On Saturday, Oct. 28, Williams College witnessed the most vibrant, glamorized aspect of gay culture: drag. This event was not your average drag show with some “old, tired queens” lip-syncing to Diana Ross and Cher, but rather the most entertaining drag king and drag queen that New York has to offer. I am talking about Dred and the drag cabaret lounge act, Kiki and Herb.
Before the actual performance, which took place in the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, Dred gave a Drag King workshop for interested female students at Williams. The workshop took place in the Goodrich Living Room, where Dred set up all of the things that she would need, including fake facial hair (chopped up hair weave pieces), wigs, glasses, ace bandages and jock straps. In order to introduce women to the drag king look and performance, Dred popped in a video of herself on the Maury Povich show, entitled “Drag Kings.” The women in Maury’s audience as well as the students who attended the workshop were amazed at how Dred could transform from a beautiful, black woman into a handsome black man that radiated “Mack Daddy appeal.”
At first the women were skeptical about Dred applying facial hair to them, but after some convincing, most of the participants in the room turned into pretty boys and rugged naughty boys. For my friends who came to the workshop, the facial hair was not enough. As two of the girls commented, “If we gonna do it, we might as well do it right.” After the workshop, they became Drag Kings for the evening. Along with the clothes and the facial hair, the students developed deeper voices and playa’ walks. In a way, they were “big pimpin’.” When she saw them, Dred commented, “These girls are a trip! They are so much fun to work with.”
In the evening, Dred prepared for her performance at Brooks-Rogers. Backstage, she wore her suede hat and black outfit getting mentally ready to take on her role as Busta Rhymes. Kiki and Herb, on the other hand, showered, shaved, and beautified themselves as Dred performed on stage. Dred came out as Busta Rhymes, then with flip of a hat and shades turned into Puff Daddy talking about those “benjamins” and afterwards went through a series of blaxploitation actors such as Shaft and Dolomite, finally converting into the Lady of Soul that sings to all of us, Aretha Franklin, with “Natural Woman.”
Following Dred’s performance, there was a brief intermission before Kiki and Herb came to the stage. When they did, the audience was blown away by the outrageously funny and creative duo. Kiki, an energetic, sultry diva, pretends to be the “washed up, dramatic lounge singer” who sings to the melodies of her pianist, Herb, whom she describes as a “passionate, homosexual Jew.” Kiki and Herb took their audience through a journey into their stage lives that they have created for their performance. Kiki, while being the “washed up, lounge singer” is also the “mother of two children, one who doesn’t speak to her and the other who is in a foster home.”
Herb’s life is equally as “tragic.” “Rescued from the torments of a halfway house and abuse by his peers,” Herb finds hope in Kiki who offers him salvation. Together, they brought down the house with songs by Mary J. Blige, Radiohead and Prince, and ended their performance with a song by the Snoop Dogg, “Throw yo’ hands in the air,” giving shout-outs to every gender and sexual orientation in the room. The crowd loved both performances and admired the work that went into bringing both acts to Williams. One student commented, “I can’t believe that something like this is at Williams.”
Both Dred and Kiki and Herb continue to make a space for transgender expression. Dred’s work brings an awareness of transgender “gender-blending” issues and serves to represent the people of color communities. It is events such as these that introduce people to transgender and LGBT people of color issues that need to be addressed on this campus. Look for more events such as these in the future, starting with a discussion, “Coming Out in Color,” this Wednesday in Goodrich Living Room at 7 p.m., part of the “Introduce race” project by the Gargoyle Society.