University of Maryland, Shantay, you stay!
Students from this university owned the runway Friday at the RuPaul’s Student Drag Race competition, hosted by Student Entertainment Events at Stamp Student Union’s All Niter.
Maggie Letvin, a senior studio art, art history and immersive media design major, helped create SEE’s first student drag competition. Letvin always had a special connection to drag shows, they said, and hope to share the art with other students.
“It’s a celebration, it’s a protest,” Letvin said. “[Drag] pays homage to historical Black trans women and queer people of color that were doing the thing way before. It’s really cool to keep the tradition alive, even in small ways.”
The drag competition kicked off with senior English major Emma Friedman, otherwise known by her persona, “Pumpkin Pizzaz.” Friedman took the stage as a Pitbull impersonator — complete with a bald cap, a drawn-on mustache and beard, and a routine to the song “Fireball.”
Even though it was her first time performing in drag, Friedman owned the stage with slick dance moves and serious stage presence.
“It has always been a bucket list thing and something I’ve been endlessly afraid of because I’m not gay,” Friedman said. “It was, I think, a misconception [of mine] that the art form is only for one group of people to perform and one group of people to consume.”
Freshman dance and journalism major Tori Uleck performed a twist on cult classic villain Patrick Bateman for the night’s second performance. Performing to “Oops!… I Did it Again” by Britney Spears, Uleck donned a bloody cloak and, batting false lashes, strutted the stage in knee high black boots with flamboyant high kicks.
For Uleck, who performed in drag for the first time at the All Niter, the performance was inspired by vogue — a highly stylized dance style that is widely popular in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I started learning vogue in Philly, and I think vogue is very tied to drag,” said Uleck. “I think it’s a way to celebrate queer joy and creativity.”
The winner of Friday’s student drag competition was Ebou Dibba, a sophomore English, studio art and immersive media and design major otherwise known as “Depression Manique.”
“Depression Manique” owned the stage. Dibba performed to “Prom Dress” by mxmtoon and dramatically thrashed around the stage in a floor-length green sparkly dress.
“Manique” then surprised the audience with two costume changes, the first being a frilly ball gown for a performance of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. Then, Dibba swapped the look for a wedding-style white corset and skirt paired with a bouquet of flowers to perform “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole.
Dibba, who has had previous experience in drag, feels his cohesive storytelling allows him to connect with the audience. His performance was based on someone falling in love and then getting married, he said.
The experience gave Dibba an “upfront, brunt force of acceptance and support,” he said. As “Manique” performed, audience members chanted, cheered and waved rainbow flags.
“It’s like, for those 10 minutes, every worry or insecurity or even inhibition, [was] gone,” said Dibba. “I don’t think if you asked me to, I could physically do any of the stuff I just did. But the second you say I’m doing it in drag, suddenly I’m like Superwoman.”