prioritize these shows,” said Nunez, judging by the effervescent energy that the performance generated and the uniqueness of these campus events. Be sure to attend a drag show if you have the opportunity, and don’t forget to bring along some “cabbage.”