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Annual Queer Prom spotlights drag performance and crowns royalty

The Covel Commons Grand Horizon Room, which played host to the annual Queer Prom event Friday, is pictured. The event included performances, dancing and the handing out of resources. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Olivia Simons

March 4, 2024 9:31 a.m.

The Gender, Sexuality, & Society Living Learning Community brought queer fantasy to campus Friday through its annual Queer Prom.

The event, which took place in the Covel Commons Grand Horizon Room, centered on the theme of queer fantasy. Attendees danced and posed in photo booths amid cottagecore-style enchanted forest decorations. Halfway through, a performance from drag queen Pickle – dressed in a pink gown and a foot-high blond wig – brought crowds out to the dance floor as she engaged with them throughout her set.

(Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Pickle, a drag queen who performed as part of the 2024 Queer Prom, is pictured. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

GSS organizer and first-year neuroscience student Hayden Zhao said she felt the prom was important because it created a space specifically for queer people on campus.

“Although UCLA is pretty accepting, there still lacks a space that queer people can not only feel supported and seen, (but where) they can freely express themselves, and just be them and not think about what other people think,” they said. “Queer Prom is this chance, this opportunity for queer people to be like that.”

GSS Assistant Resident Director Samantha Gallegos said she felt the room’s decorations embodied the event’s queer fantasy theme, which came together as planning progressed over the course of the year.

She added that the theme embodies several different ideas and is up to interpretation by attendees, several of whom wore flower crowns and flowy dresses while others donned more casual outfits or classic high school prom attire.

Gallegos said for some students, having the extra time to explore and understand their identities after high school now allowed them to experience prom in a new and different way.

“I didn’t go to my high school prom. But if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to dress the way I wanted. I wouldn’t have been able to take the date who I wanted,” Gallegos said. “At Queer Prom, you can do that and more.”

However, Gallegos added that her goal was not to recreate high school prom, but to provide a space for queer people to be together that still elicited the nostalgia of high school.

First-year history student Ajax Ward, who was voted prom royalty, said he did not get the chance to win the honor in high school, so he was excited to have received the title.

Ward added that he sought to embody the theme of queer fantasy in his outfit by going for a celestial pirate look, complete with stars and moon jewelry, a slightly sheer blue top and sparkly blue eyeshadow. During his acceptance speech, he concluded with the message that transgender rights are human rights.

“In the midst of the election season, and politics in general, there’s an onslaught of attacks against trans people and our right to exist … authentically as ourselves,” Ward said. “My message continues to be: Trans rights are human rights. We’re people, and we want the same respect that is given to each and every other person.”

(Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Ajax Ward, a first-year history student who was voted as prom royalty, is pictured. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Ward’s crowning came after Pickle’s performance, which included four songs from Broadway musicals. Pickle started her set with “If I Were a Bell” from “Guys and Dolls,” asked a volunteer to join her for “Popular” from “Wicked,” and later rounded out the set with “Gimme Gimme” from “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Beyond Pickle’s performance and the prom royalty crowning, Queer Prom guests also had the opportunity to stop at a photo booth or interact with some of the campus clubs tabling at the event.

One of those clubs was House of Bruin, which aims to bring ballroom culture to UCLA. According to Vogue, ballroom – or ball – culture is a performance-based subculture that took off in the late 1900s among the Black queer community as an act of resistance to racism within existing drag culture.

House of Bruin member and first-year music industry student Raeva Vasisht said her club wanted to table at Queer Prom to have an opportunity to bring ballroom culture to the UCLA queer community.

“It’s a safe space that we wanted to promote our club at in order to build that relationship with the students of UCLA and show them there is a place now for y’all to to learn about ballroom and to participate in ballroom,” they said. “It’s such an important part of queer culture.”

Also tabling at the prom was the Health, Education and Resource Team, which aims to raise awareness about sexual health on campus. Members of HEART handed out free supplies for safe sex, including condoms and lube, as well as candy and friendship bracelet materials.

An arts and crafts table at the prom is pictured. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
An arts and crafts table at the prom is pictured. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

HEART annual events coordinator and fourth-year cognitive science student Phyllis Sern said she appreciated seeing the attendees enjoy the event.

“I’m seeing all these students being able to dance and be free and in a safe space,” she said. “It feels really nice to see the growth throughout the year, and that we have spaces like this for queer people to let loose and be themselves.”

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Olivia Simons | Quad editor
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor and a Sports senior staffer on the women's tennis beat. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
Simons is the 2023-2024 Quad editor and a Sports senior staffer on the women's tennis beat. She was previously the 2022-2023 managing editor, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's tennis, men's tennis, swim and dive and rowing beats and a reporter on the baseball and women's tennis beats. She is also a fourth-year student from Oakland, California.
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