The Best Party of Fall 2018: Rose Hill's First Drag Show
By Fiona Shea
A misty, cold November evening had Rose Hill’s campus quiet and restful. With Thanksgiving break just a few days away, the once vibrant leaves and light blue skies had been traded in for dark afternoons and long days in bed. As I walked to Rodrigue’s, the on-campus coffee shop, I passed very few students. A couple of freshman strolling back to Alumni Court South after a caf dinner at one point, a group of seniors making their way to the Ram Van at another. The distant whistle of the Metro-North entering Fordham station was the only sound that filled the frigid air.
It was a Saturday at 8PM, the time before pregames commence and plans are in order. At this hour, Fordham students are typically still enjoying their evening siestas. The festivities were starting early at Rodrigue’s, though, and it was about to go down as the best party of the semester.
As I entered Rodrigue’s, I was surprised to find the shop already almost full. I thought I would be early for the show, but I guess everyone had the same idea. I found a sliver of floor space toward the back of the room, close to the area designated for the performers. The buzzing crowd radiated a sense of urgency - a sense of excitement. This would be the very first drag show hosted on Rose Hill’s campus. After receiving some opposition from an online petitioning site, Lincoln Center’s campus successfully hosted the first Fordham drag show just one month prior. Drag is a term that refers to wearing clothes of the opposite sex, typically during a performance of some sort. Many times drag queens are men dressed as women, but not always. People of all sexual orientations, genders, and backgrounds participate in drag performances. Our Fordham community has now joined people all over the world in celebrating this form of queer art.
A blonde, male student wearing a satin, red blouse and black trousers with bicycles on them ran around the shop looking for an auxiliary cord. Rodrigue’s workers called out to him from behind the counter as he set up last minute preparations in a frenzy. Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care I love It” was lowered to a subtle hush, and the stylish blonde took center stage. I soon discovered that this was the commander-in-chief of the operation, Noah Willers. Willers is a junior at Rose Hill, and serves as Co-President of Rodrigue’s alongside senior Emmajune Orth. Willers had always wanted to host a drag show in Rodrigue’s, so when Fordham’s administration approved his proposal, he was ecstatic. In addition to arranging a fun and flamboyant event for his peers, Willers hoped that the on-campus drag show would “inform people who are ignorant about queer art.” He imagined that maybe Fordham students who had questions about drag culture, or had never attended a drag show, could experience its glory right on campus.
The show opened with a performance by Harmonica Sunbeam The Comedy Queen, the first of three drag queens that Willers booked for the performance. The Comedy Queen gave us a quick-witted stand-up bit, accompanied by intro and outro dance numbers. Her confident and hilarious persona had the packed crowd laughing and dancing and begging for more.
After The Comedy Queen’s 10 minutes in the spotlight, Ariana Tenta followed with a pop-inspired segment. Her set consisted of hits by Ariana Grande, the queen’s favorite singer; dancing throughout the coffee shop and on the counter; and a death drop that nearly had all of Rod’s up in flames. The “death drop” is a highly anticipated move that is commonly used in drag competitions. The dancer dramatically falls backwards and strikes a pose once on the ground; a tricky move that can shock and excite an audience with it’s visible difficulty.
Sugga Pie Koko New York was the last of the three performances of the night. Her dancing and singing was more contained than her predecessor Ariana Trenta, yet stirred the same amount of emotion among the crowd. Sugga Pie’s music took a contemporary twist on classic dance hits, like a remix of Madonna’s song “Holiday.” Everyone in Rodrigue’s was moving their bodies, singing the songs, letting go, and honoring self-expression. An accepting and loving energy radiated from each individual person, both performers and crowd members, leaving me with a high that lasted hours after the show ended.
A question and answer session with Willers and the queens concluded the show, during which we learned a little more about their personal lives, careers, and hopes for the future of drag.
I approached the queens as they mingled with Willers, and other students began to say their goodbyes and thank yours. Rod’s cleared out pretty fast, leaving me with ample space and time to chat with the queens. Harmonica Sunbeam The Comedy Queen described her night at Fordham as, “A beautiful experience. I like when campuses have these kind of shows - shows [that represent] other art forms. Drag is a type of art form out there. I just want to tell Fordham what a good job and thank you for having us.” Ariana Trenta told me that the “young, vibrant energy made her feel special.” She said, “It was great to see that people are opening their eyes up to drag in the wake of a horrible presidency. As someone that just graduated from college, it really is amazing to be back in a setting where people are exploring who they are and what they want to be.” All three queens agreed that their performances fed off of the Fordham crowd’s welcoming and electrified enthusiasm. It seemed as though they loved us as much as we loved them.
Junior, Kimona Dussard was nearly out of breath when I asked about her favorite part of the evening: “Um, Adriana Trenta?!?! My wig is gone. My weave is gone. My heart is with her.” Dussard and her friend Erinne Benedict, also a junior at FCRH, saw posters around campus for the show and knew they absolutely couldn’t miss this opportunity. Benedict explained that, “There isn’t a lot of queer friendly stuff on our campus. So anytime there’s something with the queer community coming together, it’s awesome. If there was more of this, we’d all be pretty happy.” Senior and Rodrigue’s staff member Tim Mountain said that Willers had been talking about hosting a drag show since 2017, and that he was “excited to see it come to fruition.” Mountain’s favorite part of the show was when Ariana Trenta jumped up onto the Rodrigue’s counter and danced like a true show-stopping superstar.
I have to admit, I’m a little cocky having attended the party of the fall 2018 semester. I feel as though I’m now in a position to advise other Fordham students on how NOT to miss out on outrageously fun opportunities on campus. Here are three simple things I did that I think gave me my (self-proclaimed) A-list Fordham party status.
Read the flyers around campus. That was essentially my invite to this event. Look around you, notice things, investigate things, and attend things. You can always go to Howl afterwards.
Check out Rodrigue’s. I have no affiliation to Rod’s, and had only been inside the shop once before attending the drag show. It’s really cool in there, the people are really cool, cool vibes are flowing, there’s lots cool decor and artwork, and there are cool, (and hot) cheap drinks on tap. I feel immensely cooler now having actually gone to Rod’s and hung out with Noah Willers.
New experiences enrich the mind. Don’t wait until your mid-senior year crisis to push yourself out of your comfort zone and go to events on campus you might not normally take part in. Meeting new people, trying new things, being open-minded, and exploring different forms of art allows you to grow as a person and expand your horizons. Which will in turn make you a cooler person. And who doesn’t want that?