Emily Peedin
Drag queen Erica Chanel performs at THEE Drag Ball inside Talley Student Union on
Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

On Tuesday, April 4, NC State’s Black Students Board (BSB) put on THEE Drag Ball as part of Pan-Afrikan Week. THEE Drag Ball was a drag show hosted by Drag Queen Erica Chanel, with fellow Queens Kiara Mel, Paris Brooks-Bonet and Giselle Cassidy Carter. 

The show included an informative Q&A segment where the queens answered questions chosen ahead of time as well as written questions from the audience. Audience members gained insight on the inner workings of the drag world, such as how the queens got their starts in drag. For Mel, an NC State alum who studied Agribusiness and Poultry Science, her interest in drag started after she came out.“RuPaul’s Drag Race” inspired her to want to try her hand at drag. 

Fellow queen Brooks-Bonet’s story with drag began at the local talent show as a way to help a friend afford their rent. 

Stories of caring and connection in drag were shared throughout the Q&A. An example of the kindness that’s shared through the art of drag came from the queens’ various answers about their favorite part of doing drag. Cassidy Carter said, “my favorite part of drag would be the messages that I get sometimes from people saying that I’ve touched them or helped them through something just by simply performing and being myself.” 

Mel echoed this saying there are “so many brunches I go to and there’s so many individuals especially [like] plus size women that come up to me and say you give me so much strength, you give me so much hope and I wish I had your confidence” to which she said “people don’t need to give you permission to be who you are.” 

The queens also discussed the work put into doing drag as well as their experiences as Black drag performers. They talked about how hard it is to make themselves visible along with the difficult expectations that come with drag. For many of them, drag is their full-time job. 

The queens also focused more on the community aspect of drag as a whole. Chanel said her favorite part of drag is “building a bond” with her sisters and “building a community where, when something’s going on in my life I know that I can call any one of these girls and they’re going to uplift each other and we fully support each other in and out of drag.” 

Similarly, Brooks-Bonet said “I would not be the man I am today or the performer I am today if it wasn’t for the queer community in North Carolina, specifically in Raleigh.” As Cassidy Carter said, and her fellow queens’ answers suggested as well, drag serves as a form of expression for how the performers feel or what they might be going through in that moment. It’s a way for them to be more comfortable with themselves and share something that can have a real, sometimes unexpected, impact on others. 

Host Chanel ended the night with an impassioned message for the audience, saying, “brothers and sisters are under attack and they are trying to get us the hell out of here you guys so I know that you have had fun today and that you guys have had a great time but if I can leave you here with anything is please when the next election comes on I need for every single one of y’all in here to go and f***ing vote, it is times like this that we have to stick together, we have to fight for each other.” She then asked the audience to scream “drag is not a crime,” words that have been increasingly said as many anti-drag bills are being proposed, or even signed into law, across the country. 

The ball was many attendees’ first time attending a drag show, such as first-year Psychology major and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, Kennedy Martin Jones, who has been “wanting to come to a drag show for a while now.” 

It was also first-year intended Business Administration and Information Technology major Bomet Beke’s first drag show and he said he enjoyed the “excitement, the presence of the whole environment” and “how comforting it was.” 

As fun as the experience was, it also taught a lot about drag performers and the drag community as a whole and left the audience with much to think about. The words of Cassidy Carter resonated with Beke, saying to “be yourself, really just figure out who you are and enjoy who you are.” Looking ahead, Beke says he wants to “look into more queer spaces close by” where he could “just go and hang out in the environment.” 

Madison Kinsey, a first-year Animal Science major, said the ball taught her more about “how important it is, even if you’re not a part of the community to stand in solidarity with them.”

 On why she wanted to come to the ball, second-year Zoology major Alyssa Allen, who had previously attended other shows, said she wanted to “come to a place where Black queer people can meet in a safe spot.” She expanded on this saying, “it’s nice to be in an environment where you see other people like you, and you see that you’re safe, and nobody’s gonna judge you for what you are.” 

When asked about the importance of having the ball, Allen shared a similar message to Chanel’s, saying, “drag is not a crime, it’s not hurting anybody. It’s just a form of self-expression. And so I think it’s important that people show their support, and people show that drag is entertainment and self-expression. And it’s just a way for queer people to congregate. So I think it’s really important and it also shows that [like] NC State and some of their organizations, [like] support drag.” 

On the importance of coming out to the event, which was his second drag show, first-year Exploratory Studies major Brandon Leach said, “people have always been discrediting the LGBTQ+ community, especially drag, but if you come to events like this, you can see how it’s just, it’s just, we’re here to have fun. We’re here to have a good time. There’s no harm and you can just come and support the people.” 

On what she learned from this event, first-year Psychology major, Chelsea Roberts said she is “not really big on politics” but that she is “now seeing the importance in voting like, that’s something that I wouldn’t want taken away from anybody. So the fact that they’re trying to just in general, like places and stuff, it makes me realize that there’s some things that we have to do as a community.” 

In regards to attending the ball itself, Roberts said it was “perfect to come here” and that “sure you learn things from like RuPaul and stuff like that but it’s different when you see it in person. These are real people. These are like people’s jobs, their lives. So it’s important.” 

With its glamorous outfits, dynamic performances and audience inclusion, THEE Drag Ball provided a night of entertainment for students while also giving them a perspective they may not have seen before.