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The Battalion

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Shining through: Jessy B Darling crowned as 2022 Queen of Draggieland

Jessy+B.+Darling+is+crowned+Queen+of+Draggieland+2022+in+Rudder+Theatre+on+Monday%2C+April+18%2C+2022.
Photo by Robert O’Brien

Jessy B. Darling is crowned Queen of Draggieland 2022 in Rudder Theatre on Monday, April 18, 2022.

After the trials and tribulations from losing university backing, Draggieland 2022 came back brighter than ever on Monday, April 18, living up to this year’s theme “Shine Through.” Featuring six queens, this event was adopted successfully by a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations including TRANSCEND, Out in STEM, known as oSTEM, LGTBQ Aggies and Makeup Artist Aggies, or MUA Aggies, and sold out Rudder Theatre.  

The third-annual drag competition was previously hosted by Memorial Student Center Town Hall, but following unclear circumstances, the university did not provide backing for the previously successful shows. 

Despite these challenges, queer organizations rallied to organize and host the popular event, finding sponsorships and selling out all the seats by performance time. Visualization junior Frey Miller, the advocacy chair for Draggieland, said the relationship between drag culture and the transgender community made this event all the more special.

“Draggieland is such a representation of how closely intertwined drag culture and the trans[gender] community are,” Miller said. “They are a perfect, beautiful, divine tapestry and with that representation comes beauty that this campus community needs, especially with all the anti-trans legislation happening today.”

Emceeing the festivities were local talents Nirvana Piranha and Petty, opening the show with an electric performance of Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me.” 

“We know that Draggieland is not just a drag contest, it’s very political this year,” Piranha said. “There’s people who didn’t want it to happen, so it means a little bit more this year, I feel. ‘Shine Through’ really is that attitude, a lot of people didn’t want this to happen, but here we are sold out.”

Of those who auditioned for the competition, the top six were selected to perform in front of the student audience, with styles ranging from the sultry and seductive to ridiculous and campy. Following each performance, queens were asked about their inspiration, motivations and passion for the art of drag. 

After her sensual and engaging performance to “Is It A Crime” by Sade, Lily Adonis Fables said drag is more than just artistic expression.

“Drag, to me, is the expression of gender and art. It’s a big, powerful statement,” Fables said. “Anytime anyone is in drag, they’re making a political statement, whether they know it or not. Drag is a powerful tool that allows us to say that we are here and we are queer.”

Bringing a lively medley of ‘70s pop, Infinity Lavey Adonis was second on stage, and what started as a full-length chartreuse gown was quickly transformed into a sparkly blue bodysuit. Contrasting the first performance, Adonis brought death drops and tumbling to campus, raising crowd energy, and said having big dreams is what her drag is all about. 

“My drag embodies everyone who told me this wasn’t a good idea, or that my dreams were too big,” Adonis said.

Following up was a medley from Sabrina LaVey, who combined the sensuality and high energy across songs, using every inch of the stage. When asked where her inspiration came from, LaVey said, despite her joyful performances, the ideas came from the hard times in her life.

“My drag inspiration comes from years of being alone and feeling like I had nobody,” LaVey said. “When I came down here and I saw drag shows, and I saw all these amazing queens up there, proud of who they are, feeling no judgment and not caring, I said to myself, ‘I want to be that person.’ I want y’all to feel safe, to feel happiness, to feel like somebody cares about you.”

The fourth competitor was College Station native Alaina, who showed her shine through a neon green ensemble, complete with a wig that shone rainbow under the blacklights of the stage. With her Dua Lipa mashup, Alaina brought artistry, but also her entire family, to campus. Alaina said she’s seen College Station undergo many changes, but she never expected events like Draggieland to happen.

“I am your hometown queen, born and raised in this lovely town,” Alaina said. “When I started my drag career, I was in my darkest place, in Dallas, alone, looking at skyscrapers, contemplating what I wanted to do with myself. … Drag, to me, is self-expression, it is love. I can’t see nobody’s face right now, in the dark, but because of what I do, and when I step into these heels, I shine bright.”

Shelby Fine, the Bryan-College Station area’s only bearded queen, may be new to the stage, but has been behind the scenes of the drag world for years. Now, in the spotlight, she is able to share her craft, from sharply painted eyelids to splits done with ease in front of audiences. Fine said by being a queen, she is able to connect with others in a way she hadn’t experienced before.

“I started out as a drag husband, helping out backstage, then a Halloween queen, and now I’m on the biggest stage in town,” Fine said. “[Drag is an opportunity] to show the world my art, to express myself and be the queer hero five-year-old little me needed.” 

Wrapping up the evening performances was Jessy B Darling, a senior at Texas A&M. Darling has performed all three years of Draggieland, with a memorable Lighting McQueen tribute in 2021. Drag shows are never quite the same, but with her head painted blue, a giant black cape and huge platform boots, Darling’s out-of-the-box style set her apart from the pack. Darling said her identity as an assigned female at birth, or AFAB, queen, on top of the difficult circumstances she’s faced, made this night especially meaningful.

“This semester is one of the hardest semesters I’ve had in the past four years, a lot of personal issues, mental health issues — this was the one thing I could work on that made me happy,” Darling said. “Performing for you guys for the third year in a row means the absolute world to me. If you’re a guy or a girl or anything in between, you can do drag.” 

The two finalists for the evening, selected by the judges, were Jessy B Darling and Alaina, and following a lip sync battle to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” audience members voted who would be named the 2022 Queen of Draggieland.

The title, Queen of Draggieland, was previously held by Cora Cadette in 2021, and was first held by Paris Amour in 2020. Cadette served as a judge for the 2022 contest, and gave her farewell performance as queen with a medley of Whitney Houston favorites.

Following her performance, Jessy B Darling was crowned the 2022 Queen of Draggieland. Though she has made a name for herself within the College Station and Houston drag scenes, Darling said it’s made her senior year even better.

“Thank you so much, this means the world,” Darling said in her acceptance. “This is the first thing I’ve ever won. Thank you for making my senior year incredible. If you want to be up here next year, do it. Who’s stopping you?”

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