Shea Couleé, Alyssa Edwards, A&O bring ‘Drag Race’ realness to campus

Clad in sequins and sheer talent, drag queen superstars Shea Couleé and Alyssa Edwards came to slay as A&O Productions’ Fall Speakers Wednesday night. 

The former “RuPaul’s Drag Race”Lutkin hall audience of 300 saw contestants perform as panelists and dancers. They also listened and judged performances of three Northwestern-based drag artists.

Season Nine contestant “All Stars” Season Five winner Coulèe took the stage first in a neon green, leopard-print unitard. The Chicago-based performer captivated the room with sultry, dynamic moves, awing students with an expressive floor routine to Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More.”

Season Five followed her. “All Stars” Season Two contestant Alyssa Edwins, who donned a silver-andred cape to dance in the aisles wearing black boots with thigh-high heels. The Texas native, whose blond hair was dangling to the heavens, ended her stunning performance with a spectacular death drop.

Karma ’ZaBitch, Even Steven and Filet Mignon perform a group lip-sync to “Applause”Lady Gaga

Edwards invited students onto the stage after they performed to banter, twerk, and discuss the show. “sissy that walk.”

“When Alyssa Edwards says ‘come onstage,’ you come onstage,”Finn Rollings, Communication sophomore

The queens then performed short routines with student drag performers. They also did a three way lip-sync in style of “Drag Race.”

In her distinct “bloody, meaty” performance art style, Filet Mignon — sometimes known as Communication senior Gus Moody — dismembered and caressed a plastic ex-lover while lip-syncing to “Potential Breakup Song”Aly & AJ.

Karma ’ZaBitch, who sometimes guest-stars as Medill junior Jude Cramer, death-dropped and monologued in thrifted, business-casual realness to “Boss Bitch”Doja Cat

Finally, Even Steven — the show’s featured drag king and the alter ego of Communication junior Xanthe Brown — transformed from Clark Kent to a hand-sewn, grunge-punk Superman while shredding air guitar to “Juke Box Hero”By Foreigner

“Drag is 100% about confidence,”Steven answered Edwards’ question about what makes a great drag performer. “It’s about chasing the things that make you feel good inside.”

After the routines, all three student queens received live feedback and answered questions from Edwards and Couleé. 

For ’ZaBitch, the feedback sessions were a highlight.

“I would love to pursue this as an artist in the future, so getting validation from people that I really look up to like that was ‘chef’s kiss,’”She said. 

Couleé and Edwards finished a night full of standing ovations with a Q&A, where they dished about backstage drama on “Drag Race”They also explored their identities in college. They also discussed the support and confidence they’ve found since entering the drag world, both from their communities and within themselves. 

Growing up, Couleé often didn’t feel accepted at the Southern Baptist church where her mother preached, she said — until she returned on Mother’s Day after her season aired. 

“People (got) excited, like, ‘I watched you on “Drag Race” and I loved you,’” Coulèe said.  “The church family embraced me as a queer artist.” 

Coulèe and Edwards both said they are excited that drag has begun to reach younger viewers and creatives, especially as the art form became more mainstream in the last several decades.

To Edwards, “Drag Race”A more welcoming and celebratory media narrative was created.

“If you were a drag queen, you were suddenly cool, you were celebrated, you were not someone that was confused with your gender identity,”She said. “Visibility is important.”

A&O co-Director Marketing and MediaRonit Kitei A&O said that the night was a first as its Fall Speaker series is usually a Q&A format. This event was A&O’s first drag show. 

Transforming Lutkin Hall into dressing rooms posed interesting challenges, Kitei said, but she was excited Couleé and Edwards could hold an intimate performance in a smaller space. 

Weinberg senior was also excited A&O would bring queer performers on campus, allowing many students their first drag show. 

“I think it’s really important for the student body to be able to see performers come to campus who represent them,” Kitei said. “Having that kind of connection to queerness and performers, even if you’re not a drag queen yourself, is really exciting.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @ilana_arougheti

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