Dragging for a good cause
The annual QPenn Drag Show benefitted Camp Kesem, which hosts children with parents affected by cancer
March 26, 2012, 1:06 am·
Shrestha Singh | DP
“Xzotica Banshee” did a split in a black tutu as “Dalyla Mizani” danced on a footstool and whipped blonde extensions back and forth to Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s “Telephone.” A group of all-straight, all-fabulous males flung feather boas to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
All of this took place before an audience of about 100 Friday night in Harrison’s Heyer Sky Lounge for the QPenn Drag Show, an annual charity event hosted by Penn’s Queer Student Alliance.
“Cancer is a Drag” featured 13 drag queens, one self-proclaimed “drag king,” and a transgender individual, who pushed past the pain of lip-syncing and dancing in six-inch heels for the benefit of Camp Kesem, a week-long camp for kids whose parents have, or had, cancer.
Wharton senior Alexa Guzman, co-chair of Camp Kesem at Penn, said the camp only differs from any other sleep-away camp in that it fosters a community based on shared experience. “The underlying purpose is to make them feel like they’re normal kids,” said Guzman. “They get to go out and have fun and at the same time they’re not alone. They have other people with them who are experiencing the same thing they are.”
While not all of the participants have been directly affected by cancer, many were moved to get involved because of Camp Kesem’s mission.
As a former summer camp counselor, Wharton sophomore and QSA Chair Derek Livermont could relate to the idea of giving kids a break from their typical environment. “I always think that camps are a great way for kids to get away. [Camp Kesem is] a really great cause for kids who are in a tough situation with parents who have cancer. It helps get their mind off of that.”
Just as camp is a getaway for the kids, drag is type of getaway for the “queens” as well. The show host, Miss Lisa Lisa, who is a transsexual and hosts a weekly drag show at Bob & Barbara’s Lounge in Rittenhouse Square, understood the appeal of drag, despite the fact that she herself doesn’t dress in drag. “The fun part about [drag] is people can get on stage and express themselves and just have a good time.”
Miss Lisa Lisa said college shows are different from her usual acts at the Rittenhouse Square venue. “The college kids aren’t taking themselves too seriously,” she said. “They’re always doing it for a cause. That’s what makes it so special. A lot of the girls do it professionally, and to get paid.”
While the participants were not professionals, they took extra strides to look and act the part. “Amy Tollhouse” wore a make-up mole, beehive hair and waved a martini glass in the air as she slurred Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”
“I’m really happy that the performers are into it and going that extra mile instead of being shy and awkward on stage,” said College freshman Joanna Heinz. “I’m impressed by the lengths that they’ve gone to.”