As part of the Queer-Straight Alliance’s (QSA) Week of Pride events in March, the Royal Majesty Drag Show took Hannaford Hall by storm on April 1. The Abromson Center was full of queer people and their allies, with colorful, pride-filled outfits and decorations in full view. Community resources for LGBTQ+ programming, such as the U=U campaign, which advocates for the awareness of HIV status and ending stigmatization; the Equality Community Center that opened in Portland this fall, among others were present at the event.
The Royal Majesty Drag Show is a major QSA event in which anything and everything drag is expressed, enjoyed, and advocated for. The event has been hosted by Portland-area drag performers in the past, and mainly acts as a light-hearted competition for USM students to showcase their art and express themselves in a fun, freeing way. This year, the show was co-hosted by Arabella LaDessé and Kori King, two drag performers from Boston. LaDessé is the only one of the two to perform regularly in the Portland area. The competition was judged by John O’Connor, Director of Orientation & First-Year Experience; Megan MacGregor, the Instruction & Outreach Librarian; Adinah Barnett, the digital imaging specialist at the Osher Map Library; Professor of Business Richard Bilodeau; and Letta Dicken, a board member of the QSA, and the winner of last year’s show.
The competition was split into three categories: a runway walk across the stage that introduced each of the five competitors, a solo performance to a song of their choice, and an interview question. The lineup of competitors included Carmelita Baraz, BDE, Nympho Mania, Domitheytrix, and The Raw Beef. Guests performances were made by Drag Extravaganza regulars Shlomo and Cherry Whine. Each of the competitors were announced by LaDessé and King, who emerged from backstage and strutted in their individual unique styles, showcasing their ensembles.
Carmelita Baraz wore a patterned red, black and silver dress, with her hair streaming down her shoulders. The outfit helped enhance the sensual performance that Baraz gave, as she ventured out into the audience to engage with some of the 200 spectators. BDE, in their edgy, big-drag-energy wore a mesh, black long-sleeve top and skirt combination that was adorned with bright crystals. For their performance, BDE unleashed their inner rockstar, filling Hannaford Hall with their impassioned rocker vocals. Nympho Mania, who sported a red dress under a dark denim jacket that was scribbled with rebellious phrases and drawings, used the entire stage to their advantage, crawling, head-banging, and even jumping off the stage to time with the song. Domitheytrix took to the stage in a bright orange jumpsuit that contrasted with their long, silver hair. The performer took to the back of the stage, using their bold makeup to lure audiences from all parts of the stage. The Raw Beef initially walked out in a more masculine ensemble, wearing a beanie hat, and their black long-sleeve deconstructed so the sleeves were separate from the torso. During their 2000’s-inspired performance, The Raw Beef tore away their ensemble to reveal a sparkly bodysuit, and uncovered their black-streaked blonde hair to mesh the masculine and feminine energies their drag persona embodies.
In between numbers, LaDessé and King showcased their talents with various performances and costume changes throughout the show. They were accompanied by guest performers Shlomo and Cherry Whine, as well as Letta Dicken, whose use of a pink money gun during her Material Girl by Madonna performance had the audience cheering.
For the third act of the show, each competitor was asked what the art of drag means to them and why it is important in today’s culture. The answers from the competitors seemed to reverberate in a single message: Drag is an art form that propagates self-discovery and expression that is for anyone and everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. As USM students, the performers collectively shared their experiences of navigating diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, and using the art of drag to explore themselves and have fun while doing so. In today’s political climate, where legislative forces nationwide are criminalizing drag performances and marginalizing transgender populations, shows like the Drag Extravaganzas and the Royal Majesty Drag Show have never been more important for queer visibility and solidarity.
As the judges deliberated outside Hannaford Hall, LaDessé and King improvised an audience-oriented lip sync competition, in which four willing audience members were chosen at random to come onstage, and participate in two rounds of lip sync performances. Even though this segment of the Royal Majesty was completely improvised, it successfully engaged the audience as some of their own pranced around on stage. Round one of the lip sync battle saw all four audience members dancing to Love on Top by Beyoncé. The top two performers moved onto the next round. Danny Walters, ‘25, reigned victorious as the winner of the final round of the lip sync battle as he sat on the edge of the stage and reapplied his lip gloss mid-lip sync.
The Raw Beef won The Royal Majesty Drag Show to thunderous applause and chanting of “Beef!” from the audience. Nympho Mania placed second, and Domitheytrix third.