While most drag shows occur in more intimate settings like bars, drag king Landon Cider and student performers brought the glittering art form to Call Auditorium, with rounds of bingo in between.
For the second-annual Halloween drag bingo event, the Cornell University Program Board, the LGBT Resource Center and Cornell Ballroom and Drag welcomed Cider to host on Oct. 28.
Amongst many accomplishments, Cider was the winner of Boulet Brothers’ Dragula season 3. He also is an outspoken advocate for drag kings, hosting DragCon’s original King Panel and publicly condemning RuPaul of RuPaul’s Drag Race for labeling drag kings as less impactful than drag queens.
Drag is an art form in which performers play with gender expression, commonly through exaggerating signifiers of a different gender from which they typically identify. Drag kings and queens typically lip-sync and dance in extravagant costumes, makeup and hair.
In the 1920s, predominantly Black, queer communities would host drag balls in response to segregated bars. Performers at these events would compete in categories like “runway” based on how performers strut and pose and “fashion” based on the creativity of garments. In some cases, the practice of gender-bent fashion helped evade laws that banned same-sex individuals from dancing with each other.
Members of CBD found the event especially exciting because this fall is the organization’s first semester as a registered student group. CBD aims to foster queer community through hosting LGBTQ+ education and entertainment. On Nov. 18, the organization will host its first drag show in Appel Commons Multipurpose Room 303.
“CBD aims to teach its members about the history of drag and ballroom voguing and provide both space and resources to practice and later present what they learn over the semester in on-campus drag and ballroom shows,” said Jacob Duffles-Andrade ’24, president of CBD.
Duffles-Andrade also emphasized CBD’s mission to expand beyond the art forms of ballroom and drag.
“Our club’s main goal is to increase queer BIPOC visibility on Cornell’s campus and giving especially QTBIPOC [Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color] on campus a family of artists to join and express their queerness with,” Duffles-Andrade said.
Ryan Pirrung ’24, a CBD officer, said that providing drag outlets can help LGBTQ+ students feel comfortable and confident on campus.
“Many queer students we spoke with agree that Cornell University has relatively few queer spaces,” Pirrung said. “[Bringing drag performances to Cornell] creates more safe spaces for queer students on campus to be themselves, embrace their community and commemorate queerness.”
Like CBD, CUPB also aspires to provide platforms for queer celebration.
“Not only are the performances amazing and an exciting start to Halloween weekend but [drag bingo is] an opportunity for the LGBT+ community as well as allies to come together in an inclusive, fun environment,” said Melissa Reifman ’25, selections chair of CUPB.
The show alternated between performances from Cider and CBD student performers to rounds of bingo with prizes to be won, such as Cornell and Cider branded stickers, posters and clothing. In the case of a tie, audience members were called to the stage to compete in runway struts and hand-raising contests.
Many students named this event the first live drag performance they had attended and were impressed by the crowd’s energy and enthusiasm.
“It was a really fun time,” Ashley Qiu ’26 said. “It’s nice to see everyone being so open and happy to be there and support [each other].”
The show began and ended with performances from Landon, but student performers Fairy Queen, Will B. Cumming and Zorra also shined.
“I didn’t know drag could be such an elaborate exhibition,” said Putri Srijaya ’26. “It was very interesting for me to see how every step of the whole performance came together from the costume to the music to the props.”
Srijaya also said that she particularly connected with the performances as a representation of inclusivity within the Cornell experience.
“[As] an international student [and] a minority on campus, it’s really nice to see that Cornell embraces all the different cultures and traditions and all the different kinds of people who congregate in this one campus,” Srijaya said. “[It] makes me feel welcome on campus and as well as all the other people that felt represented during today’s show.”
Raymond Yuan Li ’24, vice president of CBD, commented on the event’s goal to inspire both queer students and allies to try drag for themselves.
“Drag is for anyone,” Li said. “So long as we respect its origins and allow people the opportunity to learn and grow, we believe that CBD has a chance at being something special that Cornell has never seen before.”
Among Cider’s performances, he asserted that drag performance is not merely a vibrant spectacle but also a platform for queer advocacy, community and joy.
“Please remember to love yourself and love everyone else more and to vote,” Cider said.