Crowned on campus

Student performer Briana Park takes the stage at Butler Alliance’s annual drag show. All photos courtesy of Lauren Hough.


As Halloweekend came and went, students on Butler’s campus sought out a breathtaking display of grandeur, costume, performance and spectacle. Butler Alliance hosted their annual Drag Show on Sat. Oct. 28th, featuring a lineup of established drag queens as well as first-time student performers. Each queen who took the stage brought their best in two rounds of performances and kept the crowd cheering all night. 

Drag and ballroom culture has long since drawn inspiration from the campy festivities of Halloween, and has paired masterful performances of gender with talent in the performing arts for centuries. Butler Alliance’s annual drag show has become a beloved tradition for the campus community and, in the past, combined celebrations of culture and art with contributions to charity. Indianapolis has a thriving drag scene, and Butler Alliance brought a glimpse of it to campus. 

Lucy Smith, sophomore anthropology and race, gender and sexuality studies major, looked forward to attending the show to support clubs like Butler Alliance that empower queer students to be themselves. 

“Not only [is queer representation] important, but I was really happy to hear that Butler [had] this opportunity because they have so many different clubs and events,” Smith said. “Alliance is very important [in that it] allows students to be their authentic selves; this is a time in our lives where we’re trying to learn about ourselves and figure out who we are and [figure out] our place in this world.”

Established performers in the drag community in Saturday’s show included emcee Virginia Slim, Miss Thang, Zariah, Universe and Neon Steele. Many of these queens returned after bringing the house down at last year’s show, and they host and moderate their own shows at local venues in the greater Indianapolis area. Alongside these performers stood two student performers who were met with rallying support and cheers — Jade and Cyber Doll

Briana Park, a senior youth and community development major and student performer in the show, finds inspiration in the drag queens she had the chance to share a stage with.

“I had been to the Alliance Drag Show twice so far, and I just loved it, and I also loved how it wasn’t just a Butler thing, it was an Indy community sort of [event],” Park said. “[Drag is] something that I’ve always loved, and I honestly feel honored that I even get to set the tone for the night for all the queens. They [are so] incredible, and I’m just really excited to feel more involved in the LGBTQ community because I’ve been blown away by [the student support for the show].”

The campus community at Butler is more dedicated to pride and inclusivity than ever, with the national rises in homophobic and transphobic hate crimes and legislation in recent years. Emcee Virginia Slim called attention to such legislation during the show by calling for students to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections, as well as giving due credit to Black trans drag performers and activists who paved the way for shows like Saturday’s.

Butler Alliance has hosted this annual drag show for years and it has become a staple of the organization’s programming. Many students and executive board members look forward to bringing opportunities to campus for diverse performers and perspectives.

A sophomore actuarial science and mathematics major who serves on Alliance’s executive board and wishes to remain anonymous, expressed how personally meaningful an event such as Alliance’s drag show is.

“Really, the event is all about a celebration of gender and taking in different perspectives, individual personalities and allowing a fount of expression to come through,” the student said. “Working with and recruiting the drag queens has been a really amazing experience. Being able to just bring a diverse and unique perspective to people who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity [on campus] is a great feature of our work.”

Park feels encouraged by the growth on Butler’s campus in her years here, and looks forward to seeing how students come together to build community and celebrate each other. 

“I’m a senior now, and when I was a freshman, I would’ve never done this [drag show],” Park said. “I remember as a freshman hearing really [bigoted] things being said, and it was really common, and it was painful to just hide [my identity] even more. But seeing — especially this year — how much more open these conversations are and how [events in the Diversity Center] are just given so much more of a platform and there’s so much more participation, I’m really starting to see a major change moving forward and seeing the reception of like this show has really just reaffirmed that for me. I have faith for the next incoming groups of students; [I hope] they’ll be able to be open and be celebrated.”


Related posts