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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Drag Queens come back to NIU

Rachel Cormier
Drag Queen Miranda Kherr lip syncs “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” by ABBA on the runway Friday at the CAB Drag Show. Five drag queens lip synced and performed drag to pop songs in the Duke Ellington Ballroom. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Friday night, NIU was greeted by royalty as five drag queens delivered a night of passion, glamor and excitement to an awaiting crowd.

The queens arrived not in regal attire, but in sequins and thigh high boots. Whether the crowd was being serenaded by a lip sync of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” or rocking out to Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” the ladies had an outfit for every occasion.

NIU’s Campus Activity Board delivered its second annual drag show, inviting back drag queen performers Aleyna Couture, Zelina Azul Pop and Destiny Valero with two new faces, Jerika Thique and Miranda Kherr, making impressions at the late-night venue.

Drag shows traditionally feature drag artists impersonating men or women and performing burlesque and musically-focused entertainment in bars and clubs. Drag reached its highest visibility in 2023 with the largest push for anti-trans legislation in years, as the U.S. doubled the number of anti-trans bills from the previous year within just one month, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker

Drag queens have become icons for trans-rights, and continue to become the target of bills banning “gender non-conforming performances” and “cross-dressing” which has affected their business and forms of expression.

Clint-Michael Reneau, vice president for Student Affairs, unexpectedly was the first performer to strut down the runway to the surprise and screams of the student body. After a mini performance, Reneau reminded students that just like the performers, every person at the event had the right to be present.

“Whoever needs to hear this message, you are worthy by your very birthright, you are worthy and you are enough,” Reneau said. “You are absolutely enough, so thank you for having the courage to show up.” 

Whether entertainment or stage presence was the challenge, the queens’ outfits employed enough frills and sequins to put a quinceañera dress to shame.

The show started softly with last year’s MC and host, Couture, lip syncing to Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” and “vampire” while she blew kisses to the audience and let students belt the high notes with her into the microphone.

Destiny Valero performs Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” in a red football jersey and blonde wig, imitating the pop star, Taylor Swift and her boyfriend Travis Kelce. The drag queens danced and interacted with the audience throughout their performances. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star) (Rachel Cormier)

“I must’ve done something right because this is my second year here,” Couture told the crowd after the song ended.

Swifties got a free performance by America’s sweetheart herself, rocking an excessive blonde wig and a familiar red jersey imitating her Kansas City Chiefs boyfriend. Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” had students roaring at performer Valero’s overexaggerated impression of the pop idol as she combined a bit of acrobatics into cartwheeling down the runway.

More queens followed, popping and locking it to Ke$ha and Dua Lipa or playing with the audience and getting a “hell yeah” back whenever they asked if the audience was having fun.

For those thirsty from the action, CAB provided mocktails to students, featuring non-alcoholic versions of margaritas and pineapple splashes.

The drinks came in handy when the queens went backstage for a costume change and students were invited to show off their dance moves. At one point, the entire room of almost 200 students did the “Cha Cha Slide.”

Students flooded the stage and performed the “Cha Cha Slide” at the CAB Drag Show. During the break, students were encouraged to jump on the runway and dance in the middle of the Duke Ellington Ballroom. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star) (Rachel Cormier)

When the queens came back in new regalia, a “twerk-off” from audience members concluded the interactive part of the show.

Kyara Chisolm, a junior acting major, said she left ecstatic from her first drag show and took inspiration from the show toward her acting career.

“This is the kind of thing – interacting with the audience, having a lot of fun, being ridiculous and truthful, and just being yourself on stage within whatever persona you have on whether a drag persona or character in a play – that’s the s– that I like to do,” Chisolm said.

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