It was a full house at Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse, with the sound of chatter diffusing into Seal Court. Furniture was moved to the side and rose petals sprinkled the ground, as students and parents sat knee-to-knee on the floor and on the couches. For many in the audience, this was their first drag show.
The Motley’s Valentine’s Day Drag Show was a lively event held Feb. 14 that hosted student performers and gave audience members a chance to unwind with sing-along bops. The show featured two drag queens affiliated with the 5Cs: Violeta Luvvv and Tired Old Queen.
The night kicked off with an opening number by Luvvv, who danced and lip-synced to “Criminal” by Britney Spears. The crowd roared in applause as Luvvv strutted out in pink across the stage. Her performance was confident and cheeky, prompting the audience to react in laughter as she tossed her golden hoops and skirt into the crowd.
The next number was Tired Old Queen’s animated rendition of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” True to character, she sluggishly walked onto stage. As soon as the music started, however, her bright presence lit the stage as she switched between portraying Barbie and Ken. She also intermittently reached into her Hello Kitty purse and took breathers to cough into a tissue.
Throughout the show, audience members could purchase dollar bills with Venmo to tip the performers, facilitating direct interaction between the drag queens and audience members.
After the intermission, Luvvv performed “Your Type” by Carly Rae Jepsen. The number started off with a portrayal of someone getting ready for a date. Luvvv sat on the stage, wrapped in a towel and furry pink slippers.
As the song rose to a crescendo, her performance also took a turn as Luvvv performed an on-stage costume change from her towel to a satin party dress. The audience loved it, with students and even parents reaching for Luvvv with their dollar bills as she strutted around the floor.
The final number was Tired Old Queen’s “El Beso” by Mon Laferte, which set a completely different tone from the other numbers in the show. Tired Old Queen adapted to the upbeat style of the song, lip-syncing to the quick Spanish lyrics while nimbly performing ballroom dance steps.
Attendee Gabby Osifo SC ’23 and Tsion Mamo SC ’23 said their favorite number was Luvvv’s “Your Type.”
“It was feisty, I loved it,” Mamo said. “It was a whole storyline. Everyone was like, ‘Take my money.’”
Elaney Ortiz SC ’21, the Motley’s community engagement manager, organized the event. Behind the scenes, Ortiz had been hard at work reaching out to various contacts, especially after organizing the Motley’s opening night only a week prior.
Reaching out to drag performers was an especially important part of the process, since Ortiz wanted to find performers who were a part of the 5C community.
“A lot went into planning this,” Ortiz said. “[Both performers] ended up being 5C affiliates. That’s what I was looking for [because] if I have institution funding through Scripps through the Motley, … who better to give this to [than] students or former students … who need the money? We were specifically looking for [first-generation, low income] students and [people of color].”
The Valentine’s Drag Show was the Motley’s first drag show, and Ortiz said the turnout more than exceeded expectations.
“We did end up having a problem [with] the space,” she said. “It was absolutely packed. There was no room left.”
With the help of other people, Ortiz created a welcoming environment for the event to ensure that performers and audience members had the opportunity to express themselves in a way that is not available through many other outlets.
“These are marginalized communities that tend to have their voices diminished, hidden,” Ortiz said. “[These are] drag performers. It’s a craft, it’s an art, it’s a performance. A lot goes in on their end and into crafting this experience for everyone. And I think having a safe supportive space for that is really important at the 5Cs.”
Mamo also noted that events like this provide a space for students to learn about what can be seen as a new or misunderstood cultural tradition.
“It feels as though many people, when they don’t understand things, they just assume things instead of trying them out,” Mamo said. “So I think it’s nice that you have an event like this for students to go and experience it for yourself.”
Osifo agreed that events like this can allow the 5C community to embrace drag as part of their culture.
“I … think [with] a lot of things, if they’re just done in a common place where a bunch of people can go, then it’s normalized and not some weird taboo [or] strange thing,” Osifo said. “It’s just a normal thing that people can go to.”
Ortiz hopes that events like this can lead to more of a drag community in the future.
“Hopefully [with] events like this, we can … get more people interested [to say], ‘What is drag? This is cool. Let me show up. Maybe I want to get involved,’” she said. “[We also hope to] inspire some people and hopefully … other campuses [will] start throwing drag shows and it becomes more of a culture, more accepted and safer for everyone.”
After the hectic process of reaching out to performers, preparing the space and getting the word out, Ortiz said the best part of the event was the performance itself.
“Not only to watch the performance, but to watch everyone’s faces and see how much they were enjoying it, and how much fun they’re having — it was beyond what I expected,” she said. “I think my favorite part was hosting the event, throwing it, being here. But most of all, seeing the audience react. It made it so worth it.”