Opulence, Paris

Paris performs during an Opulence show on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

With upbeat pop music blasting and disco lights flashing, students took their seats to see Penn State Opulence’s first in-person drag show since February 2020 — an event filled with kicks, splits and dips.

Amara Eke, the president of Opulence, said this in-person show in Alumni Hall at the HUB-Robeson Center was a way to expose more people to drag and build a sense of community.

“It's very important that we're here so we can show people this is so much fun,” Eke (senior-fine arts) said. “It's drag, and it’s fun, and it's gender bending — it's the best.

Acknowledging that some of the audience may not have been to a drag show before, one of the drag queens, Paris, said the show would “pop your drag cherry.”

To kick off the night, Helen Waite danced and lip-synched to “Fergalicious.” She returned after intermission in a bright orange wig to showcase her splits and dips.

Opulence, Helen Waite

Helen Waite performs during an Opulence show on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

Crawling on the stage and giving into the music, Helen Waite had the auditorium chanting, "work this p----.”

As one of the drag performers and co-hosts, Helen Waite said she appreciated the opportunity to perform in person.

“I really miss being around people and just feeling that energy from the audience,” Helen Waite said.

Feeding off of said energy, Amethyst captivated the audience with her pink hair and dance moves featuring somersaults, cartwheels and duck walks.

Opening the show with “Till the World Ends (Remix)” and closing the show with three dips in one performance, Amethyst had the audience cheering.

After the show, Amethyst said she has performed in downtown State College over the past year, but she enjoyed the show with Opulence because the crowd on campus is more diverse and understanding of drag.

“You almost feel more included at your own event,” Amethyst said.

Stepping out in a black and white outfit, iMOGEN grabbed the audience’s attention with her sensual dance moves and pelvic thrusts.

Dancing to “Sexxx Dreams” by Lady Gaga, iMOGEN laid it all out on the stage to deliver a performance filled with variations of dips.

Introduced as “Penn State’s bubblegum princess of pop,” Paris strutted across the stage for a high-energy performance to Kim Petras’ “Heart to Break.”

Paris showcased her splits and did “the robot,” which had the audience cheering loudly. She proceeded to play off of the crowd even more during her performance to “Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa.

Opulence, Amethyst

Amethyst performs during an Opulence show on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

With every flick of her wrist, Paris displayed her passion for performing, which she said was enhanced by the in-person student engagement.

“It’s special to perform for Penn State students,” Paris said. “These shows are made by queer people, for queer people.”

As the vocalist of the group, Kris planned to sing “goodnight n go” by Ariann Grande, but due to coronavirus safety guidelines, Kris lip-synched to a recording of Kris’ own voice.

Decked in denim and diamonds, Kris displayed Kris' vocal range and falsetto, making sure to tremble along with the vibrato and every riff.

Opulence, Kris

Kris performs during an Opulence show on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

Kris appeared onstage again in an eye-catching blue tulle gown for another emotion-filled lip-synched performance to “Here’s Where I Stand” from CAMP.

As a multi-faceted performer, Kris said it has been a struggle without in-person shows.

“It feels really demoralizing [and] really sad to be training, investing all of your time [and] your energy into a world that doesn't really exist at the moment,” Kris said.

Kris said performing in Alumni Hall was more fun because the audience seemed more familiar and comfortable with drag than in other places.

“With a show like this, I can get up there and do what I want,” Kris said. “I'm just happy to be here and to represent the girls of color.”

After attending his first drag show, Caden Vitti said he was looking for a fun way to unwind after a stressful week — and the show delivered.

“I have a lot of respect for [the queens],” Vitti (freshman-energy engineering) said. “It takes a lot of confidence to express yourself like that and spread positivity, and I think everyone in that room was happy to see that.”

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.