By Julia Dzurillay
Boys in black underwear waltzed into the room tossing pink and red flower petals as hostess and professional drag queen Davida Sky, a vision in rainbow feathers, sequins and fishnets, took the stage to mark the start of PRISM’s Annual Charity Drag Show on April 24 in the Brower Student Center.
The Enchanted Garden themed drag show was sprinkled with references to the Emmy Award-winning television show RuPaul’s Drag Race — a reality show in which drag queens compete for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Students strutted to RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk” and some of the professional drag queens presented their own outfit “Ruveals.”
The night was filled with “death drop” dance moves, sass and splits. Drag queens came from all over New Jersey to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and raise money for Hyacinth AIDS Foundation of Trenton.
Throughout the show, the Student Center became increasingly packed with student performers and “the naked boys.” A group of fraternity brothers, nicknamed “the naked boys” by performer Davida Sky, each held a basket to collect money for the foundation.
Each dollar donated counted as a vote toward the student drag queens and kings who were competing. The student with the most votes at the end of the night won an Amazon gift card and a bejeweled crown.
“There are so many different steps and layers that go into (planning an event like this),” said Andrew Fenwick, president of PRISM and a senior political science major. “You start off with an image and you just build up on it. We tried to have local drag queens from Trenton and we wanted to make sure we gave to a nonprofit that does work within Trenton.”
Hyacinth serves about 15,000 New Jersey residents per year, according to Senior Director of Development Dan Barnett.
Hyacinth’s mission is “to help people live with HIV, slow the spread of the epidemic, and serve as a critical voice in the public debate surrounding AIDS in New Jersey,” according to its website.
“Hyacinth makes sure that every individual has the opportunity to get help, health care regarding HIV and testing that’s necessary,” Barnett said. “It’s a remarkable organization to be a part of.”
Asbury Park-based professional drag queen Jennifer Cuntson explained that while the donations of audience members may seem small individually, the collective proceeds from the drag show amount to a sizable donation for Hyacinth.
“A dollar really does matter,” Cuntson said as she caught her breath after her set. “Look at the lottery. A dollar makes a dream.”
Cuntson said she had only performed a handful of times before, and PRISM’s drag show was her largest crowd yet.
“It was like going over the ocean, taking a transatlantic flight — that far out of my comfort zone. But I really enjoyed it. I loved it,” Cuntson said.
After the performances ended, Sky announced more than $550 had been raised for Hyacinth.
When Barnett took the microphone and spoke to the students, he said this was one of the largest crowds at a college drag show he’d ever seen.
Sky ended the show by talking about the Bible Believers’ protest in Alumni Grove, stating that on a campus where hundreds of people are willing to attend a drag show, there is no place for hate.
“And if anyone has a problem with that, there’s an angry, Mexican, transsexual drag queen you can refer them to,” she said.
Her final lip sync was an emotional performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been” from the musical Hairspray. Throughout the night, a message of hope and acceptance was presented by a crowd of drag queens, scantily clad performers and everyone in between.
“It was the highlight of my semester,” Jeffrey Sabo, a junior computer engineering major. “It’s always such a feel good, positive event. It’s a very accepting and loving environment.”