Local drag queens find platform for expression at Battle of the Wagon Heel

Alexandra Austin, Reporter

The backlighting of the stage turned hot pink; Adele’s hit song “Rumor Has It” began over the speakers. In the middle stood Juicy Jewels in a dark half-length trench coat, faux leather pants, sparkly Juicy Couture boots and bright red eyeshadow. Lip syncing, they teased the audience as to what could be hiding underneath.

While Juicy Jewels was giving the audience their all, a Kent State student who happened upon the event looked back at those around him with wide eyes.

“This is not what I was expecting,” said Ty Morris, a sophomore game design major; “I was bored in my dorm and I came to this on a whim; there is nothing like it where I’m from.”

University of Akron contestant Juicy Jewels took the stage at Battle of the Wagon Heel. (Courtesy of juliahallgrenphoto’s Instagram)

Juicy Jewels continued to tease the crowd. Once their back was turned, members of the crowd screamed “take it off!” Jewels gave them what they wanted. Underneath was a fishnet under-bust top with X-shaped pasties. The crowd gave feedback in the form of dollar bills.

At the end of the performance, Morris looked back one more time.

“I have never been to a drag show before,” Morris said. “It is great to see everyone expressing themselves.”

Kent State’s Ballroom transformed into a rainbow-lit oasis on March 12 during the Battle of the Wagon Heel. University of Akron and Kent State University went head to head to see who’s drag queen or king would take home the golden heel.

The event benefited Kent State’s emergency fund for LGBTQ students and Camp Lilac, a camp for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.

Juicy Jewels strutted off and headed backstage. Outfit changes, shoes and props took over the room. Between the rush of quick changes, Alex T., stage name Juicy Jewels who is a University of Akron student who didn’t want his full name used for privacy reasons, waited for the results from the first round. Most contestants chose subtle costumes, Alex had a reason to bare their breasts.

“In every day [life] I’m your average trans masc college kid,” Alex said, “I am getting top surgery in May. I have never really taken advantage of them so I figured I would give them one last hurrah.”

It was clear what part of the first outfit was his favorite.

“Everything was inspired by the pants I got from the thrift store, but I found these boots that have juicy on the side, and my friend pointed out that we should put juicy in the stage name and it all came together,” Alex said.

It was almost time to find out who was moving on as contestants put the finishing touches on their next outfit. The drag kings and queens gathered around; backstage went silent as an LGBTQ Center intern announced the next round of contestants. Alex did not move on to the next round.

Stevie Aura took home overall winner and Mx. University of Akron at Battle of the Wagon Heel. (Courtesy of juliahallgrenphoto’d Instagram)

“I can let you in on the secret of the lineup of my songs,” Alex said, “My first song was Adele, the last one is Michael Bublé and the middle one is called “I Can Do Both.” Meaning I can be masculine and feminine.”

Still dressed up in leather and fishnet, Alex made his way to his seat to cheer on his fellow kings and queens.

Mx. Kent State went to A Girl Named Jack and University of Akron’s queen, Stevie Aura, took home overall crown and Mx. University of Akron.

Alexandra Austin is a reporter. Contact her [email protected]