Eastern’s drag shows through the 21st century

Ruby+D+Luxe%2C+performed+by+Tory+Rose%2C+performs+to+%E2%80%9CCandy+Store%E2%80%9D+from+Heathers+the+musical+during+the+student+drag+show+on+Nov.+8%2C+2019+at+the+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.+Student+Union.

Elizabeth Wood | The Daily Eastern News

Ruby D Luxe, performed by Tory Rose, performs to “Candy Store” from Heathers the musical during the student drag show on Nov. 8, 2019 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

EIU Pride’s Drag Show has been a part of Eastern for nearly 20 years, with its first ever drag show happening on Dec. 1, 2003.  

Since its inception, the drag show has had many names, but its first one was DIVA 2003.  

Eastern’s first drag show brought five professional drag performers from Indiana to the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union’s Grand Ballroom, according to a Daily Eastern News article from Dec. 2, 2003.  

The show’s lineup featured drag queens from the Zim Marss Nightclub in Terre Haute, Ind.: Brittany Sebastian, Staci Stevens, Traci Dalton, Tiara Diamond and Anastacia DeMoore.  

The show was put on by EIU Pride to support AIDS World Day, with a large portion of the proceeds going towards AIDS research. Close to 700 people attended the show, with both members of the Eastern community and students from nearby universities attending to “show support for the cause and for Pride.”  

In fact, the show’s audience was so big that “within the half hour, the place was packed. People stood along the walls, volunteers lugged in extra chairs…,” according to a Daily Eastern News opinion piece from Dec. 4, 2003 detailing a student’s experience at the event.  

“People got up and danced or gyrated in their chairs, they sang, they screamed and they leapt to the foot of the stage, extending dollar bills to the queens’ manicured hands,” said the column. “And I heard never a giggle—people were awestruck by what they saw on stage.” 

This show kicked off a tradition, one that set out to achieve two things: raise funds for important causes and bring the Eastern community together.  

In past years, EIU Pride has split the drag show’s proceeds between its organization and various causes, many of which helped members of the LBGTQ+ community.  

EIU Pride has used the drag show to raise awareness and money for AIDS research; the Lazarus House, an AIDS and HIV shelter in New Orleans that was affected by Hurricane Katrina; the National Center for Transgender Equality; SACIS and more.  

Between 2003 and 2005, the drag queens that became known as the Zimm Marss “Dream Team” came back to Eastern to perform at every drag show.  

Then in 2006, the drag show saw some major changes, according to a Daily Eastern News article from Nov. 27, 2006. EIU Pride’s fourth annual drag show featured two drag kings, changing the name “from the ‘DIVA’ drag show, to the more gender inclusive ‘Saddle Up.’” 

The “Saddle Up!” Drag Show featured a new set of faces, with “professional queens from Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur and Tuscola” who took their place alongside drag kings, Lance Lixalot and J-Dizzle. Both drag kings were Eastern students who performed professionally.  

In its first few years, the drag show’s performers included professional drag artists from local nightclubs and bars, as well as students from other universities.  

Then in March 2017, EIU Pride hosted its first Student Drag Show, according to a Daily Eastern News article from Mar. 21, 2017.  

The night saw performances from student drag queens such as Lady Save the Bees, Danny Long Legs and Plain Jane Lane Berglain. It was held in preparation for that year’s DIVA Drag Show that happened later that same night. 

Soon after, EIU Pride began hosting drag shows only with student performers. Gone were the days when EIU Pride hired professional performers, instead the stars of the night were found right on Eastern’s campus. 

Over the years, the drag show saw other changes, including the decision to have two drag shows per school year, one for every semester.  

The biannual drag shows saw many student performers: Mother Natwhore, Fantasia Blackheart and Lady Deviant—just to name a few. Every semester, the drag show saw a huge audience with hundreds of Eastern students and community members.  

Then in spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, and EIU Pride had to temporarily put an end to its annual tradition of hosting the drag show.  

EIU Pride was planning on hosting a drag show in Nov. 2020, “but, unfortunately, it was canceled due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a Daily Eastern News article from Nov. 6, 2020.  

EIU Pride did not host a drag show again until October 2021. Its first drag show since the start of the pandemic saw a lineup of eight student performers: Apollo Device, Nexha, Izack D. Storm, Roxy Flare, Chanel Lanaé, Papa Cock, Mid-West Queen and Lady Lexapro.  

In its nearly twenty-year history, the Student Drag Show has seen many changes, but one thing stays the same: it remains a space to bring together members of the community who want to support LGBTQ+ students while enjoying performances.  

 

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]