The 10th annual Dragalicious Drag Ball’s theme was evolution. This title fits, whether it refers to the evolutionary changes UCR has made to be more than welcoming towards the LGBT community or to the event itself, which started out in the Barn with only a handful of audience members 10 years ago. This year it was held in HUB 302 on Friday, April 5 and included a complete runway with hundreds of attendees. Most of all, the theme refers to the extraordinary changes all the participants went through before becoming their personas and hitting the runway.
I sat down with Tim Grove and Edwin Flores, co-administrators for the ball. “For this year’s Drag Ball we wanted it to be a reunion of sorts. That’s why we brought in queens from previous years and we really wanted to highlight how much drag has grown in the community,” stated Grove, chair of ASPB. The lackluster turnout for last year’s event was underwhelming for both Grove and Flores. This time, they pulled out all the stops by getting many queens to come perform, some of which are trying out for Rupaul’s Drag Race soon.
I’ve seen a few episodes of Rupaul’s show and I figured it wasn’t that hard to dress up like a woman. Just slap on some eyeliner, a wig, push up bra and you’re ready to go. That was before I spent two hours with the queens and a king that ranged from their first performance ever to being in the drag world for 10 years.
It was hard to breathe in the room filled with spray tan and hairspray. I wondered if I should have been wearing a gas mask. Ke$ha, Lana Del Ray and Paula Abdul played from a laptop as foundation on top of foundation was plastered onto their faces. “It takes a lot of duct tape and a lot glue, honey,” stated Witch Privilege, a red-haired queen who had a powerful performance which included flipping over a dinner table and stomping her heels across shards of wine cups.
Many men complain about having to wait for their girlfriends getting ready for a night out but I don’t think any of them would have the patience for a queen. The queens have to reshape their faces with foundation in order to appear more feminine. All of them carried makeup cases that resemble a professional bass fisherman’s tackle box more than any ordinary girls make up bag. Makeup isn’t only used to look pretty for a night out, it is designed for the stage and lighting. “It’s painting, really. You have to know color theory in order for this all to work,” stated Carmen Di Va, who strutted her stuff in a sequin jumpsuit and will be trying out for Rupaul’s drag race soon. “They’re sisters, not twins,” Di Va advised to a younger queen pertaining to painting on her eyebrows.
The queens and kings are very serious about what they are doing and aren’t afraid of suffering in order to be on stage. Duct tape corsets are quite common, sucking in their chest and having someone wrap them up like a mummy in order to create curves. But the most painful thing they endure has to be the tuck. “There’s a home for your balls and you shove it in. Then you tape your dick down with tons of duct tape. It’s better to have hair so that the tape really sticks,” stated Daphne Grimes, who was an Emcee of a previous UCR Drag Ball.
The only king of the event has a different approach when it comes to getting ready. He uses a bulletproof vest-like binder in order to squash any femininity down on his chest and then uses his own hair and glues it to his face to create sideburns and a goatee. “It’s all about layers when it comes to the costume in order to conceal curves,” stated Justin Timetolick. Timetolock is a corporate office worker during the day and then performs on stage at night wielding a glowing lightsaber positioned at the groin.
This Drag Ball was a chance for them to be who they really want to be. “I used to dress up and re-enact Ms. Universe but it was never okay growing up. I got to college and was really able to express myself without being shameful,” stated Aloha Tolentino, a 10-year veteran to the drag scene who had a moving performance involving mirrors, getting the audience to wonder what it really means when you stare at yourself.
“I first saw Aloha perform at a LGBT leadership retreat when I was a freshman. I had never seen a man dress up in drag before. It just seemed so accessible and Aloha helped me with my first performance in ’08. This is my home, it’s where Sucha Delite was born,” Delite said before performing to Cinderella sound bites all while standing on five foot stilts, towering over the audience.
While they are all very serious about their performance, for some it isn’t completely about being fierce and taking control of the runway. For some it is sending a message about gender. “It’s really great to just challenge gender roles,” said Timetolick.
“I do it because I want to create a beautiful character. Gender is just a performance, anyone can do it,” stated Little Delicious, who ran the stage to Prohibition-era music in a blue flapper dress along with a leash that was attached around the neck of a man.
The show was a huge success, raising over $1,600 for the LGBT Student Leadership Scholarship Fund. It’s amazing to think that just ten years ago this event couldn’t boast more than 20 audience members. Now, we have an entire week of events dedicated to everything drag. Queens can strut around campus on a busy Thursday handing out handbills for the Drag Ball and not have to be worried about being harassed.
The final performance of the night was by Grimes. She finished the show donning an American flag t-shirt which had the flag hung from her sleeves, flowing as she danced. She ended her performance with a monologue from Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” music video claiming, “I am fucking crazy. But I am free.” At that moment, gay, straight, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, queen, king, no matter who you were, you felt free.