Disco drag show dominates Saluki ballroom

Blanche+DuBois+holds+up+a+pride+flag+cape+at+the+Spicy+Seventies+Disco+Drag+Show%2C+sponsored+by+the+Saluki+Rainbow+Network+and+the+Office+of+Student+Engagement%2C+Feb.+19%2C+2022+at+the+SIU+Student+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.+

Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography

Blanche DuBois holds up a pride flag cape at the Spicy Seventies Disco Drag Show, sponsored by the Saluki Rainbow Network and the Office of Student Engagement, Feb. 19, 2022 at the SIU Student Center in Carbondale, Ill.

The excitement that filled the ballroom of Southern Illinois University’s (SIU) Student Center was electrified with one purpose. The crowd wanted to be dazzled.

The Saluki Rainbow Network (SRN) and the Office of Student Engagement organized the Spicy Seventies Disco Drag Show on Saturday, February 19.

“Tonight is the first drag show that we’ve had since the pandemic began,” Mika Anderson, treasurer of the SRN, said. “It’s been a storied part of our history for as long as I’ve been here. It’s sad to see such a long history stopped because of COVID.”

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The event was open to the public with students admitted at a discount. More than 150 members of the local community of all ages attended the show with socially distanced seating and masking policies in place.

The event consisted of 19 choreographed performances with eight performers. Lip synching, dancing, and regular tips from the crowd were mainstays of each act throughout the night, beginning at 8 p.m. and ending at 10:30 p.m.

The show was emceed by Faim Lee Jewls, the drag king who performed the first act. Additional acts included elaborate and themed costumes and performances by queens Ceduxion Carrington, Idina Rimes, Blanche DuBois, Jodie Santana and Sierra Skye D’leight as well as king Will Kummings.

“It has been way too long since we’ve been here,” Jewls said. “SIU shows… it’s amazing to be able to connect with a completely different crowd than you would see normally if you’re at a bar.”

Jewls said he performed for university town audiences from as far away as Gettysburg, Pa. but loves to return to Carbondale and considers it his hometown.

“It is absolutely invigorating to come up on that stage for the very first time and look out on the crowd,” Jewls said. “The crowd is my favorite part. I don’t have to always be myself and it’s nice to get out of that mode and not be a workaholic, get on stage and enjoy myself.”

The performers have entertained together across southern Illinois and the greater tri-state area, said Rimes. She said this has allowed them to develop a bond outside of their performances.

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“We’re a family. Honestly, with me, Faim, Jodie, Blanche, […] Sierra and I went to school together,” Rimes said. “We’re not just stage family, we’re friends outside of all of this.”

She said their friendship and diverse talents make for a more interesting show.

“There’s a lot more to choose from and I think their value is more varied,” Rimes said. “I think you have to have the dancers, you have to have the pretty faces, you have to have the singers […] there’s always something for everybody.”

The performers are always open and accepting of the questions regarding their work and getting involved in the local drag scene, Rimes said.

“We’re here whether you see us or not,” she said. “[Do] you want to get into drag? [Do] You just want to know how it works behind the scenes? Reach out to your local drag queen and/or king or male or female performer, whatever you’re interested in doing, and ask them in a polite and positive manner.”

It can sometimes be difficult to begin performing when they fear shame from their family, but exposing unsupportive members of the community to the scene is the best way to change their mind, Carrington said.

“I know we push for people to accept this, but you also have to be tolerant because everybody moves at a different pace,” they said. “Don’t cut somebody out because they’re not accepting of you right away. Life experiences [are] what changes people.”

Carrington said they didn’t tell their family when they began to perform five years ago, but they found out on their own and became supportive over time. They said the first time their father saw them in drag was while responding to their home being broken into.

“I was at a show and my father was the first one to respond because I had a home alarm,” Carrington said. “I showed up [in drag] and my dad looks me up and down and he’s like, ‘that’s my son! He does drag shows!’ at four in the morning in the hood. That was his turning point, actually seeing me in it.”

A total of 19 acts were done by the eight performers. Each act evoked applause, cheers and tips from the audience. When the end of the show came, the audience took the opportunity to get pictures and speak with some of the performers.

Priscilla Vega, a 22 year old master’s student and graduate assistant with Student Health Services, said she enjoys attending shows put on by the local drag community.

“It’s always amazing. You never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “It’s always something new and it’s fantastic, I always love coming to these.”

Vega said the atmosphere of the shows are different depending on the local venue, providing another layer of unpredictability.

“When you’re in Hangar 9, you get to see some crazy stuff,” she said. “The Varsity shows are more family [oriented], so you don’t see a lot of what you would at Hangar. Then here, at the Student Center, you see a variety because it’s still school and community combined.”

Jewls said he loves to see the support of the queer community at their shows.

“I cannot express how good it feels to see the support from the LGBTQIA+ community,” Jewls said. “All of our people coming together and bringing people that have never been to the shows […], It’s great to see.”

News Editor William Box can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @William17455137. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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