It’s gory, it’s scary, it’s drag, baby! Columbia hosts its fifth annual Drag Show during Wicked Week

By Kristen Gesicki and Samaher AbuRabah

Julio Cantu, also known as “Gata Crypt,” said being on stage for the first time was nerve-wracking, but they were confident in the performance they prepared.

Cantu, a freshman musical theatre major, entered the world of drag for this year’s Haunted Drag show as part of Columbia’s annual Wicked Week.

“Columbia is an arts school, and people love to see the arts,” Cantu said. “I feel like drag can help us see a lot of different kinds of performing arts. There is just something magical about seeing someone expressing themselves.”

The Student Programming Board’s fifth annual Drag show was hosted at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., on Oct. 29. The show started at 7 p.m. and highlighted 12 drag performers — six students and six professionals — who entered the stage and worked it for their five-minute performances.

Columbia alum and former president of SPB Elana Schmidt first proposed the idea of a drag show in 2017. She created the first theme with the help of her team, “Once Upon a Drag.”

“I wanted to create that new event that people could look at and be like, ‘Wow, not every school does this,'” Schmidt said.

Since then, SPB has hosted four additional drag shows. The drag show is normally held during Columbia Weekend, but this year, the drag show was held during Wicked Week. The 2021 theme was “Haunted Drag Court.”

Madison Satterfield, vice president of SPB and a sophomore musical theatre major, created this year’s theme after she was inspired by Pinterest images of gory Disney princesses.

“This is just a great opportunity for people to showcase who they are and what they love to do,” said Sol Nolasco, a sophomore music major and director of productions for SPB. “It’s a whole different style of performing — you see all of these people get into the characters and get their makeup done. It’s just super cool.”

The drag show is a highly anticipated event each year. The stage was surrounded by students and allies to the drag community, who each brought a vibrant energy to the room during the performances.

Victoria Kessinger, a junior music major, performed as “Man Boob” for the drag show.

Kessinger said they got involved in the drag show through taking “Creative Communities: The Art of Drag” class last year, taught by Kelly Schmader, adjunct faculty member in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department. Schmader told Kessinger that Columbia’s annual drag show was a safe way to enter the world of drag if they were interested.

“As a school that commits itself to diversity and inclusion, I think it’s really important to talk about all aspects of what that entails, and drag is such an important part of the [LGBTQ+] community and showing students there is a way to express these parts of themselves,” Kessinger said.

Kessinger performed for the first time in 2020 when Columbia’s drag show was virtual due to COVID-19. They said performing in-person this year allowed them to have more of a connection with audience members.

“I love performing in front of audiences so much more,” Kessinger said. “Last year when it was all virtual, we had these cameras up in our faces. There was still some cheering going on, but to get the energy of all the people in the room just feels so amazing.”

For LGBTQ+ students, the drag show is a way to express themselves, show support for each other and come together as a community.

“It’s very important for representation for queer people like myself,” said Katie Klear, a senior creative writing major who watched the show as an audience member. “We have a community, a home and a fun way to express ourselves rather than the oppression our community faces. We come together, laugh, dance, sing and be who we are.”