Cooper Reynolds will emcee Hedrick Hall’s first drag show as Lorelei, his blonde drag queen persona.
Reynolds, the show’s host and executive producer, and other members of UCLA’s Hedrick Hall resident government council have been planning the Hedrick Hall Drag Show since the beginning of the quarter. Wednesday’s event will feature six two-minute performances by five UCLA students and one Los Angeles drag performer in the Fireside Lounge, said Reynolds, a first-year theater student.
Drag is a form of art in which performers display their talents – such as lip syncing or dancing – in clothing and makeup that allow them to embody a drag persona of either their own gender or another gender, Reynolds said.
[Throwback: Gay Men’s Chorus of L.A. dresses opera up in drag]
Reynolds was inspired to create a student-run drag show at UCLA after observing drag culture at Syracuse University, which hosts a large annual student-run drag show, he said.
The six drag performers will demonstrate their talents before a panel of judges consisting of Hedrick Hall’s resident directors and the faculty-in-residence with hopes of becoming Hedrick Hall royalty, Reynolds said.
The Hedrick Hall resident government council consists of nine students elected by the hall’s residents to improve community involvement and residential life. The students foster a healthy social and academic environment by creating programs that promote community involvement like the drag show, he said.
“The show will be an entertaining way to introduce the discussion about gender to the hall and to help students gain insight into the queer community,” Reynolds said.
He will share the stage alongside Rosemary Wallace, a first-year undeclared student and fellow resident government council member, who will perform as her drag king self, Rupert Rose.
Wallace did not have much exposure to drag culture before planning the event, but working on the show has helped her gain insight to the drag community, she said.
“Learning about this subcategory of the queer community was great and I hope people will have a similar experience when they attend,” Wallace said.
For Wallace, drag performance is an intriguing, new world of performance that she is excited to explore beyond a basic level, she said.
The coordinators held auditions over three days from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22 to cast the six performers and work on each act, which was helpful for those who are new to drag, said Armin Saber, a first-year physiological science student and Hedrick Hall resident government council member.
“Getting the opportunity to help and witness someone metamorphose physically and mentally as a drag persona is such a special experience,” Saber said. “You see them become even more confident and comfortable in their own bodies.”
The coordinators introduced the participants to different categories of drag performance including drag kings, where females play males, and faux queens, where a woman plays an exaggerated form of a woman, to be more inclusive of every performer, Saber said.
“Some artists were worried about not adhering to the popular drag images propagated through famous shows like ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ which mainly focus on gay men portraying women,” Saber said.
Kaylin Riebli, a first-year theater student, will perform as faux queen, Petty Whispers. Riebli performed as a clown in “Haunted Hill: Apocalypse” in October, but this will be the first event where she performs in drag, she said.
Riebli’s drag personality and performance revolves around a condition she has called Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis, which makes her voice whisper-like, she said. Riebli will lip sync to Ke$ha’s “Blah Blah Blah.”
“I chose this song because Ke$ha inspires my drag personality and the song will be a nice throwback,” Riebli said. “The lyrics are about speaking, so it loosely connects back to my drag name and the meaning behind it.”
Since being a faux queen concerns emphasizing feminine features of the body, Riebli will cinch her waist with a corset and accentuate her eyes with makeup.
“Audience members won’t be too sure if a man or woman is playing Petty Whispers,” she said. “Hopefully the confusion will make them realize that classifying body parts as either masculine or feminine is nonsensical.”
Kaela White, a 22-year-old LA drag performer, found the event through Facebook. White will perform as drag king Dark Chocolate and lip sync the song “Shiny” from the 2016 Disney film “Moana.” White will don a shiny gold grass skirt, metallic body paint and golden claws to resemble the film’s villainous giant coconut crab, Tamatoa.
“Tamatoa’s overconfidence in this number lets me showcase my egoistic side,” White said.
White has experience embodying different genders through cosplaying anime characters, like Sebastian in the anime “Black Butler” and Ichigo in “Bleach,” they said.
White implements certain characteristics, like strength and suaveness, from the anime characters into a drag king persona. White also looks up to Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike” for masculine dance moves.
“I hope people will feel scared and intrigued when watching me because that’s Tamatoa’s intention,” White said. “I want to captivate people with my shininess.”
The show’s coordinators hope to eventually create a Hill-wide drag competition to spread the conversation about gender and drag performance, Saber said. Drag performance crucially emphasizes comfort in your own body while questioning the notion of gender, he said.
“I want drag to become normalized to the point that there would be no stigma around the art – to the point of performing just for the sake of performing in drag,” Saber said.