The LGBTQ + community in Columbia is finding new ways to express themselves by dressing in drag, a culture that dates back to the days of underground speakeasy’s.
Blossoming in the streets of New York City, dressing in drag has been a part of American culture for decades.
More recently, drag as an art form, which includes lip-sync, dancing and comedy routines, has become its own culture thanks to RuPaul Andre Charles.
RuPaul is one of the most famous drag queens in the world and has a reality show that airs on VH1, RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag has become more mainstream and has expanded beyond the LGBTQ+ community.
“More people have had the ability to gain access to the world of drag,” said student Natalie Hicks, communications director of USC’s Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities Club.
IRIS teams up with Carolina Productions to host the Birdcage Drag Show every April in the Russell House student union to allow students outside the LQBTQ+ community to experience and raise awareness for another culture they typically wouldn’t be aware of.
“I think as time goes on a lot of sort of things like drag become more popular,” said Jon Ferreira, a USC student. “People’s minds are opening up towards it. It’s like comedy, it’s very subversive and rebellious and fun and edgy. I think people love that energy.”
Local Columbia “Queens and Kings” come out to the Birdcage to perform on the catwalk. Some say they have found their true self through drag.
“When I first came out, I didn’t know how to meet any gay people and I went to a drag show and saw that the drag kings knew everyone and the next week I entered in an amateur night and I performed every week thereafter,” said Oliver Clothesoff, a drag king and USC graduate.
This year marked Clothesoff’s ninth time hitting the stage at Birdcage, and he has seen first-hand how drag has become more accepted in the community.
“It’s nice to be invited back every year and see what acceptance has become here because it wasn’t like this when I was in school,” said Clothesoff.
This year the headliner for the show was one of RuPaul’s very own queens, Shangela Laquifa Wadley, who was born Darius Jeremy Pierce and performs as Shangela.
Shangela has appeared on three seasons of RuPaul’s drag race and made her acting debut in the movie “A Star is Born.”
The legendary drag queen could see the unity in the Columbia audience from the stage.
“It means a lot to me. Thank you to every person for coming out… to every person that may not always feel included in a world where we are excluded, tonight we are family” said Shangela.