UNT Drag Show: Yas Kween, but also, do better.
On April 11, UNT hosted its second campus-wide drag contest, featuring student performers, hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 and All Stars Season 3 contestant, Aja. This contest was orchestrated by UNT's University Programs Council and while it was a wonderful showcase, it was not rid of issue.
First off, it's awesome UNT is providing this opportunity to its student community. Using the university's power to create a platform for student up-and-coming performers is the exact right thing to do.
What’s maybe not the right thing to do, though, is host it on the exact same day, within an hour of another drag show contest, hosted by another RPDR queen, at the neighboring university. TWU had a drag show titled So You Think You Can Drag hosted by Kennedy Davenport. From the lack of marketing, this may have just been overlooked, but neither UNT nor TWU caught this? Also, halfway through the opening act, we found out this show was actually a fundraiser for a charity. The flier for the show had zero information on that. Also, tipping was encouraged but was never expressed anywhere except at the show. The group I was with felt awful when we didn't have money to tip. Thankfully, there was a smattering of prepared students.
For a Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in a college basketball stadium, the staff did an excellent job of creating an atmosphere fitting to enjoy the show. We were really excited about the concession stands being open. Never have I enjoyed a drag show con nachos. The backing production for each performer was incredible. Each contestant provided an interview screened immediately before their performance, giving a brief insight into the history of the performer and the message they were bringing to the stage. Some even featured videos during their performances that appeared personally curated for the show. If these videos came from a student staffer at UPC, someone please find them and hire them. We were LIVING for those productions!
The videos didn’t beat the actual performances. Many stuck with a pride theme, inviting friends on stage to wave their respective identifying flags–trans flag, LGBTQIA flag, etc.–and used giant confetti cannons full of rainbow confetti and glitter, or even rose petals. The costumes? Sickening. Choreography? Impeccable, even when flawed. It was hard to believe queens like Budget Klutz had only been doing drag for a mere 3 months. Each contestant brought their own ferocity, their own uniqueness that made the show overall really amazing.
Let’s. Talk. About. Aja.
Y’all, Aja has always been one of my favorite queens, but she really locked it in for me at this show. She was witty, awkward, goofy, she. was. real. She did an amazing job showing love and appreciation for the performers, recognizing their pride and the importance of showing said pride in our community. Aja talked about supporting her trans, POC and nonbinary sisters, as well as owning your identity. Her performance, though laidback, was as elegant as ever. A great topping to an interesting evening.
But where were the local queens? Denton has an amazing selection of local support to choose from, like Kendrix Kyle and Nayda Montana, who had the opportunity to participate in one of the FOUR lip sync/time killing activities.
I reached out to these two local queens for their thoughts on the show:
"I loved the show," Kendrix Kyle said. "I think it’s a great way to push younger queens out there into starting something they might love. Although, because it is a university run event, the 'local queen' clientele is limited. Trisha is a local queen who also competed and I’m glad that she got to have a spot on stage. I do think that UPC could’ve worked with Sinsational Sundays and Glitterbomb on kind of a, 'I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine' deal, like possibly mentioning something along the lines of, 'Hey! There’s more drag in Denton if you enjoyed this show!' and we could have promoted to the non-university audience as well."
“I attended the show because I wanted to support the girls who were competing, because many of them were friends and drag family," Nayda Montana said. "However, the lack of representation for the local girls was upsetting to see. Many of the people in attendance were simply there because someone famous was hosting, not because of their love of drag, and it was sad to see that there was no attention brought to the local scene of drag that is prevalent in Denton.”
Overall, I’d rate the show 8/10. Next year, let’s see some collaboration and support for the community that’s meant to grow your student body. How about a battle of the universities? Call me, UNT and TWU, I’m always available for booking.
Header image by Sara Button