Chicago queens dazzle at drag show

NMU’s 25th annual drag show returns to campus after last year’s COVID cancelation

Aurora Gozmic poses in style during her second solo performance.

Katarina Rothhorn, Features Editor

The Vandament Arena was decked out on Saturday night in blue curtains and pulsing colored lights changing in time with the bass line blaring from the surround sound speakers. Every seat, from the metal chairs on the floor to the bleachers in the back, was sold out and the energy was high before the first person even walked on stage.

Six drag queens from Chicago raised the energy and noise levels in the arena even more with their performances at the 25th Annual NMU Drag Show, cohosted by Queers and Allies and the Student Equity and Engagement Center. 

“The professional drag show is an event that [Queers and Allies] has held for 25 years. It is actually the longest and biggest running drag show in the Midwest,” Miranda Miller, president of Queers and Allies, said. “We usually get performers that are from Chicago and they’re big-name performers … and it’s just a big celebration of the queer community.” 

Drag queens Aurora Gozmic, Pixel, Lila Star, Kenzie Couleé, O’laysia and Kara Mel D’Ville traveled from Chicago to Marquette for their two-and-a-half-hour performance. Each drag queen performed three individual numbers and ended with a group performance. 

“We make it a point to make sure our cast is diverse. Marquette is not a very diverse area and obviously, being queer is a minority, especially in this area,” Miller said. “It’s super important for us to have this event so people can see it. There’s a lot of people from here that have never had the opportunity to go to a drag show, or this is the only opportunity to go to a drag show.”

This was the first drag show for many students as well, including freshman Sydney Butler, environmental studies and sustainability major. 

“I literally wanted to cry the entire time. It was absolutely amazing and beautiful,” Butler said. “It’s just so amazing to be here with so many people who are gay and who support gay people.”

One of the drag queens, Aurora Gozmic, has been doing drag for 12 years, is originally from the Marquette area and graduated from NMU. 

“My favorite part [of drag] is the fashion and the transformation and just the creativity of it all,” Aurora Gozmic said. “Bringing a bunch of Chicago performers up here is a highlight for me. Showing them where I came from, but also showing the people here where I am now … and what we all do.”

Aurora Gozmic started doing drag in high school and performed at the annual Amateur Drag Show while a student at NMU. Now back in Marquette, Aurora Gozmic was a part of the judging panel that picked two student drag performers to share the stage with the professionals on Saturday night. 

This year was Aja Miller’s second year winning the amateur drag show and being able to perform on the professional stage. Miller performed under the drag name Amorex.

“I was actually a lot more nervous this year because for the competition, I wanted to do a more deconstructed drag look,” Miller said. “I wanted to have more choreography so I was a little nervous about how that would play out.”

The other winner of the amateur drag show was Tanae Otis, senior public relations major, who performed under the drag name Libbi D’eau.

“My favorite part of performing on stage was getting to make a spectacle of myself without feeling like I’m being too much,” Otis said. “I felt seen in the best way possible. I would do it all again if I could.”

Both amateur drag performers and professional drag queens were able to receive tips from audience members through tip buckets placed in the middle of the floor and a Venmo QR code displayed for each performer. 

Tipping is a large part of the drag experience, but the decision was made to remove the physical aspect of tipping drag queens during the performance to maintain social distancing and avoid crowding the stage. 

As this was one of the first large events held in-person after COVID restrictions were lessened this semester, Queers and Allies placed ushers at the doors to ensure all participants were wearing KN 95 masks, and groups were seated apart from other groups to ensure social distancing among parties. 

Despite the changes made to the structure of the event to create a safe environment, NMU’s 25th annual drag show made a successful return to campus after being canceled last year due to COVID. 

“COVID was really hard, especially on the drag community, because we all just relied so much on that contact with people and performing,” Aurora Gozmic said. “Now we’re all coming back … and we’re just so much more creative and ready to go.”