Courtesy of @ucsbamplify on Instagram

Cheers and excitement filled UC Santa Barbara’s Studio Theater on Feb. 10, during the university’s Amplify Initiative — a performing arts initiative whose mission is to amplify the voices of underrepresented and marginalized communities — Drag Festival. Hosted by Aivarey Sala and Jake Marshall, the two stated they got the idea of creating this drag show after watching American TV series “Big Brother ” over the summer. 

Walking into the Studio Theater, audience members were greeted by the shirtless pit crew, Travers Tobis and Rodolphe Le Feuvre, who grinned with only pants and blue neckties for clothes. The crowd was filled with UCSB students and faculty members who buzzed with anticipation while classic vogue and disco music filled the atmosphere. 

Before the show began, our hosts welcomed us with an opening speech in which Sala asked the audience to help them sing her mom happy birthday. Sala’s mom, a former performer, started a tradition of sending her daughter a video of the crowds from her performances singing happy birthday due to not being able to spend Sala’s special day in person. Now carrying on the tradition, the crowd joined Sala and Marshall in chorus.

After the heartfelt moment, the drag festival began. The show was stacked with energetic drag queens and kings, some of whom were performing drag for the very first time. Bridonna Monroe — Albert Amador, Jr.’s drag star alter ego — opened the show with a thrilling performance to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U”. Dressed in a black corset and matching poofy skirt, Monroe crawled atop a trail of boxes and lip synced with passion. As a homage to Spears’ MTV Video Music Awards performance (2001), Monroe danced up and down the stairs towards the crowd with a fake yellow python. The crowd shrieked as Monroe passionately kissed the yellow python’s hissing tongue!

Sala kept the energy roaring as she introduced the next drag queen, Iranna Red, performed by Phoebe Alva. Iranna Red cuddled up with a cute teddy bear — dressed in a spicy red dress, corset and hot ginger wig, while lip syncing to “What You Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani. The crowd screamed with amazement as she revealed a matching bright red mini skirt and top enthralled with Red’s sickening facial expressions. As she tenderly held the little teddy bear — all while lip syncing to lines from the 1997 cult classic “I Know What You Did Last Summer” — Red tore its head to reveal a bloody knife hidden within its cotton body. An audience member couldn’t contain their excitement and started throwing hand-drawn dollar bills, a drag show custom of tipping your performers, at Red who touched up her makeup with the bloody stains. 

Continuing the fiery red theme, Zander Peterson — now known as Coconut Cypress — dazzled the stage with his sultry matching red gloves and rhythmic dance moves to Harry Belafonte’s “Coconut Woman”. As Cypress pranced across the stage, the crowd cheered and laughed as his coconut bra peaked out of his slipping red bodycon dress. One thing is for certain, Coconut Cypress knows how to werk those coconuts into our hearts. 

Marshall had the honor of introducing his co-host — now known as Mimi Eepy — who intensely lip synched to The Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up”. Eepy skipped around the stage in her black mini skirt and white button up, leading the crowd to clap to the beat of the music. In true dominatrix fashion, she motioned the pit crew to crawl like dogs who then stripped her down to a black swimsuit. The crowd screamed and were left stunned by Eepy’s show-stopping performance.

As a special treat, the audience was presented to the only drag king of the night, Axel Fractal — performed by Brianna Mungo — who came out dressed in iconic punk rock black skinny jeans, blazer and platform Dr. Martens. Lip syncing to “Mama” by My Chemical Romance, Fractal head-banged her gravity defying hair and thrusted her emotions across the stage. Climbing atop the table before her, Fractal toasted her drink to the audience before dramatically pouring it all over her face. It’s safe to say, the crowd was left gushing all over Mister Fractal. 

Following Fractal’s performance, Sala introduced their co-host as “The big gulp you get behind the Seven Eleven”: Cherry Von Illa. Dressed head to toe in ’90s rock star leather, Von Illa seductively performed to Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet.” Von Illa lured the crowd with their sultry dance moves and teasing burlesque strip show of their heels and leather mini skirt. These drag queens may have been snatching their clothing off, but the audience had their hearts snatched by their talent. 

The final drag queen, Harlot Punani — Jonah Spitler’s alter drag name — ended the night with a gag-worthy performance to “Gimme More” by Britney Spears. Punani strutted the stage with money tucked into their sheer tights and instantly caught the audience’s attention with their hairography. The crowd was booming and got even louder as Punani began to unclip their corset to unveil a revealing black dress all while money was dazzling off their body. Punani sashayed up the stairs and twerked their magic onto the audience. Even though Punani lip synched the audience to give more, Punani kept elevating their performance and brought out Fractal for a seductive lap dance that left the audience entranced by Punani’s luscious hair and mesmerizing dance moves. 

The crowd stood from their seats and roared as the cast members lined up one last time to bow. When reminiscing at the end of the show, fourth year art major Moxi Evans explained that “[she and her friends] live with two of the people who performed and all of [them] were gobsmacked.” When asked about her final thoughts, recent UCSB graduate Kiana Ranjbaran wanted to encourage others that, “if you haven’t been to a drag show before and if you don’t really get it or you don’t really feel like you’re interested in something like that, you should go to a drag show. Everybody should go to a drag show, it is so liberating and so fun and you can see so many different type of people being beautiful and being themselves and showing off and it’s really excellent.” 

The cast of the drag show ended the night by quoting RuPaul, the queen of drag’s,  famous line: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?!”