Royalty made a special appearance Saturday night at USC.
The Queer and Ally Student Assembly’s 10th annual drag show, dubbed the “House of Troy,” drew scores of students from all across campus. The night was filled with jaw-dropping performances, laughter and cheers, and a lot of Billie Eilish music.
The audience was greeted by host Dillon Powell. A fashion publicist and designer, he introduced the judging panel, gave a brief history of the drag show and emphasized the importance of positivity.
According to senior Angel Zayas, the show’s director, producer and artist behind drag persona Angel Dust, this was the biggest collegiate drag show in the country.
“The university scene is a drag scene that is often overlooked,” Zayas said. “We’ve never gotten any mention of it in popular media when it comes to things like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” or any reality-based competition,” Zayas, who is majoring in theater, said.
Zayas hoped the drag show was able to provide more visibility for QuASA within the L.A. and queer USC communities.
“QuASA, in itself, is very unknown to people outside the queer community, and even then, the queer community sometimes doesn’t know who [QuASA is],” Zayas said. “It’s kind of like us also trying to put QuASA on the map for something in the same way our film school is on the map … and our marching band. We wanted to add to that legacy that USC has, and more importantly, add to that legacy that queer students at USC have.”
The show kicked off with a runway walk to “Sissy That Walk” by RuPaul. The student performers wore outfits fit for royalty — gowns that sparkled in the spotlight and golden crowns.
Act one of the show featured diverse student talent, including drag kings, AFAB (assigned female at birth) queens and drag queens. Each of the eight performance pieces were created and produced by each performer.
Renee Ye, a sophomore majoring in media arts and practice, and the artist behind Lil Baby Bok Choy, sewed together all of her outfits for her performance number.
This is Ye’s first time performing in the drag show. Ye, although nervous about being a bio queen, a woman drag queen, hopes the drag show will open people’s minds about the inclusivity of drag.
“Because [the drag show] is opened to the public, it isn’t just for the USC eye,” Ye said. “Anybody can come and anybody can see your work, and you just have to prove to them that you are worth seeing.”
For Warren Hastings, a senior majoring in music industry and the artist behind wren, drag has made him feel more comfortable in his skin.
“There was a lot that I didn’t even know how to address inside myself before I started watching other people living their lives so thoroughly and truly,” Hastings said. “I think for me a big part of what it is, is that I get to do something that I used to judge myself for wanting for so long. And I have people show me respect for it.”
Throughout the night, the judges panel praised the student performers, highlighting the importance behind giving people opportunities to showcase their art.
One of the most memorable moments of the night was Angel Dust’s performance. Starting off with a sound bite from “Tribute to Troy,” Angel Dust delivered a performance with choreography that could give Beyoncé’s Coachella set a run for its money.
Act two featured a performance by each judge, nine of whom have appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Another judge on the show was the winner of “The Boulet Brothers’ “Dragula” season three, drag king Landon Cider. Cider spoke throughout the evening of his excitement to represent “a subculture within a subculture.”
The judges’ performances wowed the crowd. Many of them delivered powerful lip sync performances, such as a burlesque piece by drag queen Scarlet Envy and an emotional rendition of “This is Me” from the musical “The Greatest Showman” by drag queen Ongina. For a few minutes, drag queen Silky Ganache engaged with the audience as everyone in the ballroom sang along to the Fugees’ rendition of “Killing Me Softly.”
Lots of factors were involved with picking the judges for the evening, but Zayas mainly wanted to pick performers that were local to the L.A. community.
“House of Troy is more than it being … the drag house of USC. We’re influenced by the other L.A. communities,” Zayas said. “And so I wanted to definitely make sure it was very locally represented, as well as people who just wanted to celebrate with us.”
The drag show ended with both student performers and judges on the stage, and a few speakers shared words of recognition and appreciation.
“Drag takes a lot of hard work, and each and every single performer put just as much hard work in tonight as the other,” said drag queen Gia Gunn.
“So please remember that the moment is now. Love each other, cherish each other and just be who you are.”