By Emma Friedlander
Queer People of Color (QPOC) held their biannual Drag Show last Saturday, Nov. 11, complete with gender subversion, talented performers and Pussycat Dolls songs. One of the most beloved Grinnell traditions, Drag Show features gender-subverting performances in front of students and staff, while raising money for charity. This year, proceeds will go to the Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund, an organization that provides aid directly to Puerto Rico rather than to nonprofit bureaucracies.
“Because Hurricane Maria was so fresh at the beginning of the semester, it was something that was on a few of the [QPOC] members’ minds,” said QPOC group leader James Caruso ’18, who on Drag Show night is known as Kristal Meth. “We raised $425 and 25 cents — and 50 Indian rupees, which I think is hilarious and amazing.”
Caruso has been performing in Drag Show since his first semester first year, and was the integral organizer of this year’s event. Through his extensive Drag Show experience, he has witnessed many changes, including the coming and going of strong drag personalities and the varying of individual versus group performances. Saturday’s show was notable for its heavy focus on individual drag queen acts over group performances.
“In the past, especially in recent history, people remember a lot of sports teams doing Drag Show. As people have graduated, that trend has decreased because influential queer people of color who were on sports teams are no longer here,” Caruso explained. “But I think that there’s a real art and level of confidence that it takes to be an individual performer at Drag Show, and to be on the stage and command all of the attention for yourself. … It’s nice to see that more traditional forms of drag are coming up here in Grinnell, which I think was missing in a lot of past years.”
When asked if there were any queens that impressed Caruso in particular, he raved over the series of first and second-year drag performers who stole the show: Errol Blackstone ’20 as the glamorous Heaven Ne’Vaeh, Alec Elston ’20 as the hilarious Ophelia Bedelia and the bubbly April Showers from the class of ’21.
“As a senior, I’ll be leaving next semester,” Caruso said. “It’s so nice to see young, talented people on stage.”
Of course, Kristal Meth remains a staple of Grinnell Drag Show. She kicked off the show and made an encore performance in the second half, all to the applause and screams of an approving audience.
“Kristal Meth is me on crystal meth,” Caruso laughed. “Exaggerated, extra, loud but then also super sexy and super girly and fun. It’s all about the fantasy. I think Kristal Meth for me is definitely the fantasy of what I would want to be if I were a woman.”
Caruso’s love for drag is largely connected to his D.C. Posse community, which created a long line of drag queens at Grinnell.
“I have my drag mother who’s D.C. Posse 6, and then his drag mother who’s D.C. Posse 5. It’s a big family of people from Posse,” Caruso, who is from D.C. Posse 10, said. “I want that legacy to continue for as long as possible, even though Posse’s ending as well.”
When asked if he would continue to perform after graduation, Caruso had a quick response.
“l’d love to if I’m paid,” he laughed. “This is for charity. Outside in the real world, my time is worth money.”