Montclair State University is home to a diverse group of clubs and organizations. What many students don’t know is that there is a drag scene. Every fall, Montclair State’s LGBTQ+ Center hosts a “Drag Extravaganza” where queens of all types can perform and win the crown.
Gabriel Gomez, a junior theater studies major, acknowledged that the drag scene at Montclair State is small but mighty. Gomez’s drag persona is known as Jaxon Richard Queens, a gender nonbinary queen who is not exclusively masculine or feminine.
“We’re a small bunch but new people are coming into school as queer people,” Gomez said. “We are a queer [oriented] school.
According to Gomez, there have been successful queens to have come out of Montclair State. One of them is Fred Carlton, whose drag persona is known as Olivia Lux.
Carlton, a Montclair State theater alumnus, now works in Jersey City, New Jersey as a drag performer. He occasionally returns to Montclair State for the Drag Extravaganza as a special guest.
Justin Vallejo, a senior communication and media arts major, is the reigning queen from last fall’s Drag Extravaganza. Vallejo’s drag persona is Diosa Aurora Oso and identifies as a Latinx butch queen, exhibiting both masculine and feminine qualities.
“I came into [Montclair State] already trying to figure myself out as a drag queen,” Vallejo said. “You kind of just had to fight for yourself in terms of who you were as a person.”
Vallejo won the drag competition by performing “Hurt” by Christina Aguilera, which created a very emotional performance. When performing the song, Vallejo thinks of his father who doesn’t know that he does drag.
“I think about my dad sometimes with [the song],” Vallejo said. “My father and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s a hard concept for [my parents] to understand because they never really got my femininity.”
Many of the numbers were high-energy performances which made Vallejo question whether his heartfelt number would pay off or not.
“It was extremely validating for me as a performer,” Vallejo said. “I was very nervous that I wasn’t gonna win.”
Gomez, who was also in the Drag Extravaganza came in fourth place. He was near tears from Vallejo’s performance that night. He described it as being a performance that everyone could relate to.
“The thing with drag, the connection that we all have to it, it speaks volumes to many people,” Gomez said.
Gomez has had his own obstacles to overcome in the world of drag. He started doing drag in high school, wearing wigs and makeup to school. One time in particular was for a school project where he would pretend to be a stewardess.
“During lunchtime, some kid decided to snatch my wig,” Gomez said. “That moment killed me.”
Though the moment didn’t discourage him long-term, Gomez would continue to do drag. He said that his mother was a big inspiration for him and became introduced to drag whenever they watched movies that included drag queens and female role models. It shaped him into the drag queen he is today.
Both Gomez and Vallejo embraced who they fully are and have come to think of Montclair State as somewhere where they can be themselves. They both wish to do drag in college and are determined to make the time for it.
“If you want to follow your dreams you have to work hard for them,” Gomez said.
Both Gomez and Vallejo agree that drag as an art form is open to everyone regardless of what they identify as.
“Drag has been categorized for years as a man dressing up as a woman, but drag is not just that,” Gomez said. “Drag is for everyone.”