The drag queens and kings of Emerson lip-synced and danced their way to the crown at the 21st annual Haus of Emerson Ball on Oct. 27 in front of drag queen superstar Jujubee, a contestant on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Haus of Emerson began in 1998 to bring awareness of drag culture to Emerson. Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression President Christopher Henderson-West renamed the event Haus of Emerson Ball, previously known as Drag-tober Fest, to highlight New York’s LGBTQ+ ballroom culture.
Henderson-West and Vice President Rachel Gaudet started planning this year’s event in April. Around 100 people attended the ball to cheer on all eight contestants.
“I have waited two years to do this, and it finally happened, and it could not have gone any better,” Henderson-West said.
EAGLE wanted a professional drag star to host the event. Henderson-West said they chose Jujubee because she inspired the contestants who all watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. Henderson-West and Gaudet sent an email to Jujubee’s agency who told them she could host the event for a fee. They followed up once a month with Jujubee to provide updates or confirm schedules. Earlier this month, EAGLE appealed to SGA for $4,992, which helped fund this and 22 other events planned for Queer History Month.
“It was a long, yet satisfying process,” Gaudet said. “We had to make sure everyone was comfortable and that we were not diluting the drag culture. Seeing the reactions of the audience and the reaction of the kings and queens after the show is all I ever needed to feel satisfied.”
Junior marketing communication major Joey Sweeney took home the crown this year as Alexa Pro. Sweeney said the antidepressant Lexapro inspired his stage name in hopes to make the audience happy like the drug does.
Sweeney drew praise from the crowd as he lip-synced and danced to “Freakum Dress” by Beyoncé. Sweeney said he enjoyed Jujubee as a host because of her humor and infectious energy.
“After the show, Jujubee told me that I looked like Regina George and [that] I would have sex with everyone’s boyfriends,” Sweeney said.
Junior Sarah Anderson-Krim performed as drag king Phil Atio. She said she wanted to embody a sexy, masculine character since she usually dresses feminine.
“Phil Atio is very exuberant and loves to have a good time—especially on the dance floor,” Anderson-Krim said.
Anderson-Krim performed at Drag-tober Fest last year and wanted to step up her game this year. Even though she did not take home the crown, she said she had fun throughout the show and enjoyed seeing the crowd’s participation.
“I am going to enjoy my time here tonight with all the fabulous royalty,” Anderson-Krim said.
Freshman Skylar Zhao thought Phil Atio’s lip sync to “Animals” by Maroon 5 prevailed as the best of the night.
“It was crazy, I have never seen a performance like this before,” Zhao said. “I thought she did a really great job with facial expressions and trying to communicate with the audience.”
Sweeney said the win, while shocking, sparked a new interest to continue drag.
“My spirit was on a high. I was completely overjoyed, and it felt too good to be true,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said he hopes to participate in Haus of Emerson Ball next year but not as a competitor. He said he would love to make the event bigger and better.
“I would add workshops where contestants can learn how to style wigs, learn how to do makeup, and learn basic dance moves,” Sweeney said.