Slay: Return of the Simpson PRIDE drag show


Jenna Prather

Holly Wells (Garett Livingston) flaunting her skills to raise money for the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund.

by Jenna Prather, News Editor

For the first time post-COVID, Simpson College PRIDE held the return of their annual drag show on campus in Black Box Tuesday night.

They had three student performers, Holly Wells (Garrett Livingston), Dixon Cox (Bryson Pickens) and Avril Lapeen (Sam Van Rossum), as well as three professional performers, Romeo Sanchez, Komplete Moon and Atlas Midos, from The Garden, a nightclub/gay bar located in the East Village of Des Moines.

Van Rossum didn’t have any big reasons to be a part of the show, just that, “I’ve been there in the past and I’ve enjoyed it and I like performing.”

This was true for all the entertainers of the night who strutted their stuff and lip-synced along to hits like “No Way” from “Six: the musical”, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by Trace Adkins, “Finesse” by Bruno Mars and more.

The performers were also evaluated by five judges who gave each student performer a score from 1-10, but they also showed a little (a lot) of love for the professionals as well.

The judges were Assistant Professor of History Daryl Sasser, Professor of English CoryAnne Harrigan, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Keyah Levy, Lead Administrative Assistant of Student Development Adrian McNew and Loan Coordinator Allie Martinez.

Five of the six performers did so twice over the course of the night, so the student performers who went twice had their scores averaged to keep everything fair.

The event was held to raise money for the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund.

Attendees could hand the performers cash during their acts or use the Venmo code the group had displayed on the projector, all of the proceeds going to “provide financial assistance to Trans and Nonbinary individuals in the state of Iowa as they access gender-affirming care,” as stated by the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund website.

“Trans people are people. Trans people deserve rights. Trans people deserve healthcare.” Kalen Stefanick said at the end of the show. “Please donate.”

Attendees were also asked to put on a glow stick bracelet before entering Black Box to ensure that their level of comfort was met. Green meant that they wanted to be involved with any potential crowd involvement, purple meant the attendee potentially wanted to be involved but was unsure and orange meant that they did not want to be involved in any crowd involvement.

Pink was saved for someone helping run the show, who assured the audience they could change their minds about their level of consent at any moment and that they wanted everyone to feel comfortable as the show was going on.

“Drag performances can be very raw and real, sometimes,” Robbie Wagner, co-president of PRIDE, said a few days before the show. “We will have some safety tools set up so that everyone who comes can feel safe and can feel like they can participate without having to worry about risking their safety.”

Most people stuck with “no, thank you” or “iffy” when picking their glow sticks.

“I feel like a lot of people on this campus haven’t experienced a drag show,” Van Rossum said before the show. “From who I’ve talked to, it sounds like a lot of people were really interested.”

And this was true.

Komplete Moon took to the stage to talk to the crowd between performances and asked how many people were attending their first drag show; many hands went up. The same happened with the next question about how many people were straight and/or allies.

The drag queen commented on how amazing this was and how much energy there was in the room. Saying there was more crowd involvement and reaction there than any of the shows at The Garden.

By the night’s end, Holly Wells came out on top, scoring 10s and earning the crown for the 2023 drag show to much applause.

Though the preparation and production may have been different than years past, the reaction to the drag show proves that it is making a much-welcomed comeback and campus will be looking forward to the next one.

If you want to donate to the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund, you can do so at their website: