Southeast PRIDE promotes inclusivity with drag show
Professional, regional, local and amateur drag artists performed in the University Center Ballroom at the annual PRIDE Drag Show on Thursday, Oct. 18.
The show included four professional and four amateur artists, featuring lip syncing, dancing, stand-up comedy and even got the audience involved with participation segments.
Sam Kleinschrodt, a sophomore at Southeast from Arnold, Missouri, has been involved in the PRIDE organization for over a year, as well as the Safe Space program. The PRIDE organization partners with the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, and The Safe Space Program provides tools to be an LGBTQ+ ally in the community.
Kleinschrodt has been a part of many LGBTQ+ events at the school. She has helped in the bake sale, PRIDE organization meetings and the homecoming parade. However, organizing the drag show has been her biggest project yet.
“I’ve been learning as I go. From what I’ve learned, putting on an event like this takes a lot of teamwork and patience,” Kleinschrodt said. “I’ve been working closely with our host and performer, Faim Lee Jewels, and they’ve really helped the entire process of planning the drag show go smoothly and efficiently.”
Coincidence brought Jewels, a longtime professional drag king, into drag performance. His introduction came when a drag-queen friend gave him a call one night saying she needed a drag king at their show after a queen accidentally downloaded a male vocal version of a song.
Jewels, who is from Murphysboro Illinois, said drag came naturally to him. Since a young age he performed as a singer and dancer in local child pageants.
“I stayed in the entertainment industry because it's a nice escape from reality. It's a good release to get up on stage when maybe your emotions that day have been elsewhere,” Jewels said.
On performing, Jewels said live shows are a way to express things he may not be able to elsewhere.
“I’m not the same person on stage as I am in reality,” Jewels said. “There is a lot of me that carries from regular life to stage life. It's a way to express a confidence you wouldn't normally have.”
Ultimately, Jewels said he finds passion in live performances because of the gratification received from the audience.
“On stage it’s a life that you don't feel sometimes until you actually get up there. You think, ‘wow, I'm not going to be able to get up there, I’ve had a long day, I’m tired’. But, then the crowd starts screaming and they love you for what you're doing, and that's what feeds you to keep doing what you do,” Jewels said. “I've had several people thank me for what I've done because it took them out of their day.”
When performing, Jewels’ said his goal is to leave the audience with the memory of a good time and a smile.
“That's all I strive for. I don't care how much money I make, or how long I'm on stage. I just want to see people that are enjoying themselves,” Jewels said.
Kleinschrodt believes the goal for organizations hosting events like the show is to promote welcomeness and inclusivity to students in the Southeast community.
“We want people to be enjoying themselves, having fun and feeling like they're a part of something. We just want to see unity and happiness in a time where there is a lot of division and hardships.” Kleinschrodt said.
Jewels hopes that hosting these events locally will open up opportunity to bring in new audience members. He hopes the shows can change stereotypical beliefs people may have of the LGBTQ+ community.
Attendee Jordon Walker has similar desires. He hopes the events will draw new people to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community.
“You have to come in and be open to everything. Stay open-minded, come with positivity and be willing to have fun,” Walker said.
Walker said he attended the show to support several of his friends performing.
Similarly, Arienne Small, a student who regularly attends drag show, said she came to the event because of her love of entertainment and to support the community as an LGBT+ ally.
Jewels believes holding these events are essential to communities and environments like the university.
“These events give individuals that may not normally get the opportunity to see the shows that chance,” Jewels said. “Things like this break down the barrier between us as human beings and stereotypes of all degrees. Without this kind of exposure, some people may never know just how amazing of a community we really are."