Pride Takes Center Stage at Amherst Drag Show

This past Thursday, the Queer Resource Center hosted the Amherst Drag Show in the Eighmy Powerhouse. Assistant Arts & Living Editor Lauren Siegel ’27 reviews the performances, highlighting the show’s celebration of queer identity.

Pride Takes Center Stage at Amherst Drag Show
Kenya Mone Heart, one of the nine performers featured in the Amherst Drag Show, pulls an impressive stunt for the cheering audience. Photo courtesy of Lauren Siegel ’27.

On April 4, the Queer Resource Center (QRC) hosted the Amherst Drag Show in the Eighmy Powerhouse, a dazzling night of performances to kick off their month-long celebration of Queer culture. While the nine drag performers varied in aesthetic and style, they all filled the Powerhouse with joy and laughter, showcasing the power of LGBTQ+ art.

As guests walked into the Powerhouse, they were not only welcomed by queer flags and delicious food, but also a slideshow of information about the history of drag, which was projected above the stage before the performances began. In providing information about the people who worked tirelessly and faced hardships to bring drag to the mainstream, the QRC affirmed that this fun show was also an important opportunity to celebrate and honor those who paved the way for current generations of queer individuals.

The audience was first greeted by Mia E. Z’Lay, a glamorous drag artist who hosted the show. She warmed up the crowd with hilarious quips about college life and queer identity before explaining some of the basic rules of drag shows, emphasizing respect above all.

Mia then introduced the first performer of the evening, Candace Persuasion. A transgender, Vietnamese drag performer who recently cameoed in “Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce,” Candace sashayed onto the stage with stunning blonde hair, tall high-heeled boots, and a multicolored dress. Accompanied by two backup dancers, Candace lip synced to a medley of high-energy Beyonce songs with bold, expertly-crafted choreography, sending the audience cheering wildly.

After an intermission, Candace switched gears for her second performance: a solo rendition of the song “Reflection” from the 1998 Disney film “Mulan.” As she lip synced to the ballad, belting lyrics like “When will my reflection show who I am inside?,” a pre-recorded video was projected onto the screen behind her. The video showcased Candace examining her reflection in a mirror, performing in drag shows, and taking estrogen injections. Halfway through her passionate rendition, Candace tore away her outerwear to reveal a bodysuit that read “Trans Is Beautiful.” Throughout this emotional performance, Candace celebrated the power and beauty of trans identity, affirming both her own journey of self-discovery and serving as an inspiration for other members of the community.

The next performer to take the stage was Giganta Smalls, a hilarious drag queen with a focus on spreading body positivity. With big blonde hair and dramatic eye makeup, Giganta lip synced to both the song “I’m Not Pregnant, I’m Just Fat,” and a hilarious comedy routine about the benefits of being fat. While Giganta had the audience in stitches throughout her playful number, she also left them with a poignant message about body identity.

The show’s energy shifted when Lividity, a Pioneer Valley-based drag artist, glided on stage, contrasting her full face of scary ghoulish makeup — complete with fake blood and yellow contacts — with a glamorous red dressing gown and sky-high boots. As she passionately lip synced to the spooky, sensual rock song “Kill of the Night” by Gin Wigmore, Lividity took off her gown to reveal a white corset that looked like a ribcage, completing her eerie aesthetic. With dramatic choreography that consisted of splits and death drops, Lividity had the whole audience cheering wildly for her thrilling embrace of beauty and horror.

Following Lividity was the glamorous drag queen Kenya Mone Heart. With her long, red braid, impossibly tall heels, and shimmering gold body suit, Kenya was riveting from the moment she walked on stage. She performed a medley of energetic songs — including Ella Eyre and Sigala’s “Just Got Paid,” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Don’t Stop” — with incredible choreography that was equal parts sexy and hilarious. While the audience cheered for Kenya’s masterful duck-walking, death drops, and splits, they went absolutely wild when she performed an extremely impressive split jump from the ground floor onto the stage.

Kenya’s fiercely entertaining performance was matched only by her second number, in which she continued to embrace bold, drag ballroom-style choreography. The crowd was sent into hysterics when Kenya exited the stage and helped herself to a plate of food from the buffet on the side of the room, eating her snacks back on stage as she bounced in the splits.

The next drag artist, Frankie Cyanide, thrilled the audience with a radically different but equally entertaining performance. Frankie wore unique, colorful makeup, a bejeweled cowboy outfit, and painted-on abs as he lip synced to a male cover of the Shania Twain song “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” The performance only became more enthralling when Frankie lip synced to the song “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich, making the crowd simultaneously laugh and cheer through his eccentric choreography. Frankie brought the same quirky energy to his second number after the intermission, playing with gender in a way that was both exciting and inspiring.

In contrast to Frankie’s comedy, Black trans drag artist Chanel the Angel oozed glamor and power as she took the stage. Dressed in a long pink dress, a feathery boa, and tall sparkly boots, Chanel was truly angelic as she lip synced to Beyonce’s “Dance for You” and Tyla’s “Water” with bold and sensual choreography. The audience truly couldn’t get enough of Chanel’s performance, and they cheered even louder for her second number, a passionate lip-sync to Beyonce’s moving ballad “Listen” from the 2006 film “Dreamgirls.”

Next to take the stage was Egg Thee Scallion, an Amherst-based drag performer who utilized gender play for their absurdist comedy. Egg’s hilarious performance switched from lip syncing to Danny Devito audios to dancing to the song “Big Ole Freak,” by Megan Thee Stallion, ending with a rendition of Katy Perry’s “Firework” in which Egg performed passionately with a plastic bag over her own head. Egg’s next number after the intermission was even more ridiculously fun. They danced to a remix that combined “Vagina” by upcoming Spring Concert headliner CupcakKe with the Wii theme song, sending the audience into continuous fits of raucous laughter.

The last drag artist to be introduced was Rory Roux Lay, who brought high energy to the Powerhouse as she danced to a medley of songs ranging from Charli XCX’s “Vroom Vroom” to “Greased Lightning” from “Grease.” With spins, cartwheels, death drops, and jump splits, Rory’s choreography was endlessly fun and enthralling, making the Powerhouse boom with wild applause.

The show’s host Mia E. Z’Lay was the final performer of both the first and second acts, absolutely bringing the Powerhouse down with her enthusiastic performances. For her first number, Mia executed expertly crafted choreography to a mix of songs inspired by the Roaring Twenties, including “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago.”

The audience went crazy when Mia pulled off the tunic she’d been wearing all show to reveal a stunning, sparkly black corset, and the noise was even more deafening when she did an extremely impressive split jump off of the stage. Mia’s next number was equally riveting, as she accompanied a medley of rock songs with powerful, sensual, and passionate dance moves.

Mia ended the show by urging the audience to practice self-love, acknowledging that the strong sense of community felt in the Powerhouse wouldn’t have been possible without everyone individually embracing and celebrating their own identities.

“To be in community with so many beautiful drag queens, and to share this experience with the people of Amherst College, is just so amazing,” said Siani-Simone Ammons ʼ27. “This event means a lot to me mainly because of my connection with drag from Black and queer culture. I feel as if it’s often such a hidden part of the Black community and I think it’s so beautiful.”

Be on the lookout for more Pride celebrations, hosted by the QRC throughout the month of April.