Drag Show

Widow Von'Du (center) is joined by all the performers on stage as the Kansas Drag Showcase comes to a close on Saturday night.

After a month filled with activities to celebrate the queer community at the University of Kansas, the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and Student Union Activities closed “Gaypril” with a drive-in drag showcase in the Lied Center parking lot on Saturday.

After last year’s in-person drag show was canceled due to COVID-19, organizers collaborated with the Lied Center to hold a COVID-safe event. About 225 tickets were sold and there were 12 performers scheduled for the event. The show was hosted by The Widow Von’Du, a drag queen from Kansas City who competed on season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. 

“We had a really great show and it blew away my expectations,” said Cody Murray, a KU senior from Hutchinson, Kansas, who also organized the show and performed in it. “It was a packed lot, and everyone enjoyed the entertainers. It was a great time.”

Performers included KU students as well as other local drag queens, who were recruited by the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity and Student Union Activities.

“A lot of performers haven’t had the opportunity to perform for over a year now,” Murray said. “They were very eager to have this opportunity, especially at KU. The main idea of the event is just to increase the visibility of the marginalized queer students that are on campus.”

Paul-Michael Johnson, a senior from Emporia, Kansas studying theatre performance, was one of the performers. Johnson established his drag persona, Rose Champagne, about two years ago, and was able to get involved in the Kansas Drag Showcase for the first time this year.

“I’m really excited to be able to perform again and get out there,” Johnson said. “To be on the stage and to be able to entertain people is really special, just to have that opportunity is really awesome.”

Johnson said it is important to have events like the drag show to increase LGBTQ+ visibility on campus since there are not many opportunities outside of "Gaypril" that acknowledge the community at KU. 

“Being able to have more of these events allows people to educate themselves and learn more about it and possibly find something that interests them,” Johnson said. “Especially since a lot of college students are starting to discover more about themselves and experience things they never got to experience in high school.”

Tezbah Smiley, a graduate student at the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, said the month of "Gaypril" and events like the drag show allow queer students at KU to reflect on the semester and celebrate their accomplishments. 

“It’s a month to point out our queer students who have been doing a lot of awesome stuff for however many years they’ve been here,” Smiley said. “It’s to celebrate our students, and how cool they are and how badass they are.”

Murray said the organizers of the event loved putting the show together, and they all felt that their efforts had been a success. 

“I can’t say for sure, but I can see iterations of what happened hopefully continuing in the future,” Murray said.  

Atlas Ruiz contributed to this report.

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