By Julie Scesney
Thunderous applause met the announcement of the winner of the donation-based contest for PRISM’s 11th annual Charity Drag Show, as a shaking but fierce River Queen took the stage to claim her crown.
The total amount of donations for the night totaled $1,545.47, more than double the amount raised for last year’s event. River Queen, the drag queen alias of Zach Ott, a junior special education and English dual major, raised almost a third of that total, with a record-breaking $448.44. All donations benefited the organization New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, which helps “LGBT youth ‘go beyond’ homelessness and transition into stable adult lives” after they have been kicked out by unsupportive parents, as stated on the New Alternatives website.
“It was actually really overwhelming,” River Queen said about the amount of money she had raised.
She went into the bathroom to fix her wig after an event worker told her the news and “just started crying.”
A drag show usually features performances by drag queens, men who dress up as over-the-top interpretations of women. The word “drag” is a commonly accepted acronym for DRessed As Girl, as explained by the host of PRISM’s show, Ms. Rosetta Stone, a College alumnus and former president of PRISM, the “first queer-straight alliance at The College of New Jersey,” as stated on its website.
This was Ms. Rosetta Stone’s fourth and final time hosting the event. Throughout the show, Ms. Stone entertained the audience with cheeky remarks like, “I know you can go deep. Wink,” when referring to audience members digging into their pockets for cash. She was accompanied by her “Rosebuds,” three male College students sporting only black briefs, bow ties and cufflinks.
The acts mostly consisted of lip syncing and performing to various songs, except for one queen, Dean the Ice Queen, who sang “Let It Go” from the musical “Frozen” in a bejeweled blue dress and silver braided wig that would have made Elsa proud.
River Queen’s routine — performed to a part English, part Spanish mix of Toni Basil’s “Mickey” — featured a back roll, kicks in five-and-a-half-inch heels and a frightening death drop, where a person folds backward and falls on his back during a dance routine. The drag queen’s get-up included a long, crimped magenta wig, black fishnets, black and white pinstripe short shorts, a black embroidered corset and a fur coat that she quickly threw into the audience at the start of the act.
When asked about her inspiration for the act, Ms. Queen said her favorite thing to do for drag performances was to keep the original meaning of a song but change the context. Mickey is about “unrequited love,” explained River Queen, but she took a grittier route. “I turned it into a hooker going after a client.”
Third-place finishers Brooklyn Swaggington and Lady Godiva raised $300.82 for New Alternatives and performed to TLC’s “No Scrubs,” a song denouncing a man who “thinks he’s fly” and can get any girl he wants, while a parade of girls took the stage holding signs emblazoned with “things ‘scrubs’ would say.”
“You’re too pretty to play sports,” read one of the signs.
Drag queens Ms. Virginia Hamm and Miss Mars came in second place, raising $329.40. They performed to “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” from the musical “Chicago,” mimicking the movements of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. The pair even had water guns similar to the guns toted by Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2002 movie version of the musical.
Last year’s winner, drag queen Davida Luxe, did not place this year, but captivated the crowd as she whipped a sparkly black cape around her body matador style to Jennifer Lopez’s “Goin’ In.” She closed the night with a performance to Miss Li’s “Forever Drunk.”
Campus Advocacy Chair of PRISM Ryan Eldridge coordinated the event. A freshman political science and women’s and gender studies double major, this was Eldridge’s first time running PRISM’s Annual Charity Drag Show, but he organized PRISM’s 11th Annual Queer Wedding earlier this semester.
“The turnout was wonderful,” Eldridge said.
All seats around the stage, as well as the surrounding area and overlooking balcony in the Brower Student Center, were filled, and not only with students from the College. There were many adults in the audience, as well as young children, showing that PRISM’s annual Charity Drag Show has evolved into a community-wide event.
Some members of the audience were even brought on stage. A surprise performance at the end of the show featured audience participants in a drag ensemble collectively called “4 Money.” A brave mother, under the drag name “Feather Bunny,” shook a feather boa and walked a cheerful catwalk down the stage.
This number allowed audience members to better connect with the drag show and the act of dressing in drag.
One audience member, Ronald Gomez, a sophomore international studies major, came to the event to “support (his) best friend, River Queen,” but also recognized the significance of such an event at the College.
“In reality I come here to open up my mind,” said Gomez, who grew up in a “conservative household” that “never would have given these activities a chance.”
PRISM’s annual Charity Drag Show not only supports a deserving cause, but also offers a way for students of the College and citizens of Ewing to open their minds to a different culture, the culture of drag.
If that openness encourages acceptance of LGBT youth, so that children are no longer made homeless because of unsupportive parents and organizations like New Alternatives are not necessary, then that is a success for PRISM, the College and LGBT youth and supporters everywhere.