Pride Week struts in with drag show

By Zoe Hannah / Assistant News Editor

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Tootsie Snyder isn’t afraid to spread her legs in front of a crowd of college students.

The local drag queen — a person who puts on feminine airs, dramatic makeup and skimpy swimsuits or glittery gowns for intense dance and lip sync battles — emceed the 16th annual Rainbow Alliance Drag Show alongside drag queen Amneeja 8 p.m. Monday in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. Raising money for Cafe Con Leche’s Latin@ Pride festival, which celebrates the Latin American LGBTQ+ community, RA kicked off Pride Week 2016 with rainbow flags wrapped around painted bodies, free condoms flying through the air and 11 colorful drag queens with tightly rehearsed performances.

Including four student performers and seven local drag queens who donated their time to RA, the show drew in about 250 attendees, according to RA President Marcus Robinson.

The drag show, Robinson said, usually takes place on the last day of Pride Week, but because of booking issues, the group scheduled this year’s performance for Monday.

The planning worked out perfectly, Robinson said — there’s no better way to kick off the week than with sequins and dancing.

“[The drag show] gets us a started on talking about what gender identity is,” Robinson said. “It’s a space to defy [gender roles].”

RA Business Manager Peter Crouch, who performed first in a black mesh shirt and dark eyeliner, said the group chose to donate all proceeds from the event to Cafe Con Leche because it wanted to support the cafe’s owner — a member of the local LGBTQ+ community.

Owned by Tara Sherry-Torres a transgender Latina woman, Cafe Con Leche is planning its June Latin@ Pride event with help from the show’s attendees — donation collectors ran up and down the aisles throughout the show, collecting dollar bill tips from the crowd and delivering them to the performers.

Crouch, who will serve as RA’s president for the 2016-2017 school year, said the drag show is a great way to kick off Pride Week because it fosters such a lively environment.

“It’s one of those events that gets everyone at Pitt pumped up,” Crouch said.

Crouch and his girlfriend, Bailey Hartge, kicked off the event, dancing as queens Dick Hillman and Silicone Cathy, respectively, to the K-Pop song “Trouble Maker.”

The only duet in the show, Crouch and Hartage said they’d been preparing for the performance — Crouch twerking to the beat and Hartage shaking her studded bra — since December.

“It’s fun to celebrate being queer, even though we’re perceived as a straight couple,” Hartge, a sophomore studying graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, said.

Monika Herbst, a junior math major, has never been to RA’s drag show before, but this year, she made it to the second round of the walk-off competition among audience members that kicked off the show.

Herbst volunteered alongside five other audience members to strut their stuff down the stage in a sacrificial walk-off competition. Though she didn’t garner enough applause to win the competition — which was separate from the drag show — the crowd went wild when Herbst whipped her hair at the end of the catwalk.

“I’ve never actually danced except for, like, in my room,” Herbst, who advanced to the second round of the walk-off along with two other dancers, said.

She isn’t involved in RA or the LGBTQ+ community, she said, but she came to the show at her friends’ suggestions.

“My friends went last year, and they said it was amazing,” Herbst said. “It was.”

Out of breath from her brief, off-the-cuff performance, Herbst reflected on the importance of colorful, loud events like the drag show.

She said one of her friends, someone who hadn’t been to a drag show before, felt uncomfortable with the performers’ gender-bending outfits and sparkling makeup.

“The more you’re exposed to something, the more comfortable you get with it,” Herbst said. “There’s no hiding. It’s great. It’s really nice.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said 12 drag queens performed Monday night, three of them students and nine of them professional. Only 11 drag queens performed and four of them were students and seven of them were professional. In addition, a previous version of this story said the K-pop song “Tell Me,” was played. The song “Trouble Maker” was played. The story has been updated. 

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