“I think in times of geopolitical turmoil, people might wonder why we waste time with the frivolity of drag. And I think the answer is, if you can find political power in reverence, you can make social change more joyful. And that’s a radical act” was a statement delivered by Shakina Nayfack, showcasing the power of subverting social and cultural expectations and being true to oneself. As the original founder of Dragalicious Drag Ball, Shakina joyously returned to host its 20-year anniversary.

Returning with a roar, Dragalicious Drag Ball opened its doors to exhilarated students and faculty, friends and community members on April 11, 2024. A collaboration between Queer Alliance and Drag Club at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), the night came to life with performances by Drag Club members, alumni and special guest, the one and only Mayhem Miller from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

As HUB 302 slowly darkened, audience members waved around their light sticks and blew into their noisemakers in a frenzy. Shakina stepped onto the stage with a fabulous sequined jumpsuit that sparkled against the lights. As the host, she brought in bursts of energy for the crowd as she introduced performers. It is no wonder that 20 years ago Shakina shook things up with UCR’s first Drag Ball, or as she puts it, “I came through like a wrecking ball and really tried to f*ck it up and bring the queerness hardcore.”

“The person who is going to kick it off is gonna blow your mind and set the bar really f*cking high. You know her because she is a legend,” Shakina announced. The audience grew into screams the second they saw RuPaul’s Drag Race star, Mayhem Miller, elegantly enter onstage. Dressed in a black velvet dress with diamond sequins that perfectly complimented her long, diamond earrings, Mayhem Miller gave a showstopping performance. Hair styled into an elaborate top knot and makeup painting a stunning portrait, her entire being radiated an aura of sophistication. Audience members showered her with dollar bills to celebrate her iconic status. She was graceful in her movements and proved herself as the diva of the night. 

Drag Club members were also given the spotlight, starting off with duo Bear Beringer and Reina Rey. Together they performed a playful and alluring version of “Promiscuous Girl” by Nelly Furtado. They proved to be a power couple as the two complimented each other’s facial expressions and attitudes, even continuing their performance offstage. The duo was later reunited in their performance for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. Dressed in retro shirts with peace signs and giant glasses, their performance was heartwarming as they captured feelings of friendship and love altogether. 

Shakina then introduced Just Robin, known as “UCR’s Lady Gaga.” Dressed in a white button up, black gloves that matched her long black boots, Just Robin slayed the house boots down. Red and white lights continuously flashed throughout her performance as she daringly stared into the audience. Just Robin was full of energy in her dance moves as they matched the rhythm and beat of the song that echoed throughout the room. 

Static noise opened up the next performance by Drag Club’s President, Killian, known by their drag name Melodrama. Dressed in a black hoodie, dark shades and sweatpants, Melodrama’s set changed between various songs from the early 2000s that had many millennials nostalgic and Gen Z dancing. Screams and shouts from the crowd made Melodrama’s performance even more exciting, especially as they underwent an onstage outfit change that revealed a sleek black dress that complimented their bold performance of “Naughty Girl” by Beyoncé and “Toxic” by Britney Spears. 

Later on, Melodrama came out once more in a spectacular and emotional performance. Lip-syncing along to the “The Greatest Showman’s” memorable song, “Never Enough,” Melodrama sauntered onto stage in a white dress and charming white veil, ornate with crystals and beads. Already intense in its lyrics, Melodrama made the song even more gut-wrenching as they allowed audience members to write on their white dress. Audiences wrote sweet messages like “Be Yourself” or iconic lines like “Slay,” drawing in a sense of community within the event that lasted even after its ending. 

The next act featured lip-sync champion from Drag Club’s Lip-Sync Showdown, Odeng Lee, as they danced to “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls. Odeng Lee quickly stripped away their white button up shirt to reveal a risqué dress that made the audience go crazy. But their act didn’t just end there. 

“Just because I took a bite of that big, red, juicy apple. That’s not my fault. The snake was really convincing, but then they called me a wh*re. Then, why not be into it? I am the original sinner and I’m gonna keep doing it,” was the beginning narration of Odeng Lee’s return. Dressed as the biblical figure Eve in a nude bodysuit with leaves and gems ornamenting it, Odeng Lee defined fierceness with Nicki Minaj’s infamous song, “Anaconda” as she danced licentiously with a glittery snake. They lived up to their champion name in their legendary and unforgettable performance. Enticing and electrifying, Odeng Lee was a crowd favorite of the night. 

Fashionably dressed in a denim dress and long leather boots, Azealia Shanks stomped onto the stage with a powerful demeanor after the lip-sync champion. As they went into the crowd, it took little time for Azealia Shanks to command their presence before they danced on top of a chair. It was a feel-good performance that reignited the audience’s spirit as they cheered the performer on. Azealia Shanks left little to the imagination when they skillfully launched a foam glow stick from their mouth that flew into the air. The impressive spectacle made many hysterically scream out from the sight. 

Beginning with Michael Bublé’s smooth song, “Feeling Good,” Hunter sported long black slacks and a blazer before showing off a red brassier beneath. Dancing along to Britney Spears’ “Gimme More,” Hunter owned the entire stage with their stellar presence. Their smile charmed the audience as several guests showered the stage with dollar bills and pride. 

Soon after, Alice Ace took the stage. Adorned with fairy lights around their arms and the bodice of their velvety corset, Alice Ace was breath-taking as “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane played. With intricately crafted and fluid movements, she radiated a tranquil aura and left the audience speechless. Elegant and swift in every movement, Alice Ace was an enchanting and mystifying performance that took the stage. 

Even with dark, glamorous makeup and a vibrant red nose, Nirvana Mind remained beautiful and mysterious on the runway as the next act. Her long silver claws held an umbrella as she walked down the runway with a black cloth draped effortlessly over her body. Reaching the top of the stage’s stairs, Nirvana Mind unfurled their umbrella in an arcing motion, letting loose a shower of flower petals which brought a pop of color to their performance. It was an impressive sight to see, leaving many with their jaws on the ground. Beautiful wasn’t even enough to describe this performance — you simply had to be there to witness this marvel. 

Possibly one of the most celebratory acts was that of Brujo Paraiso who welcomed graduating seniors to dance alongside them in “High School Musical.” Heart-pounding and enthralling, this performance was fulfilling to watch as those who will soon end their college years celebrated alongside their peers. 

Shakina would not be not the only legacy alumni to return on-campus; She welcomed Wright Wicked, one of the founders of Drag Club at UCR, to the stage. A “Godfather” shirt, long black trench coat and clown makeup complimented Wright Wicked’s hypnotic performance. Amidst the glaring green and red lights, Wright Wicked held a bag of chips in one hand and a drink in the other performing a gluttonous show. Adding on to the spirit of the performance, event assistants flung bags of chips into the crowd, causing several guests to reach out and grab at wherever they could catch on to.

As Mayhem Miller opened the event, she perfectly closed it with another diva performance. Spotting luscious long hair and a sparkly bodysuit, Mayhem Miller did not disappoint. Her struts down the runway were powerful in every step that she took, marking it a glamorous end to an eventful night. She served, delivered and left no crumbs. 

Dragalicious Drag Ball will be one for the books. Iconic and legendary in its performances by alumni, UCR students and Drag stars; it certainly made a mark on UCR’s legacy of drag.