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‘It’s okay to celebrate who you are’: WKU Housing and Residence Life hosts 9th annual drag show

Von Smith
Megan Inman of Tennessee cries after embracing Drag performer and transgender advocate Jasmine St. James at the 9th Annual WKU Housing and Residence Life Drag Show at Knicely Conference Center on April 4, 2024. “[The community] was so warm and welcoming when I came out, if it wasn’t for the queens I wouldn’t be here,” Inman said.

The annual “WKU Drag Show” was held by Housing and Residence Life for the ninth time last night, allowing the campus and local community to experience performances from several local drag queens at the Knicely Conference Center.

The first “WKU Drag Show” hosted by HRL in 2015 was held in a campus residence hall. As the event has grown over the years, it was moved to the Downing Student Union (DSU) and is now held at the Knicely Conference Center on WKU’s South Campus.

Rob Kelley, area coordinator for Centennial Village and “WKU Drag Show” chair, said HRL has always had a “strong background in creating DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] initiatives,” mentioning how the Stonewall Suites Living Learning Community (LLC) implemented by HRL has provided LGBTQ+ students a “safe space” on campus.

12 drag queens took part in the show, several of whom are prominent in the Bowling Green drag scene, such as current Miss Bowling Green Pride Veronika Electronika, who hosted the event. 

Performances ranged from songs such as “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen for an estimated audience of 325 to 350 people from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Flicka Bean, a WKU student and resident assistant at Munday Hall, debuted their first drag performance at the show and performed the song “So Am I” by Ava Max. Bean said the song was special to them as a child, and served as a reminder that it was okay to be “weird” and “not fit into a box.”

Bean said they were anxious leading up to the night, but that the support from the audience and the other queens was encouraging.

“I feed off of the crowd’s energy,” Bean said. “Getting up there [onstage] was so much fun.”

At a point in the show, Electronika asked individuals in the audience to raise their hand if they identified as LGBTQ+. She then asked them to raise their hand based on how they identify within the community, asking who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. 

“Your rights deserve to be heard every day,” Electronika said to the audience, who erupted into applause and cheer.

Throughout the show, audience members lined up at the front of the catwalk to give tips to the performers, many receiving hugs from the queens.

Several WKU organizations, including Topper Pride Alumni, the Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC) Pride Center, WKU Campus Recreation & Wellness and the WKU Counseling Center, tabled in the lobby of the Knicely Conference Center, allowing attendees to learn more about what their campus roles are while at the show. Matthew 25, a local AIDS services and HIV testing center was also present to table.

WKU Catering was also at the show, offering free “mocktails” to attendees throughout the show and during a brief intermission.

The lighting and sound for the show was operated by Adam Crawford, junior BFA theatre, design and technology major and Gavin Dooley, senior BFA theatre, design and technology and Arabic double major, who are student workers for Van Meter Campus Events. 

Crawford said working at events like the “WKU Drag Show” has allowed him to gain experience in his field of study that he would not get from the department alone.

Kelsey Truxal, political science assistant professor, attended the show due to her love of drag, wearing a shirt that said “Sounds Gay. I’m in.”

Truxal said she thought it was important for students to have the opportunity to experience events like the drag show that create a “community.”

Attendees were each given a raffle ticket for the chance to win the opportunity to sit at one of three tables alongside the catwalk of the stage for the closest view of the performances. All other attendees were seated on a first-come-first-serve basis in chairs placed around the room.

Valerie Redman, senior psychology major, was one of the raffle winners given the opportunity to sit in what Electronika described as “the best seats in the house,” bringing sophomore psychology majors Lily Trego and Nate Hendrix to sit with her.

Redman described her experience at the show as “energetic,” and said she enjoyed coming to an event where she felt “everyone’s voices could be heard.” 

After the performances concluded, each queen took to the stage one final time to thank the audience for their attendance before joining hands to bow.

“It’s okay to be able to celebrate who you are, who you love and how you want to live your life,” Electronika said. “You don’t have to hide on campus. You don’t have to hide in life. It’s okay to be able to celebrate who you are, whether it’s on stage or off.”

Assistant News Editor Ali Costellow can be reached at [email protected]

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