Emporia State showed its gay pride Monday night with its first ever Alternative Beauty Contest at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Students dressed in drag to compete for Mr. and Ms. ESU Drag. There were three rounds: one for talent, one based on how the contestants were dressed and one where the judges interviewed the contestants.
“As far as acting out, this is the biggest I have ever seen an audience for in 10 years, so it was awesome and the energy from the crowd, from the performers, I just loved it,” said Luke Wolford, junior sociology major and PRIDE president.
Wolford said the event was a follow up to Friday’s Day of Silence as a part of Pride week, which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. For Day of Silence, students took a vow of silence to bring attention to discrimination in education. Wolford said this yearESU’s Day of Silence was dedicated to Missouri Southern, a university where sexual orientation and gender identity are not a part of the university’s non-discrimination clause.
“Today is supposed to be about being loud, being fun, being as visible as possible and showing that, you know what, Friday we showed you what it’s like if we didn’t have a voice, now let’s show you what it’s like when we do,” Wolford said.
Wolford said PRIDE has had drag performances as a part of acting out before, but there has never been an actual drag competition at ESU. He said he had seen it done at other campuses like the University of Kansas where it went over well. The event was partnered with Zoiks! who performed in between rounds and the Union Activities Council.
“We thought if we opened it up to the student body, made it a competition, it would get a lot more of a positive response, get a lot more student feedback, and get more of the campus involved in pride week,” Wolford said.
The competition was judged by Professor of Sociology Giovanna Follo, Psychology professor Jim Pershing and Professor of Social Sciences Deb Gerish. Senior Physical Education andEnglish major Austin Schopper won Ms. ESU with his drag persona Valerie Wasboyskee and Senior Communications major Brittany Zirkle won Mr. ESU for her persona, Chuck Taylor.
Because of a one point difference in score, the overall winner was not one of the two finalists, but was Senior Sociology major Harrison George with his persona called Harizona Persona. Mr. and Ms. ESU were awarded with crowns and the overall winner received a DVD.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet, I mean it’s like I just wanted to come out and have fun and stuff. I didn’t think I actually had a shot at winning and here I am, so I don’t know,” Schopper said.
The overall winner, Harizona Persona was a feminist character. George said that he came up with his drag persona while preparing for the competition. He said he didn’t want to wear a wig and shave his legs for the competition because he felt like he would be conforming.
“It just made me stop and think about it more, and this character, this feminist kind of character, which are a lot of beliefs I have anyway. It was the first chance I ever had to express them from a woman, an actual woman’s point of view,” George said.
Zirkle said that for her, being involved in it was a learning experience. She said she thought it gave people on campus an idea of what life is like for those whose lifestyle is dressing in drag.
“It definitely gave perspective to what some of my friends go through where they do put facial hair on every day and live that life, so I thought it was a pretty eye opening experience,” Zirkle said.
George said it was also a learning experience for him and that it sent the message that no matter how we dress or act, we’re all people and we’re all the same.
“I thought they did a really good job, it was entertaining and it was light but it also carried a really strong message and I was blown away that so many people attended,” George said.