The Shalala Ballrooms filled with electricity as UM students competed for the coveted title of king and queen of the night, with a little help and support from some Miami drag veterans. On Thursday, Feb. 27, SpectrUM– the University of Miami’s largest LGBTQ+ organization– hosted its equally as fabulous and powerful DragOut show for the seventh year in a row.
This is a coveted event for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, aiming to provide a safe space for individuals of any gender identity or expression to openly perform and raise money for deserving charities in the area. This year’s charity, the YES Institute, works to combat the mental health and suicide crisis occurring within the LGBTQ+ community of South Florida.
Professional performers included UM alum and stunning Miami-native Miss Toto, newcomer and the queen of serving face and body Aurora Whorealis and acclaimed king Spikey Van Dykey. Returning emcee Tiffany Fantasia also took to the stage to show off her talents for both humor and drag performance, complete with what seemed like endless costume changes.
Show-stopping student performers came from various ages and areas of study within the university, providing a night that never had a dull moment.
Emcee Tiffany Fantasia lit the first spark of the night, emerging in a dazzling gown and performing the always crowd-pleasing Beyoncé. Following her set, she introduced the judges and expressed her excitement about returning as emcee once again.
“It is so good to see all you homosexuals and what not,” she screamed into the mic. “This is one of my favorite events and we are going to get down with it.”
As performances began, collection buckets were distributed and donations started flowing, all proceeds going directly to the YES Institute. This is SpectrUM’s largest fundraising event of the year, the dozens of performances and packed ballroom proving why.
From the first moments when artists such as Hannah Montana, Lizzo, Dua Lipa and Britney Spears blared through the speakers to the final “Bring It On” inspired set, the energy was undeniable. Crowds continuously erupted into cheer for every student or professional on stage, their voices going raspy from shouting and singing along.
Through undeniable charisma, Fantasia explained what she considers to be so special about drag performance.
“You’ll be emotionally transformed. This is drag honey. It’s part of the experience. You love the performers and they’ll love you. It’s not hard to comprehend. Drag comes in all shapes and forms. Wigs, weaves, bald, natural beauty.”
King Spikey Van Dykey also took to the mic, mentioning how important it is that the community continue to take time to give back and praising the positive experience that UM has given him.
“Thank you guys so much for coming out,” he exclaimed. “This is my third year in a row being here and it keeps getting better every time. And give back please, it can be monumental!”
Fantasia echoed Van Dykey’s sentiment, having much to say about the importance of giving back to the South Florida community that helped raise her.
“No matter what walk of life you come from, do something for the community. Whether it is supporting the event tonight or you have a connection to HIV/AIDS or suicide, give back. A little goes a long way. Whatever issue is close to your heart, give back to this community that needs it dearly.”
Performers each had their chance to discuss topics near and dear to them, some of the most intense being immigration, lack of representation, toxic masculinity, sexual assault, harassment and struggling with a sense of pride.
As always, one of most highly-anticipated moments of the night was seeing well-deserving kings and queens grab their crowns through an overflow of emotion. The show’s winning performers were the prideful Latina queen Rosa, conveniently sharing a name with the TikTok star used in the performance, and king Jack Frost, who stunned the crowd with his confidence and sexiness.
Student performer Raunché, known on campus as Brandon Martin, opened up about how liberating taking part in DragOut was.
“My favorite part of being on stage at Drag Out was having all of my friends and colleagues watch me perform because, although I wasn’t nervous, you know sometimes nerves can arise,” Martin said. “After seeing everyone cheering me on, I was very happy to be on stage participating. Also, it took me out of my comfort zone. I was able to showcase my routine and all of Miss Doja Cat’s bangers!”
Martin also opened up about what drag performance and DragOut as a whole means for the community and what it felt like for UM to be so open in hosting this event.
“It means a community is coming together to support marginalized individuals. Everyone coming out and supporting it just shows how much diversity and support we have on our campus that you probably won’t find on other campuses in other parts of the United States. UM is pretty great, and the people here are pretty awesome to be actively participating in a drag show and actually knowing what’s going on.”
UM students, alum and faculty in attendance were blown away by the talent present on campus and in the community. UM first-year law student Dre Joseph spoke about the rush of acceptance that DragOut gave him and campus as a whole.
“I was shocked yet so happy about how open and inclusive the event was with the full support of the school,” he explained. “One of my favorite performers was definitely Aurora Whorealis. Something about her energy was so great. Also, Raunché, the queen with the super fun Doja Cat performance. She was really good for a novice, and just a great performer in general.”
From the many gorgeous outfits to the uplifting energy of the crowd, DragOut was a night full of excitement and surprises. Attendees and performers alike left the Shalala Center feeling body-confident and empowered and with a full camera roll of videos to remember the celebratory night.