Drag Ball

Adria Barbour

Cross-dressers raise awareness for PRIDE!

Nikki Roberts, freshman architecture major, gets money while performing Britney Spears’ “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”/”Do Something” in the talent competition. Roberts won Queen in the Annual Drag Ball, held in the Rathskeller Friday night, hosted by PRI

Credit: Adria Barbour

Catcalls, whoops and hollers filled the room as the first contestant took the stage in the Rathskeller. A “king” in camouflage pants, a green, sequined halter and a pink boa strutted his stuff to “Sweet Transvestite” while the judges seriously studied the routine.

Four contestants performed Friday at the third annual Drag Ball. They also answered questions and mingled with a crowd of about 200 people.

“It’s really fun to do these shows,” said Allyah Dickson, a female illusionist, or drag queen. “I was surprised at how many people showed up.”

Nikki Roberts, another female illusionist, got up on the stage to do her routine as the music began. She started off with Britney Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” then snatched off her black cloak to reveal a glitter tank top and a jean skirt. A woman stuck bills in her bra as the beat changed, and she danced to Britney Spears’ “Do Something.” The noise emitted from the crowd got louder.

“That’s hot! Fuck Paris Hilton! I said it first!” said Jamie-Lynn, the host for the evening’s festivities.

She talked, strutted and worked her audience in between sets while each contestant got ready. She drew laughs from the crowd as she jokingly explained the circumstances of a winner not being able to fulfill their duty as queen or king.

“The runner-up must take over if the winner can’t do their duty,” Lynn said. “You know if she gets pregnant, or he gets pregnant, or they get someone else pregnant, or they get caught giving oral something in the bathroom. No, I’m joking.”

Under the drag clothes — serious issues

The mood of the night was laid back, but the undertone of the pageant was serious. Queens and kings alike felt important issues weren’t being addressed.

“I think we (the gay community) are in a crisis,” said Natasha Nordstrom, previous Miss Kent State winner. “I feel that the general public is just educated through entertainment, like ‘Will and Grace’ or ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ People think being gay is humorous.”

Nordstrom said she felt a lot of issues the gay community faces are being buried under the issue of gay marriage. There are so many issues and so many faces to gay relationships that aren’t being covered.

“First it was the AIDS epidemic, then are we corrupting children? Now it’s marriage,” Nordstrom said. “Think about the daily issues heterosexual couples go through. We are no different.”

She also said drag queens play an important role in raising awareness about gay issues. They use their position as the outspoken ones to gain people’s attention.

“When you’re this type of entertainment, there is an attitude that is known, a stereotype, it’s to draw attention to yourself,” Nordstrom said. “Then once you have the crowd’s attention, if you have a serious comment or you want to announce something, you can do it. I myself have always said ‘classy yet trashy.’ It takes a while for you to learn your crowd.”

“It’s one of those things that helps to get you out there and your voice heard,” Dickson said. “I think we help because (drag is) like shock therapy.”

Roberts said the younger gay community isn’t fully aware of the roles drag queens have played in the past.

“Back in the ‘60s, men weren’t allowed to dance with men,” Roberts said. “Drag queens led the fight at Stonewall, so people could dance with other men.”

Reigning for charity

Nordstrom said she took herself very seriously during her reign as queen. She had to go to many different functions and fund-raisers. Many of them were co-sponsored by PRIDE! Kent, of which she is a member. A couple of the fund-raisers are done at The Interbelt Nite Club in Akron. PRIDE! members and volunteering Kent State students raise money to give to various charities.

One charity in particular is for a project called Violets Covered. It is a project based in an Akron home that deals primarily with children dying of AIDS. The woman who founded it opened her home, and she runs everything off of the donations, Nordstrom said.

“We at PRIDE! have attempted to change our organization,” she said. “We are one to embrace the community, and this year we have really stepped out into that.”

Nordstrom also said she volunteered at a women’s shelter, a nursing home and has spoken about the gay community at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 1456 E. Summit St.

She said she wanted the next king and queen to be as involved as she was in her duties to help the community and raise awareness about the gay community.

“I want to make sure that the work I helped complete is going to be carried on,” Nordstrom said.

The next king and queen have to carry themselves well and have stage presence. They must be able to grow and pick up certain things and better themselves as a person as well as in the entertainment business, she said.

This is the first year that a king has been crowned, so it is likely that the king and queen will work together as a team until their duties are more specifically outlined, Nordstrom said.

Contact student affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected].