Carolina Productions and USC’s IRIS (Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities) hosted the 25th annual Birdcage drag show in the Russell House Ballroom on Wednesday.
The event featured local drag queens and kings from around South Carolina as well as Luxx Noir London, a contestant from the show "RuPaul’s Drag Race."
Tristian Johnson, a second-year political science and women and gender studies student, said she was excited to attend the Birdcage show and felt the event created a safe space on campus.
"I think it's just great to have a space like this, especially in the South," Johnson said. "We have resources on campus, but it's nice to have events where we can just have fun."
Being able to bring this event to USC's campus means a lot to members of IRIS, according to third-year political science student and IRIS' development director Bernie McIlnay.
"This was started in the 90s, and I just think it is incredible that every year we're able to bring drag to USC because with recent legislation, clearly there is a very vocal portion of the population that thinks that it is some sort of deviance or bad or somehow a bad influence," McIInay said. "I just think it's beautiful that we can welcome the art of drag and help support it in any way we can."
McIlnay helped organized the event alongside Carolina Productions, who worked with a talent agency to bring Luxx Noir London to USC for the silver anniversary of Birdcage. To recruit the remaining kings and queens, IRIS utilized social media and previous connections made within the drag community to bring in local performers and create this year's Birdcage lineup.
While Luxx Noir London headlined the performance, 18 other local performers also joined the show. Medusa Chaos, Oliver Clothessoff, Anaya DeVore, Elena DeVour, Koko Dove, Houston Hangover, Don Javi, Gouda Judy, D’Wess Lefaris, Paris Lefaris, Marty McGuy, Fendi Moore, Kenya Pleaser, Dorae Saunders, Susu Serenity, Xa’Mona Tenáe, Vertigo and Ebony Would all had their turn in the limelight.
The event had students lined up throughout the Russell House lobby in anticipation, and second-year musical theatre student Josh Parga said it was a result of the excitement to see pride fully represented on USC's campus.
"It feels so amazing to be seen and heard and have events for us. There's a lot of frat events and frats rent out rentals and all that, but to finally have a big event for drag, for LGBTQ members here is just amazing and feels really like I'm meant to be here at USC," Parga said.
Eriyona Hill, a third-year public health student and marketing coordinator for Carolina Productions, helped bring the event to life by promoting the occasion on the Carolina Productions' social media accounts. Hill said that bringing students together is what events such as these look to achieve.
"It's so important because, in the campus, this is so big. So it can feel hard to find your niche and find people that like the same things as you," Hill said. "I feel like this was really important because it's brought out a whole community of people, and it brings us all together because it's something we all can enjoy."
The room was tied together with colored light-up glow sticks and the consistent bass of a Lady Gaga tune. Despite the fire alarm going off in the middle of the show, the performers never missed a beat, and the show went on.
"The fact that we're able to create that sense of community and showcase a bit of your culture to the wider Carolina community, absolutely vital. And just provide a night of fun because sometimes that's what you need," McIlnay said.
Editor's note: Bernie McIlnay is a member of Garnet Media Group.