Amid protests, drag show goes on

By Bianca Bruno
Leeza Earl

USD hosted its second annual drag show on April 25th despite the protesting voices of a prayer vigil and a petition that garnered over seven thousand signatures.

The event, titled “Supreme Drag Superstar,” was held in the Shiley Theatre on Thursday, April 25, moved from last year’s location at the UC forums to accommodate more attendees. Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, protesters held a prayer vigil at the Plaza Menor in front of the Student Life Pavilion. Some non-USD students and alumni also waved signs of protest at the main entrance to campus.
Manila Luzon, a participant on the reality show RuPaul Drag Race, hosted the drag show in celebration of gender expression for Life Week at USD. The event was sponsored by USD PRIDE, an on-campus organization that seeks to raise awareness of issues in the LGBTQ community.


A drag show is an event in which men dress up in clothing traditionally worn by women, and then play the role of women, and vice-versa.

Supreme Drag Superstar consisted of eight contestants who participated in a lip synching contest as well as a question and answer section. Contestants performed imitations that ranged from Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and many more.

PRIDE also included an educational component to the show. Philosophy professor Lori Watson gave a lecture of real life events in which gender expression and gender identity have caused harm to people over the years and how USD can make a difference.

Sophomore Christian Martin voiced his reaction to the lecture and the impact on the USD community.

“I believe the drag show will help the USD community by showing that we as young adults and as a Catholic institution are being more inclusive and diverse,” Martin said. “We see differences not as what separates us, but what makes us all valuable to society and I am glad USD is taking a leading role towards this distinction.”

There was a first, second and third place winner with prizes ranging from 50 to 200 dollars.

The winner of the contest was Niko Pascua, whose nickname was “Amber Alert,” and who dressed up as a mermaid and lip-synced to a song from the film The Little Mermaid.

Freshman Karissa White expressed her satisfaction with the show.

“The show was very entertaining as well as educational,” White said. “This gave me the opportunity to learn the correct language to use when referring to individuals of the LGBTQ community, something I would not get in a classroom here at USD.”

In addition to the lecture, a video of a transsexual female Janet Mock, titled “It Gets Better,” expresses her struggles growing up and how she overcame the obstacles of being a part of the LGBTQ community.


Despite the success of the show, many people in the USD and San Diego communities felt the show went against the values of a Catholic university.

Lining the streets of Linda Vista outside of the main entrance to campus, a group of over a dozen alumni and San Diegans protested the event.

Margie Trudell-Morrison, class of 1959, held a sign proclaiming “Drag show at USD/what would Pope Francis say?!”

Another sign read: “Shame on USD: The Drag Show Emcee is a practicing homosexual.”

In addition, a petition was circulated on the website “TFP Student Action,” a Roman Catholic organization promoting Catholic morals on college campuses. The petition was addressed to Msgr. Dan Dillabough, asking him to cancel the show. The petition garnered over seven thousand signatures by the time of the drag show. By Tuesday evening, it had over 8,000 signatures.

In an interview with NBC channel 7 news, student Gerry Urbanek said that the event was a “slap in the face to the Church.”

“There are a lot of Catholic students on campus who specifically came to this school with the intention of attending a Catholic university, so to a big extent, it feels like a betrayal almost,” said Urbanek.

As the drag show began, the protesters moved to the Plaza Menor in front of the SLP to host a prayer vigil. At the vigil, the participants prayed the four mysteries of the Rosary for over an hour.

Senior Kimi Lasalle, was a participant of the prayer vigil, and she brought a guitar to play songs of worship including “My Soul Rejoices” and “Christ Has Risen.”

Lasalle felt that a drag show was not the proper way to address the issue of homosexuality at a Catholic university.

”It’s not an appropriate way to address gender identity at all. It’s satirical…It’s making fun of it. And yes, it can be funny, but is it really getting down to the issue? No, it’s not.”

Despite this, “Sister Hecate,” a drag queen of the San Diego Sisters community service and outreach organization, takes a different stance on the entertainment value of the drag show.

“People that are protesting are making an assumption that men in drag are gay, which is not always true,” she said. “They see drag shows and they see ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, not keeping in mind the entertainment value of it. Tyler Perry built a whole career around drag with Madea.”

In addition, a group called Concerned Catholic USD Students released an open letter released on April 22, asking for USD President Mary Lyons to cancel the drag show. In the letter, students expressed concern for what they feel are contradictory messages the school is sending by hosting a drag show at a Roman Catholic Institution. The students said that the university is in violation of the mission statement and is promoting a contradictory ideology that is at odds with Catholic Social Teaching.

“The drag show undermines the dignity of the human person by advancing an ideology that is contrary to the natural law, and ultimately perpetuates the deep wounds of gender confusion rather than bringing true healing,” the letter reads.

Sophomore Ailsa Tirado, was identified as the contact person for the student group. Tirado said that a drag show is not the appropriate venue to address the topic of gender expression and homosexuality.
“As a school, I think that the conversation has to happen,” Tirado said. “I think that there should be debate around the topic, because so far [there hasn’t been debate]. So far, it’s been PRIDE organizing the drag show, but the Catholic perspective hasn’t been put forth. And that may be our fault as the Church not to bring it up and say “hey let’s have a debate with both sides and see what we can come up with.”

Nevertheless, Senior Sophia Antoinette believes that contrary to what protesters claim, the drag show is in line with USD’s Catholic Social Teaching.

“I think it’s a celebration of human dignity,” she said. “It’s a really good way for the USD community to celebrate the brothers and sisters of the LGBTQ community while affirming the Catholic Church’s greatest teaching: to love your neighbor.”

Despite the protests and controversy surrounding the event, PRIDE hopes to host the event again next year, making it an annual event.