BY PHONG LY
Over 500 Drake University students gathered inside Parents Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 11 to witness the performance of one of the biggest names in the drag world, Shangela Wadley. Shangela is a professional drag queen who started out on the famous reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The day of her performance at Drake was also the 29th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) awareness day observed on Oct. 11: the day to celebrate coming out as LGBTQ or as an ally.
This year, Drake Student Activities Board (SAB), Drake Rainbow Union and Coalition of Black Students cooperated to bring Shangela to Drake. Performing alongside with Shangela were Nikki Love, a familiar face from the drag show last year; Miss Boo Belle, a former title holder for Miss Gay Iowa USofA 2017; and Domita Sanchez, a Drake alumna and also a participant in this year’s Miss Gay Iowa USofA Newcomer pageant.
Anna Jensen, president of SAB, said that this is the best drag show she has been to at Drake in the past three years.
“We (SAB) did a lot of planning with the other two organizations and set our goal to raise $750 for Iowa Safe Schools and we passed that by almost $400,” Jensen said. “It was just everything and more.”
Traditionally, each year’s drag show sets out to benefit Iowa Safe Schools, an anti-bullying organization that provides safety and comfort to LGBTQ and young people in Iowa.
Jensen said the drag show is a perfect way to provide a safe and inclusive environment as well as celebrating diversity and minority groups.
“It’s fun and it’s a celebration, and you can learn so many things indirectly from a show like this,” Jensen said. “Nothing is being shoved down your throat, but yet you go away feeling so many things, and it’s just such a positive event overall.”
Jensen said the organizations were excited to bring an event that moves so many people at Drake.
Indeed, a lot of Drake students seemed to be having a great time. Grace Chen, a sophomore at Drake, was spotted at the show standing on her chair while screaming “Shangela” at the top of her lungs.
“I was following Shangela for like five years now so it was so nice to finally see her in person,” Chen said.
Chen said she got to meet Shangela in person after the show and also got a photo taken with the celebrity. Chen excitingly called Shangela “the kindest person” she has ever met.
Chen said that events like these will help a lot of students at Drake feel more welcomed and included.
“There are definitely kids who have qualities they find in themselves in people like Shangela or drag queens,” Chen said. “When you see people like yourself performing and being idolized, it makes you feel good about yourself.”
The main attraction for that night, Shangela, felt fantastic about the show.
“Tonight was phenomenal. Tonight was off the charts,” Shangela said. “I have been performing at universities around the U.S., and this crowd was one of the most electric that I have ever had in a show.”
Shangela said she enjoyed seeing how happy a lot of the students were.
“I just loved the faces of the people who got so excited for the show,” Shangela said. “For a lot of them, it was their first time at a drag show, and I love that too because we get to be a great introduction to the drag world for a lot of people.”
Shangela thought that programs like this on campuses encourages and allows people to learn about somebody else’s experience outside of their own.
Last Wednesday was Shangela’s first time in Des Moines, but she already promised it will not be her last.
“Of course, I’m going to come back!” Shangela said. “I just think that every community deserves to have the support like this campus is giving this show, and that is just so cool to see.”