Lindenwood University has historically conservative and religious values that are imposed upon their students. But these mores were bent on April 15, 2016 when the university’s Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) held their third drag show. The event was hosted by the group at the Lindenwood University Cultural Center, an off-campus building owned by the school, and served as a fundraiser for Pride St. Charles.

“Honestly, what I’m hoping for is to shine a spotlight on GSA so that we can shine a spotlight on a ton of different issues that matter to us,” said GSA President, Nick Simmons.

The university’s GSA hosted their first drag show in April 2015 and has held one each semester since. The event consists primarily of amateur performances from students and each show has brought both new and returning performers to the stage.

One of those regular faces is Duchess, a fashion student at Lindenwood by day and drag queen by night. She has been doing drag for 4 years, and being a member of the GSA, was recruited to host the show.

“I’m excited about it becoming a growing opportunity to bring in other entertainers," explained Duchess. "It’s nice that we have this talent show going on right now, but I think it would be nice to see the drag show grow into something a little more reputable like the colleges nearby have where it’s a casted show with entertainers from the school as well and also having queens and kings come in with paid bookings and recognizing it as a true art form. We’ve just gotta work at it.”

While institutions like Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and Truman University host drag shows where they bring in local, professional performers - the Lindenwood show allows students to experiment with gender fluidity and express sides of LUDrag3themselves that they usually cannot. This year, Duchess was joined on stage by a first-time co-host; Professor Heather Brown-Hudson PhD. Brown-Hudson is in charge of and the creator of the school’s Gender Studies minor. She also performed in the show as a bio-queen, Savvy Blanc.

“The performances are stellar, whether they are amateur, professional, or they’ve never done it before, they always give their all," said Brown-Hudson. "They look amazing and the audience reception is always extremely engaging and very, very excited."

"I just love the energy," Brown-Hudson continued. "I love to see my students, and Lindenwood students in general just get motivated by something that matters and put their all into it. I like being proud of them, so I’m excited. Events like this, I think, remind students from freshman to senior year that there are really good spirited, fun, innocent, and extremely exciting events going on here, on campus. I just hope that we can do this every single year and that more and more students come.”

This year all of the tips were donated to Pride St. Charles, raising $664 by evening's end. Beth Finder, the co-chair of Pride St. Charles and the Vice President for St. Charles PFLAG, attended the Friday night show.

“This was amazing," Finder stated. "It’s not my first drag show, but there was so much energy in the room, and the fact that everybody just opened up their hearts to us and welcomed us just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I would love to work with them again.”

LUDrag2Indeed, the show offers students a view into a world that many of them would otherwise be oblivious to. Michael Valleroy is a Lindenwood student who had never been to a drag show before this semester’s GSA event.

“It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before,” explained Valleroy.

At just over two hours, the show had a smooth run with minimal problems. The crowd was excited, standing up to dance and clap for the last several songs. GSA President, Nick Simmons, was excited about how well the event went.

“The drag show went off without a hitch," offered Simmons. "You couldn’t have asked for a better group of people up on stage, a better group of people behind stage, and I sure as hell couldn’t have asked for a better audience."

“When I think about where we started with this club, and I think about where we came and how far we came and how we got here, it makes me emotional," Simmons continued. "It is amazing to see all of these people fighting for equality on a campus where they felt like they couldn’t.”





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