At Corn-L.O.L, a Y2K-themed drag show featuring student performers hosted by Cornell Ballroom and Drag, audience members cheered, danced and tipped throughout performances. The Nov. 18 event was held in the Appel Commons Multipurpose Room, which was decorated with neon lights, balloons and pride flags.
CBD, the nickname for Cornell Ballroom and Drag, is a student organization established this fall that works to bring queer empowerment to campus through drag and ballroom performances.
Drag performers typically play with gender expression by emphasizing signifiers from a different gender to their everyday identity. In drag performances like those at CBD’s shows, performers generally lip-sync and dance while interacting with audience members who tip them in appreciation.
Throughout the semester, CBD introduced many students to drag performance for the first time.
“As someone who has only been doing drag for about a year, I can easily remember being in the same positions as the newcomers in our club and it’s so rewarding to be able to give these budding performers the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year,” said CBD Vice President Ry Pirrung ’24.
To prepare student performers for their drag debuts, CBD educated members on all aspects of this art form.
“Throughout the semester, we’ve hosted workshops that expose individual performers to elements of drag, such as make-up, choreography, costuming and styling, drag history and lip-syncing,” said CBD co-founder and President Jacob Duffles-Andrade ’24. “It is certainly rewarding to witness the workshops culminating in a full-blown drag show.”
Student performers felt liberated in a space that celebrates unconventional gender expression.
“In my experience, drag isn’t about being acceptable, it is about being accepted,” said CBD member Lain Nelson ’26, who performs as Owen Down. “Performing feels like being exactly where I want to be.”
Duffles-Andrade, who performs as Zorra, said that drag allows performers to become a more empowered version of themselves.
“Everyone has an inner drag-persona, and as you paint your face and start to perform, a newfound confidence and person appears and steals the show,” Duffles-Andrade said.
Likewise, Pirrung, who performs as Fairy Queen, said that the most rewarding part of drag is bringing joy to the audience.
“Nothing beats the moment when you’re on stage and you’re feeling the fantasy and you look into the crowd and so many people are just smiling back at you,” Pirrung said.
Duffles-Andrade additionally views drag as a political statement.
“[Drag] goes against society’s status quo by contributing newfound art that is both positive and queer-centered,” Duffles-Andrade said.
To Raymond Yuan Li ‘24, CBD co-founder, it was rewarding to see the drag show come to fruition.
“From brainstorming a raw sketch of what the show is, to working closely with Cornell faculty and staff in planning and to finally actualizing the show into reality with a 150-person turnout, I am extremely proud that I was able to create a space that is safe for queer and BIPOC individuals,” Yuan Li said.
In addition to it being several performers’ drag debut, many audience members were also introduced to the craft.
“It is a different experience performing in front of students than in front of other crowds,” Pirrung said. “Because these events are age-inclusive, a lot of times there’s a decent amount of people in the crowd at a student show who have never seen a brag show before, and it’s so nice just to be their introduction to the world of drag.”
Altogether, CBD allows students to powerfully break boundaries.
“As a queer person, the expression of my sexuality and gender has been so policed throughout my life, and in Drag, I can kinda say F— you to all those rules and just do whatever makes me happy in the most glamorous, dramatic, and goofy way as possible,” Pirrung said.