‘Drag Race’ stars Shea Couleé and Alyssa Edwards serve charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent in A&O Productions’ first-ever drag show speaker event


Madison Smith/Daily Senior Staffer

Alyssa Edwards was a contestant on Season Five of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and Season Two of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.”

Ilana Arougheti, Assistant City Editor

Clad in sequins and sheer talent, drag queen superstars Shea Couleé and Alyssa Edwards came to slay as A&O Productions’ Fall Speakers Wednesday night. 

The former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants performed as dancers and panelists to an audience of about 300 at Lutkin Hall. They also judged performances by three Northwestern-based drag artists.

Season Nine contestant and “All Stars” Season Five winner Coule took the stage first in a neon green, leopard-print unitard. The Chicago-based performer captivated the room with sultry, dynamic moves, awing students with an expressive floor routine to Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More.”

She was followed by Season Five and “All Stars” Season Two contestant Alyssa Edwards, who shed a silver-and-red cape to dance through the aisles in thigh-high black boots. With blond hair teased to the sky, the larger-than-life Texas native finished with a stunning death drop.

After performing, Edwards invited students up on stage to banter, twerk and “sissy that walk.”

“When Alyssa Edwards says ‘come onstage,’ you come onstage,” said Communication sophomore Finn Rollings.

The queens then judged short routines by the student drag performers, as well as a three-way lip-sync in the style of “Drag Race.”

In her distinct “bloody, meaty” performance art style, Filet Mignon — sometimes known as Communication senior Gus Moody — dismembered and caressed a plastic ex-lover while lip-syncing to “Potential Breakup Song” by Aly & AJ.

Karma ’ZaBitch, who sometimes guest-stars as Medill junior Jude Cramer, death-dropped and monologued in thrifted, business-casual realness to “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat.

Finally, Even Steven — the show’s featured drag king and the alter ego of Communication junior Xanthe Brown — transformed from Clark Kent to a hand-sewn, grunge-punk Superman while shredding air guitar to “Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner.

“Drag is 100% about confidence,” Steven said, when Edwards asked him what makes a stellar drag performer. “It’s about chasing the things that make you feel good inside.”

After the routines, all three student queens received live feedback and answered questions from Edwards and Couleé. 

For ’ZaBitch, the feedback sessions were a highlight.

“I would love to pursue this as an artist in the future, so getting validation from people that I really look up to like that was ‘chef’s kiss,’” she said. 

Couleé and Edwards finished a night full of standing ovations with a Q&A, where they dished about backstage drama on “Drag Race” and exploring their identities in college. They also discussed the support and confidence they’ve found since entering the drag world, both from their communities and within themselves. 

Growing up, Couleé often didn’t feel accepted at the Southern Baptist church where her mother preached, she said — until she returned on Mother’s Day after her season aired. 

“People (got) excited, like, ‘I watched you on “Drag Race” and I loved you,’” Coulèe said.  “The church family embraced me as a queer artist.” 

Coulèe and Edwards both said they are excited that drag has begun to reach younger viewers and creatives, especially as the art form became more mainstream in the last several decades.

To Edwards, “Drag Race” created a more accepting, celebratory media narrative.

“If you were a drag queen, you were suddenly cool, you were celebrated, you were not someone that was confused with your gender identity,” she said. “Visibility is important.”

A&O co-Director of Marketing and Media Ronit Kitei said the night was a first for A&O, as its Fall Speaker series usually takes on a Q&A format. This event was A&O’s first drag show. 

Transforming Lutkin Hall into dressing rooms posed interesting challenges, Kitei said, but she was excited Couleé and Edwards could hold an intimate performance in a smaller space. 

The Weinberg senior was also excited A&O could bring queer performers to campus, allowing many students to see their first drag show. 

“I think it’s really important for the student body to be able to see performers come to campus who represent them,” Kitei said. “Having that kind of connection to queerness and performers, even if you’re not a drag queen yourself, is really exciting.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @ilana_arougheti

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