Draggieland will be held in Rudder Theatre on April 6, 2023. The event is a pageant-style show featuring drag queens and is being hosted by Mistress Isabelle Brooks from RuPaul’s Drag Race. This year, the theme of Draggieland is a nod to the spring season as well as the idea of letting the art of drag carve its own path: ‘We bloom.’
Shawn Keene, Class of 2021, is the advocacy chair for Draggieland and has attended past shows. Keene said Draggieland had been hosted by Texas A&M organization Memorial Student Center, or MSC, Town Hall, however, in recent years, Draggieland has become more independent but works with MSC Box Office for their ticketing needs. Keene saidDraggieland serves a specific purpose, and they feel it is an essential event.
“Draggieland is a glamorous safe space for 750 people to … enjoy authenticity, the art of drag and just be in a space free of ignorance,” Keene said.
Keene said the event primarily featured drag queens from around the Bryan-College station area. Out of all those that auditioned, nine queens will be competing this semester. They said they encourage everyone, especially those affiliated with the LGBTQ+ community, to come appreciate the art of drag.
“There [is] a lot of hatred and kind of ignorance towards gender nonconforming people,” Keene said. “It [is] a safe space for people who are gender nonconforming, who are allies, who are queer in any sort of way.”
Keene talked about the importance of Draggieland serving as a symbol for more LGBTQ+ inclusion on the A&M campus — especially given recent anti-LGBTQ legislation nationwide. Genetics senior and head of security for Draggieland Dani Castillo said that many states, including Texas, were considering banning drag shows. Therefore, the spring 2023 show may be the last legal one. Castillo said in 2022 there were 141 drag protests across the United States — with Texas coming in first with 20.
“Mostly, [I talk] to the school about our security concerns about potential protests,” Castillo said. “Hate across the [LGBTQ+] community is rising and so [are] drag show [protests].”
Castillo said she definitely expected, based on recent history, protests at the event. She explained that though protesting is within people’s rights, it is important to do so peacefully. Castillo said there was a decent sized protest the first year Draggieland was hosted; however, there has not been a threat to the queens in recent years. Castillo said that security measures were being increased at the show this year.
“We are upping the amount of police [officers present],” Castillo said. “We’re doing bag checks at the door.”
Recent A&M graduate and last year’s Draggieland winner Casey Mackey, also known as Jessy B Darling, has been involved in drag events since 2019. She explained that last year was the first year queens were paid. Mackey said the upcoming show had runway, talent and question and answer sections.
“The audience can get to know the queens and kings a lot better,” Mackey said. “Draggieland has had a lot of metamorphosing and changing over the years.”
Mackey said she loved the process of getting ready for the show with fellow performers. She said that being in drag helped her build confidence. Before becoming a drag performer, she stated that she had been a nervous and anxious person who struggled to speak with people.
“There’s just something about putting on a wig and makeup and big ol’ foam butt pads,” Mackey said. “I am that bitch and I can do anything in and out of drag.”
Tickets for Draggieland 2023 can be purchased online or in person through the MSC Box Office.
I'm glad to hear that you are going through with this show this year. To me , some people are born non-binary and only wish to live freely for who and what they are . This is the land of the free and we should celebrate their ability to express themselves in a safe and appropriate way.
Just a couple of comments after reading this article, and only to offer a difference of opinion to an article that I believe is deceiving and misleading. First, this event is not good for this community or Texas A&M. The culture and the behavior of people associated with this lifestyle is counterproductive to the history, values and culture of both the community and Texas A&M. Proof of the rejection of the entity is the lack of support and interest shown from most people who reside here and in this country. Nor are my remarks stated out of ignorance, nor meant to be hateful as expressed in the article. Quite the contrary. In the spirit of due diligence, one only needs to research the facts about the entities the article promotes and the results of their efforts/behavior at other schools and communities. The “drag performance” is not art, is not a valued cultural experience for the community; and being drag is not a respected affiliate even among its own group, reflected by no letter in the LGBTQ+ moniker. The constant and incessant pushing, promoting, and grooming of a lifestyle on those who have a right to reject the taunting by those who have nothing to lose is an indictment of their true motive.
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