Western Washington University hosted its 31st annual drag show at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 8, making it the longest-running university drag show in Washington.
The show, put on by LGBTQ+ Western and fully organized by students, benefitted local LGBTQ+ services Lifelong and Sean Humphrey House.
Local drag artist Mx hosted the performance, which featured 15 student, local and professional drag artists and ended with speeches by Hot Pink Shade and Navouny Divinne, making for an impactful evening.
“It was a blast. A lot of different personalities, a lot of queer and trans joy,” said Jizzy Pop, a student performer. “And a lot of people who wanted to share their art together, and I just found that really beautiful.”
Hot Pink Shade, a professional drag artist and member of the BeautyBoiz Queer Collective, agreed the show was full of amazing moments.
“Drag is what we do,” they said. “There was so much going on on Saturday that was so monumental and iconic.”
Axe Andros, co-coordinator of the event, got involved with Western’s Annual Drag Show after performing in 2022 and then founding Western’s Drag Club in 2022.
“I did a lot of the organizing with the student performers and helped with some of the marketing materials,” he said. “We all did a little bit of everything.”
Axe Andros has been doing drag since high school and enjoys being a part of the fun, supportive drag community.
“I love being around other drag artists,” he said.
However, he has had difficulty finding all-ages drag shows in Bellingham, especially as a new performer.
“Last year after the drag show, I was like, ‘I need to find out how to do this more.’ So I ended up making a drag club this year,” he said.
Drag has been a huge part of Hot Pink Shade’s life as well, as they perform professionally in and around Seattle. Hot Pink Shade said, for them, the drag community is everything.
A career in drag allows Hot Pink Shade to express their creativity and get out and be social.
“Drag has taught me to hold my head up high,” they said. “Drag has taught me to command a presence, command attention, command respect from people.”
For Jizzy Pop, drag is a way to express her identity and explore femininity without being called a woman. Though she only began official performances in the past year, she has been experimenting with drag for much longer.
“Part of me feels like I have always been a drag performer,” she said.
The show, which was open to all ages and American Sign Language interpreted, attracted many members of the Bellingham community beyond Western.
“There was a trans kid who came up to talk to me during intermission and after the show,” Axe Andros said. “I almost cried.”
Knowing he had an effect on people, especially trans kids, made the night even more special.
The art of drag is not only meant to entertain but inspire and invoke emotions.
“Drag artists are often looked at as healers,” Hot Pink Shade said. “We’re like an escape.”
Western's 31st Annual Drag Show comes at a time when the drag community is under attack. On March 2, Tennessee became the first state to pass a bill banning drag shows in public spaces or in the presence of children.
“I think that actions like this really should be an eye-opener to people that are not of this community,” said Hot Pink Shade. “It’s a huge step backward.”
The recent legislation is striking proof of anti-drag and anti-trans hate.
“We have targets on our backs,” said Hot Pink Shade. “Some of us who live proudly and unapologetically, like myself, we have targets on our foreheads.”
In distress over the tragic news last month, Jizzy Pop is focusing on finding happy moments and happy places.
“If you’re so overcome with the sadness and the tragedy, the best thing you can do is focus on the empowerment that those identities can bring you,” she said. “Drag has always been a protest.”
Axe Andros shared a similar sentiment. “One of the most important things to keep in mind right now is trans joy,” he said. “Ultimately, trans joy is resistance to a society that doesn't really want us.”
Hot Pink Shade urges allies to use their privilege to stand in unity with the LGBTQ+ community.
“Uplift the voices of those who are oppressed,” they said. “Go out there, use your voice, vote, offer your signatures, whatever you can do to make sure that this type of art doesn't just fizzle away. Now is the time to act.”
Thalia Coulter (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front. She is in her second year at Western and is a public relations major with a Spanish minor. When not on campus or at work, Thalia can be found grabbing a bite to eat downtown with friends. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.