Samantha Vega, UR alum and host of the annual drag show, sings to an unsuspecting audience member as part of her performance. Photo by Bow Young

Trying something new and different is always difficult. Whether it is learning a new dance, a new art form or a new song, it’s a challenge to do.  But imagine not only having to learn all of the aforementioned talents, but also learning how to be the opposite sex.

At first I believed that this transformation, from a man to a woman or vice versa, could be easily done, but it soon became apparent that there was a lot more effort put into switching gender than it seems from the outside. Performers in the Spring Drag Show, which took place Friday, April 8 in the May Room, were preparing for their parts in the show for weeks.

Men becoming drag queens had to go through a huge list of time-consuming practices to become one with their inner woman. I sat in on one of the workshops to learn how the transformation takes place, and watched as signs of masculinity softened into a more feminine demure. Men had to learn the craft of creating the feminine body by making fake breasts out of rice-filled hosiery, and a little help from a corset was needed to create the desired hourglass-shaped body.

Lessons in make-up application were just as necessary for creating a feminine body type to keep the illusion going. Drag queens were taught how to use make-up to turn their faces more feminine, in keeping with their new bodies and clothing. After plucking, shaving and dressing, this year’s drag queens had just enough time to practice their routine.

On the flip side, female performers took on the role of drag kings. Drag kings, like the drag queens, go through a large amount of steps to perfect the vision of masculinity. It would seem like this task would be easier than that of creating a drag queen.

However, while drag kings have less make-up to worry about, they have a number of physically uncomfortable practices they must go through. The drag king, in an effort to make himself look more masculine, would have to bind his breasts to create a more male build, which, depending on breast size, can be a very uncomfortable routine. Finer details like facial hair and side burns are added later for effect, and eyebrows are thickened with mascara or eye shadow to make them more bushy and male.

Both drag kings and queens dress in a manner that is highly stereotypical of their target gender, or something that is very sexual. Performances in a drag show are a reflection of a person through their dance, music, and how they present themselves while lipsyncing.

The show reflected this level of preparation. Both drag kings and drag queens looked great and reflected their target genders perfectly. The music really had a great beat for the Drag Show and set the mood quite well. Clothing that performers wore ranged from the stereotypical masculine to the the highly exaggerated feminine, which made the show all the more colorful and exciting.

All performers strutted their stuff across the stage, and were quite sensual off stage as well. The performance was a mixture of both professional and novice drag kings and queens. Samantha Vega and Guy Faux served as the show’s emcees, and were also two of the professionals who performed. Samantha Vega’s performances were quite intense and sexual. She ran around the audience, making many an unprepared men feel awkward or even perhaps aroused as she sauntered toward them. She was definitely the most outgoing drag queen in the show, once even wrapping her legs around an unsuspecting man’s neck.

Faux was not as intense has Samantha Vega — however, he made up for it by being the epitome of a cool dude. His performances were reminiscent of a boy band, filled with movement and energy. Both of these performers were a joy to watch.

But the greatest performances of the show, I believe, came from the virgin drag kings and queens. For their first time, it was a good run, but what was even more admirable was their willingness to delve into the unknown. Big Pole Anski rocked the stage with some classic rock, all while looking like one cool dude living life in the fast lane.

Donna Matrix looked a bit timid at the start of the performance, having a hard time getting into the spirit of show, but by the end it seems as if she got her spirit back into it. I’d say that the virgin performers did well for their first times. They went out of their comfort zones and shed their gender identities, all to provide the audience with a great performance.

It was my first time at Rochester’s annual drag show, and this was a great experience for me as well. I was well outside my comfort zone, and it was worth it to enjoy a great performance such as this.

Throughout, the audience seemed entranced by the dancing, music and the great time that they were having. The drag kings and queens dressed well and looked the part. Even though I felt quite uncomfortable at portions of the show, I couldn’t stop watching because it was an experience. It’s for this reason that the show was a success.

Minahan is a member of the class of 2012.

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