Exodus Drag Ball 2015

Laura Nguyen/HIGHLANDER
Laura Nguyen/HIGHLANDER

During my freshman year, I went to my first drag show in the dining hall at the Aberdeen-Inverness dorms. I was immediately amazed by the amount of hard work and dedication that went into making the show an overall unforgettable experience. Somehow, UCR’s 12th annual Dragalicious Drag Ball on Friday night, “Exodus,” took the energy and professionalism up a notch. Filled with flying wigs, full-out dance routines and impressive costumes, the drag ball served up nothing less than what I would call some of the most exhilarating performances I’ve witnessed here at UCR.

HUB 302 contained a large stage with rows of chairs lined up on all sides to ensure that the audience got a perfect view of the performers from all angles. Attendees arrived in droves to watch the gender-bending show and several people were laughing and dancing to the music blaring from the KUCR tent on the side of the stage. The lights dimmed and our attention was drawn to one of the two projectors on the wall to watch the commercial for this year’s drag show, which contained a few of the performers’ voguing for the camera.

Put on by the LGBT Resource Center, “Exodus” was hosted by the crude and hilarious Mayhem Miller to raise money for scholarships. With this being her second year in a row hosting, Miller knew exactly how to work the crowd. Donned in a sparkly gold dress, Miller opened the show by lip syncing to a hilarious monologue about reacting to a man with a tiny penis. She produced a roar of laughter from the audience throughout the entire night and even earned herself a few bucks. Miller joked about the crowd providing her with the money to pay for dinner as she walked amongst the audience and collected the money being handed to her. She was particularly happy about one man who handed her a $20 bill. “Oh, do you have a job? What do you want me to do for this?” she asked the enamored but shy audience member. Miller groped the generous audience member after asking about the size of his penis while everyone laughed and cheered. After Miller was done setting the tone for the show, we were ready to be introduced to our first drag performer, Karina Milan.

Milan emerged from behind the curtains as SZA’s “Babylon” blasted from both of the speakers near the stage. There was a large cry from the audience as the captivating showstopper made her way onto the stage and it was immediately clear why she took home the crown last year. Milan’s confidence was undeniable as she strutted down the catwalk and slowly removed the lace turquoise cover she was wearing to reveal a tight black outfit. The crowd went wild as she dropped to the floor and sprang back up with ease — all while continuing to look flawless.

I was certain that Milan would be a tough act to follow but the next performer brought just as much fierceness to the stage. With fiery red hair, Scion Banks posed and danced to the music. She shimmied and did the splits effortlessly while creating a frenzied reaction from the crowd. Banks gave 110 percent to her performance and as I watched her collect a large amount of money from the crowd, it’s safe to say that it paid off. Next up was Hunter Down, the only drag king in the competition. He pumped his fists in the air as he lip synced the lyrics to “Take Me to Church” by Hozier and Panic! At the Disco’s “Miss Jackson.” Down garnered a wild reaction from the crowd as he mouthed “Are you nasty?” while climbing on top of a girl onstage.

Things took an interesting turn when it was PM’s chance to perform. Mattresses were placed onstage and PM proceeded to writhe under a sheet on top of them. By the end of the concert, PM was covered in red paint with a drawn-on a set of breasts. PM certainly left the crowd with something to think about in what ended up being a unique performance piece.

Miller interrupted the performances to announce the walk-off competition in which she invited audience members who were in drag to compete onstage. Several people made their way over to the host before dancing and walking down the catwalk. When Miller narrowed it down to someone she nicknamed the “black Ariel” and a drag queen so energetic she attempted a cartwheel onstage, the two were left to battle it out in a final walk-off that resulted in both of them snatching their wigs off. After overzealous crowd reactions for both contestants, Miller announced that they were both winners and with that, intermission commenced.

We were brought back into the show with Sutton Rogue performing to “2 On” by Tinashe. Wearing a burgundy beanie, Rogue bounced around the stage and proved that she’d put a lot of time and effort into choreography by executing a strong routine. After Rogue came Jeska, who ultimately gave one of the best performances of the night as she stomped around the stage brimming with confidence and sass. Her strong dancing and interaction with the crowd could only come from someone with experience and the determination to give everyone a run for their money.

In the end, Milan emerged to crown this year’s winner, Jeska, and to close the show, all of the performers were invited to hit the stage one last time before the night concluded. Following the show, audience members chatted with one another while fans snagged pictures with their favorite drag performers. If you’ve never attended one of UCR’s drag balls, I would encourage you to do so — if it contains even half of the excitement of this year’s show, you won’t regret it.

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