Hope as High as Heels

UW–Milwaukee Drag Show performers

Photo by Stephanie Staudinger

Vivian Storm meticulously applies one set of fake eyelashes, and then the other. She slips into her blue sparkling dress, blonde wig, high heels, and she is ready for the night.

“The hardest part of dressing in drag is all this,” she says as she gestures from her head down to her feet. “It’s transforming your body into something you want.” She has just completed her transformation for UW-Milwaukee’s March 28 drag show.

Behind the curtain Storm stands at, the Union ballroom is filled to its 750-person capacity. Show-goers began lining up a little over two hours before it was set to begin, to ensure that they would get a spot. Last year, some of the crowd had to watch from a TV in a separate room, seeing as there was not enough room to accommodate all the support. Everyone made it in this year, some had to stand, but that didn’t stop the cheering and excitement that filled the room.

As Storm took the stage with her co-host, and fellow performer for the evening Montell Infiniti-Ross, the buzz of the crowd was at an all-time high. These two, as well as the rest of the performers had hopes as high as the heels worn that this excitement would transfer over into tips. Not tips for them to personally keep, like they do in a typical drag show. But, rather tips to donate to a good cause.

“I don’t know if you guys know how drag shows work, but the way we show gratitude is we tip. We give a dollar, we give two. We give 10, or we give 20. Whatever we’re feeling we tip,” Infiniti-Ross told the crowd. He took into account that they were performing on a college campus, “I know there are broke college kids, but give what you can.”

Project Q was on hand with bins, and buckets to collect the money for their organization which helps LGBTQ youth and allies. Project Q program manager Frankie Taylor stresses how important community involvement is, “It’s not just an LGBT youth event, but a community event. When you have the community involved as a whole it benefits everybody.”

The community did not disappoint. All of those in attendance helped to raise $1,250 dollars during this 13th annual show. Lady Gia, a local drag performer and crowd favorite at the UWM shows, contributed greatly to this cause through her jam packed and exciting routines. After she finished her 3rd performance to Applause by Lady Gaga the crowd went wild, and tossed handfuls of money at her.

“It really was the best Birthday present,” she said.

Storm also noted how remarkable the tips were, “The overwhelming response we got from the audience is just amazing, and we can’t wait to come back.” She said when asked about her and Montell Ross’ first time in a UWM show.

The performers were colorful, and diverse. Not everyone that took the stage was dressed as drag, just as not everyone in the crowd was either. There were groups of young and old, and male and female that performed. They were of all different races, from all different backgrounds, with different sexual orientations.

They danced, lip sang, did the splits, and back flipped into the hearts of the crowd. Every act was a surprise to the audience, and the crowd never knew what was going to happen next.

Jezebel LaVey is a UWM student graduating this May. He opened his act dressed in full witch costume, as he acted out a scene as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. He was one of the biggest surprises as his monologue from this popular Disney flick quickly turned into a colorful dance performance of La Bouche’s “Sweet Dreams.”

The crowd was just as diverse as the performers. ASL interpreters were at hand for those who could visually enjoy the evening, but weren’t able to hear. Pounce, the UWM mascot, even made an appearance. Everyone was welcome. The support for the show was encouraged on Twitter, underneath the hashtag UWM Drag Show. Throughout the night all of the tweets that were coming in were posted onto a live feed shown next to the stage.

As the night drew to a close, Infiniti-Ross ended by giving the crowd some powerful advice, “The way our society is today you can’t help but know someone that’s gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender. So, show your support, show your love, and show your care.”