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The University of Nevada, Reno once again became the epicenter of creativity, inclusivity and vibrant celebration with its annual drag show, an event that has become a hallmark of the University’s commitment to showcasing the diversity and talent within the LGBTQ+ community. This year’s show, held on a crisp evening that buzzed with anticipation, promised an unforgettable night of performances. It delivered spectacularly, exceeding all expectations.

The evening’s festivities commenced with a performance that set a high bar for the night. Nina West — a towering figure in the drag community known for her advocacy, humor and heart  — graced the stage with an opening number that was nothing short of magical. Her medley of Disney songs, replete with elaborate costumes, “Ruveals” and theatrical flair, transported the audience to a world where dreams come to life, setting the tone for an evening that celebrated the art of transformation and self-expression.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush
Nina West at the UNR 2024 Drag Show

The musical selections for the evening, curated and spun by DJ Aden Oster, general manager of Wolf Pack Radio, were a critical ingredient in the night’s success. Oster’s expertise in reading the room and selecting tracks that matched the energy and mood of the performances was evident. From pulsating beats to soulful melodies, the music kept the audience engaged and the performers electrified, creating a seamless flow that carried the event from start to finish.

The task of judging the night’s array of talent fell to Patrick Alejaga, Senior Budget Analyst in the financial aid office, Jimmy Roque Instructional Designer at the office of digital learning and Geoffrey Green, Manager at the office of financial aid and scholarship office. Each brought a unique perspective to the panel, with backgrounds spanning the arts, performance and the drag community itself. Their criteria for success were creativity and entertainment, challenging the contestants to not only showcase their drag personas but also to connect with and captivate the audience.

The heart of the event was, of course, the contestants who brought a distinct style and narrative to the stage:

Ari combined her years of experience in drag with her professional skills as a costume designer and healthcare worker, delivering a gymnastically charged performance to Madison Beer’s “BoyShit” that left the audience in awe of her agility and artistry.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Kami Kaliente, a Reno native, demonstrated the power of musicality and stage presence with a performance to Ariana Grande’s “yes and?” that was both enchanting and commanding, emphasizing the art of performance over sheer spectacle.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Deevina La Doll embarked on a musical odyssey, her performance a dynamic journey through a medley of songs that showcased her ability to adapt, engage and excite. Her energy never waned and her spirit was infectious.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Maria Twampson captured the crowd’s heart and imagination, her name a prelude to the charisma and allure she brought to her performance. Her chair dance in a sequin bodysuit was both a nod to classic burlesque and a testament to her prowess as a performer.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Avon Amor traced her evolution from a bedroom queen in Texas to a seasoned performer in Reno, blending the soulful strains of Tina Turner with acrobatic prowess. Her transition from “What’s Love Got to Do with It” to “Proud Mary” a metaphor for her own journey of self-discovery and expression.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Aphrodite’s Pearls offered a performance that was both a visual feast and a tribute to the art of drag. Her feathered outfit and fan work was an homage to the genre’s burlesque roots, while her music choices reflected a modern sensibility.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Nina West’s ability to engage the audience, transforming spectators into participants, was a highlight of the evening. Her selection of “leaders” for different sections of the audience created a sense of community and involvement that elevated the event from a series of performances to a collective experience of joy and celebration.

The culmination of the event, the announcement of Maria Twampson as the winner, was a moment of triumph not only for Twampson but for all those involved in the night’s success. Her victory was a testament to her talent, creativity and connection with the audience, embodying the spirit of drag as an art form that challenges, entertains and inspires.

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

As the curtain fell on the university’s annual drag show, the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie was palpable. This event was more than a competition; it was a vibrant celebration of identity, artistry and community. It showcased the transformative power of drag, not just for those on stage but for everyone who participated, reminding us that at its core, drag is about challenging norms, embracing diversity and celebrating the freedom to be oneself.

Looking forward, the anticipation for next year’s show is already building, with the promise of new talent, more extravagant performances and the continued celebration of the LGBTQ+ community’s vibrant culture. The UNR annual drag show stands as a beacon of inclusivity and creativity, a reminder of the power of art to bring people together and a vibrant highlight of the university’s cultural calendar.

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