It’s that time of year again and Portland is gearing up to get its “drag on.”
The largest campus and community drag show in Northern New England, the annual Royal Majesty Drag Show will return for its 13th year on Nov.16 in the ballroom at Holiday Inn By The Bay. This year’s show will be hosted by USM alumni and reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race veteran, Mimi Imfurst.
The show consists of performances from the host, community member performers from Portland and competitors from local colleges, including USM, Maine College of Art, Southern Maine Community College and St. Joseph’s College. The competitors, both drag queens and kings, will rock the runway and earn scores given to them by a panel of judges consisting of USM staff, students and community members.
“Drag has been so underground, but in recent years it’s become a legitimate, gay mainstream performance art,” said Sarah Holmes, the director of USM’s Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity.
The show serves as a fundraiser for CSGD and a platform for the LBGT community to be in the spotlight.
The first show was performed in the Woodbury Campus Center dining hall for a crowd of an estimated 150 people in 2000 and has grown larger every year since. Holmes estimates that two-thirds of attendees are directly connected to USM, while the rest are most likely LBGT community members in the area.
“The first year when it was in the dining hall was just something else. We had music playing on this little boombox with a mic plugged in, a few balloons stapled here and there and a runway that was like 6-inches off the ground, if that,” said Imfurst.
Imfurst first got involved with the show as a contestant while attending Deering High School and has since played the role of judge, producer and host. When she’s not involved in the Royal Majesty Drag Show, she’s performing across the country. She has also been involved in drag on a national level as a competitor on RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality television show that searches to find “America’s next drag superstar.” Imfurst participated in the third season of the show and came back this fall for RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race.
“It’s just crazy that I started out doing all these little shows in Maine and as it blew up, so did I and then I was asked to be a part of one of the biggest shows in the country. I feel so lucky and blessed,” said Imfurst.
Throughout the years, more and more organizations at USM have become involved in sponsoring the show. The event is sponsored in part by the the Student Senate, Portland and Gorham Events Board, the Queer Straight Alliance and the Women’s Center.
“It’s great to see so many student organizations and university departments supporting it,” said Holmes.
“Student involvement is key,” said Christopher Dalpe, Program Coordinator for Proud Rainbow Youth of Southern Maine. “The fact that this is run by students for students is amazing. It’s really empowering to be able to say this is ours.”
PRYSM is a program that provides a safe and positive space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and allied (LGBTQIA) youth, offering social support and information about common problems facing youth and community education. Dalpe will be at the show distributing information on PRYSM services and supporting the contestants.
Drag, while it may seem strange to outsiders, is viewed as an art form of sorts to those involved.
“I originally got into drag as a theatrical medium, and then it just became something I could get paid for,” said Imfurst. “It’s like playing dress-up. We all get to that age when we aren’t supposed to play pretend anymore, but I get to continue doing that through drag.”
USM students have gotten a little extra help in preparing for the show this past weekend. A workshop was held in the Brooks Student Center for students who wanted to give drag a try, providing make-up and clothing to experiment with.
The state of Maine made history on election day this year by being the first state in the country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, and the show, those involved say, might become a bit of a celebration in the community for their national victory. Holmes mentioned that the 2009 show had a stressful and generally down attitude due to the repeal of same-sex marriage legalization. She is excited to see the turnout and upbeat attitude this year.
“This year we’ve had a huge victory and we’re definitely going to find a way to celebrate that,” said Holmes.