A lot of love went around Saturday evening at Bloomington Pridefest's 2018 final drag show. The Back Door presented Sasha Velour, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9, to a massive crowd of festival goers, glitter and gay vibes. The show featured several of Bloomington’s local drag queens and was free.
“We are here to remember our legacy. We are here to remember why Pride even exists at all,” said Alex Hollett, who opened up the drag show with slam poetry. "This poem is dedicated to all of the queer and trans sex workers and street kids, many of them of color. Dedicated to all the queer youth in this crowd, you are not a burden, you are perfect. And we love you.”
Prior to the the show, which began at 9 p.m. in the parking-lot-turned-concert-venue of CVS on Kirkwood Avenue, festival goers seemed beyond excited to see Velour. Velour, according to her website, is a gender-fluid drag queen who lives in New York, produces and stars in the drag show “Nightgowns” and is the creative energy behind “Velour: The Drag Magazine.”
“It’s just fun, I’ve been watching since season seven, I’m a little new but I’m obsessed,” IU junior Payton Williams said. “I think it's the originality of it and having a bald queen was really new for the show, she has a really unique look with the unibrow and all that.”
Pat Yo Weave, the show’s hostess and program director for The Back Door, laid down some ground rules before the performers took the stage, first making sure everyone in the tightly packed crowd knew they could not touch the queens, second that it was okay to accidentally misgender someone as long as there was an apology, and third, letting everyone repeatedly know she loved them.
Once Hollett finished her poem, the lights went dark and a single spotlight focused to a point in the center of the stage. The beginning piano riffs of Barbara Streisand’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” played as Velour waltzed out into the spotlight wearing a white sequined dress and yellow gloves.
“So long sad times, go along bad times, we are rid of you at last,” Velour lip-synced as she took her yellow gloves off to reveal removable pieces of glittery blue fabric that were shaped like tear drops, plucking a few off as if to shed a tear.
After Velour’s first number, local Bloomington drag queens like Corvin Rose, Envy T. Debeauté and Matilda Rose alternatively took the stage to perform their own acts, singing, dancing and collecting cash from the audience.
"A lot of people can think drag queens are very scary, but we’re just people in make-up and costume,” said Beeka Lovelace-Perón, a Bloomington drag queen who performed at Pridefest earlier in the day.
Bloomington Pride has been hosting Pridefest since 2014, and according to its website, the event is meant to support and celebrate the LGBT community and culture.
“I think the sense of community is my favorite, all the gays come out and it’s just great, you can’t be sad at Pride,” recent IU graduate Taylor Boswell said.
Around 10 p.m. Velour came back out onto the stage in a pink body suit and addressed the audience, asking them to keep screaming, preach love and continue supporting drag. She continued, saying that her favorite place to perform was in Bloomington.
"There is important stuff happening here, there are important people doing great thinking, leading and inspiring the discourse in ways that will truly change your lives and the lives of everyone here and beyond,” said Velour.
Closing the evening with “I Am What I Am” by Shirley Bassey, Velour said the tune was “the gayest song of all time” and had the crowd cheering and clapping before the words even began to play.
“Drag is the most wonderful thing in the world, is it not?” Velour said.
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