Emcee Karma Kills hosted Dragaganza this year. Over 200 students attended the event and showed their support for UNI Pride.
Emcee Karma Kills hosted Dragaganza this year. Over 200 students attended the event and showed their support for UNI Pride.

Welcome to the stage, Dragaganza!

“Oh my god, I’m the main character.”

That’s the feeling UNI student and drag performer Kai Smith got when the lights hit the stage and music kicked in for their performance at Dragaganza last Saturday.

A collaboration between UNI Proud, CAB and Serv’d Events, the annual Dragaganza drag show brought over 220 attendees to the Maucker Union Ballrooms. 

“Everybody is just adoring and just loving,” Smith said. “Words can’t describe it. It’s fantastic.”

A key feature of Dragaganza is that anyone can sign up to perform. UNI Proud president Jazz said that the show often acts as people’s first experiences performing drag, and can open doors for future opportunities. 

“It is your foot in the door into drag because a lot of people don’t know where to start, or they just want to get up and show a little dance they know or plan a number and get into costume,” they said.

Jazz also performed two numbers that night, and they described that feeling of performing in front of a crowd.

Express yourself. Be queer, be loud and show your body. Show who you love and don’t be afraid.

— Jazz, UNI Proud president

“It’s like a hug from a family member you haven’t seen in a while that cares,” they said. “People are cheering, they’re giving money, or you have moments where someone just like panickedly hands you like all their wallet. Someone recognizes the so

ng and it’s like their face lights up. Even if you can’t give money to (us) your giving your energy to us and it feels really good.”

A Dragaganza group performed Barbie’s “I’m Just Ken.” The event ended up raising $2,000 in total for the Cedar Valley LGBTQ+ Coalition. (COURTESY/ELLIOT TENSEN)

Eleven student performers participated along with one UNI professor and three contracted performers from Serv’d Events. 

Performances ranged from choreographed group routines to “I’m Just Ken” from the Barbie movie to a dramatic interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Like a traditional drag show, audience members were encouraged to tip performers with cash or through the online service Givebutter. The proceeds from Dragaganza will go to the Cedar Valley LGBTQ+ Coalition, which aims to create affirming and supportive spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. By the end of the night, the event raised over $2,000.

“I was thinking during the first song that, looking around at this crowd, I saw how much of an impact we actually have as an organization,” UNI Proud Treasurer Gabby DePrizio said. “It’s really easy to get lost in what we actually do for students, but it made me tear up a little bit. I’m just really proud of the work that everybody’s done.”

However, Dragaganza this year was unique for another reason. It was the first show since the passing of 2021 UNI graduate Noah Guy, who performed in Dragaganza during his time as a student and in 2022 and 2023 as an alumni.

The 2024 show concluded with a special number in honor of Noah. Any performers were invited to the stage to perform “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.”

“It’s definitely an amazing way to honor somebody who had such a big impact, and it’ll never be the same without him,” the UNI Proud director of public relations, Allie Clark, said.

UNI students who enjoyed the show are encouraged to attend UNI Proud meetings and events.

Jazz added, “Noah would be proud and happy. He played a huge role as an alumni and he came back every year to perform with us. Drag was his way to show that no matter who you are, you’re loved. Express yourself. Be queer, be loud and show your body. Show who you love and don’t be afraid. I wish he was here with us doing that number as a group.”

Despite the current nationwide conversations about the art of drag, Jazz affirmed that the people who bring it to life aren’t going anywhere.

“This is a really important time for shows like this, especially with drag bans around the country,” they said. “UNI is really being watched with our diversity programs. As a student org, we’re not as affected but we’re still being looked at and I think it’s important to show that we’re not going anywhere. You could try, but we’re still here. We’re still going to perform.”

Smith added, “Don’t be scared to help and support and just show up.”

The exec team encouraged anyone to come to UNI Proud meetings and events. More information can be found on Instagram at northerniowaproud.

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