Dollar bills flew as a costume-clad crowd cheered on the Cal Poly Drag Club at their Monster Prom on Friday, Oct. 26.
Held in Chumash Auditorium, the show found a balance between spooky and glamorous. The gender-bending club’s goal is to showcase performances that make the audience rethink their outlook on gender.
Flash photography was encouraged by performers and tips were enthusiastically offered by the audience. In true drag fashion, the audience followed the talent around to various stage platforms along the auditorium floor, creating an interactive performance environment.
Video by Emily Merten
Miss Anya Cox
For art and design senior Riley Chapman, starting to perform in drag was not an easy decision. He feared the reaction from his friends and peers, but ultimately, he overcame his fears and joined the Cal Poly Drag Club.
“Just do what you want, it’s your body,” Chapman, who goes by Miss Anya Cox onstage, said about his change of heart.
Chapman chose Miss Anya Cox because of his preference for comical twists on stage names. Queens with similar humor who came before him were his inspiration in choosing this identity.
“A mixed bag” is how he described his experience with the San Luis Obispo community regarding drag. He said, however, the occasional awkward Uber ride is worth the feeling he gets when he performs.
“I tap out of my body and it’s this person who isn’t me … it’s surreal,” Chapman said. “Magic is sleight of hand, drag is sleight of entire body.”
While performing in drag is a source of fun for Chapman, he recognizes that the significance goes much further.
“Gender is such a source of pain for different people for different reasons, so to get the chance to flip it on its head, it’s so fun,” Chapman said.
President of the Cal Poly Drag Club and biological sciences senior Jordan Collins describes themself as “not genderless, but genderful,” an outlook that aids them in the creation of an all-accepting environment. Their stage name, Regina Flores, comes from their major, of all things. “Regina” being Latin for “queen,” and “Flores” Spanish for “flower,” together makes them the queen of flowers.
Collins began exploring their drag identity playing around with makeup as a freshman in the Cerro Vista Apartments. From there, with help from friends, they spearheaded the first-ever drag club at Cal Poly.
“The best part of drag for me is that you can take people out of their reality for just a moment,” Collins said. “It is a moment to celebrate queerness and live in a fantasy world for a second.”
The club facilitated a moment of silence to stand in solidarity of transgender and nonbinary people whose rights are at risk form the U.S. Department of Health’s proposal to change the definition of gender. In a call for help, they encouraged people to get to the polls to vote for those who value human rights.
Megan Drap is a Cal Poly master’s student in the education department who also got her undergraduate from Cal Poly in marine sciences. Drap is a biological queen — a cisgender woman who performs as a feminine-presenting drag queen.
“My inspiration is from an older drag queen Divine, who they based Ursula [from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’] after,” Drap said. “Because I am a biological woman, I didn’t want to go for soft and feminine. I wanted to do something that I don’t get to usually experience.”
The duality of drag does not always have to be from performing as a different gender. For Drap, it allows her to live out a professional life and a stage life.
“I work with kids, I am an educator, I have to watch what I say and have a professionalism about me, but when I do drag, I can say whatever I want and it’s celebrated,” Drap said.
The Cal Poly Drag Club, which has been growing steadily since its start in 2015, is a community of people with a shared passion for their art. Gathering for “paint nights” where they practice makeup on each other, they build each other up and provide a place for experimentation. Each queen interviewed touched on the welcoming environment the club gave them upon joining. For the queens, it is often their safe place to be themselves and be celebrated for it.
“I like the sense of community,” Drap said. “We are all friends building each other up together to make the show really great.”