Despite last week’s flooding and its consequent curfew, USC’s annual amateur drag pageant, Mr. and Ms. Gaymecock, was a huge success. Organized by IRIS at USC, Gaymecock was hosted by established local drag queen Patti O’Furniture at PT’s 1109 in the Vista, and the bar was packed, with only a small area left for contestants to strut through the crowd.
When class was canceled for the week, there was some question on social media about whether Gaymecock was to go on. With Friday’s midnight curfew leaving plenty of time, IRIS decided to let the show go on, and to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the United Way of the Midlands to be used for flood relief.
“I just felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Devon Sherrell, president of IRIS. “Our community has given so much to IRIS ... we already had this fundraiser completely planned, [so] it just made sense to give part of the proceeds to flood relief.”
Even apart from the floods, this year’s pageant was unique in a number of ways. For one, there were more drag kings than drag queens. This might seem insignificant in a society beginning to recognize gender more as a spectrum than as a binary, but the art of performing as a drag king is relatively undefined, which presented some challenges and opportunities for Mr. Gaymecock contestants.
“You know, it’s not weird for us to be wearing pants, so we kind of have to do more than just put on some pants to show that we’re trying to present masculine,” Clarie Randall said, who was crowned this year’s Mr. Gaymecock. “It’s a lot different. And a lot of times people (sic) doesn’t even think drag kings exist ... It’s funny to people that guys would dress up like girls, but the other way around doesn’t bring as much attention, so I was really kind of glad we had a heavier emphasis on kings this year.”
Randall performed as Otto Phil Aishio, and won the pageant along with Ms. Gaymecock, Angie O’Plasty. The competition was full of other talented kings and queens, though. In fact, this year’s pageant saw the closest competition in years.
“Basically, [the judges] are looking for the total package,” Sherrell said. “So as long as they’ve got this fully developed character that they’re sticking to, they’re showing enthusiasm, they’re showing that they really put a lot of work into the competition, then they’re going to get scored really highly. And that’s why the competition was so stiff this year, because all of them did such a phenomenal job.”
Last year’s Ms. Gaymecock, Ebony Wood, or Caleb Coker, also put a lot of energy into the planning of this year’s pageant, serving as IRIS’ communications director. They said that this year’s contestants had more talent than they had ever seen, and while they enjoyed being Ms. Gaymecock, the title is surely still in good hands.
They also had some advice for aspiring drag artists.
“I would say, one, you can never have on too much makeup, and two, drag can really be what you want it to be, and it can function for you personally in many different ways,” they said. “So if someone doesn’t understand what you’re doing, that’s okay, and it’s okay to keep doing what you’re doing, even if people don’t understand it. And always try to entertain. Wherever you are.”