Four drag queens took the Phillips Hall Theater stage April 26, covered in smoke and strobe lights. A smirk at the audience was met with screams, a sexy dance move was countered with a chorus of “YASSS!!” and thundering applause. The audience and the performers were in a dance — when one hit a move and the other screamed with unadulterated joy.
Starting out as a guest-speaker day for his gender communication class four years ago, Communication Studies Professor Lance Lockwood had the idea of hosting a drag show in his classroom. From about 50 spectators and three drag queens, Drag-U-Cation has grown to about 200 audience members.
At the beginning of the show, a video featuring performers from American reality competition television series RuPaul’s Drag Race discussed the history of the drag show community.
The night’s lineup included Wilhelmina Caviar, Nomi B, Mahalia Nakita and newcomer April Showers along with Santa Ana College’s Dance Team.
Presented by iHeart radio show host Alexander Rodriguez, the Q & A segment brought the mic to audience members and allowed them to ask the four queens questions. He kept the audience entertained with sassy remarks and sexual innuendos.
New to Drag-U-Cation, April Showers discussed the difficulty of finding the right persona. Another struggle discussed was about keeping work and personal life separate; Wilhelmina Caviar does drag in secret. In contrast, Nomi B had her family in the audience, clapping along to her routine.
Another important aspect of this community is the inclusivity of what was described by these drag queens as an encompassing art form for anyone who wants to participate.
With about six years of experience in the drag show industry, most of these queens have performed in Santa Ana for most of their careers. They put value in people supporting their performances because it’s an important part of their income.
During intermission, spectators could even get a free STD test and condoms, courtesy of Radiant Health Centers to promote safe and healthy sexual awareness.
Those unfamiliar with the world of drag queens and lip-sync performances were in a trance, from the second the lights dimmed to the moment the music started. The smell was intoxicating, drawing in the spectators with the scent of artificial flowers and setting spray.
The drag queens lip-synched hit songs from “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish to “California Gurls” by Katy Perry. Some performances had the audience shocked silent in their seats while others had people singing along.
The final song, “This is Me”, described as accepting yourself for who you are, was performed by Wilhelmina Caviar who was dressed in a rainbow-colored costume, surrounded by the SAC dance team. Audience members sang along to the music by the encouragement of Rodriguez.
Being a drag queen gives performers the freedom to express themselves with a platform to talk about issues that affect the gay community.
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose and you will never be forgotten,” Lockwood said.