Abigail Helm

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – A Winthrop University tradition returned to campus last month after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drag WU, which was last held in 2019, is a drag show put on annually by Winthrop’s DiGiorgio Student Union (DSU) in the Richardson Ballroom.

The host, Alyssa Edwards, is a notable name in the drag community with over 1.4 million followers on Instagram. She is known for her roles on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “America’s Got Talent” and her own Netflix documentary “Dancing Queen.”

“During the day, I’m a teacher and a leader and a mentor. And then at night, I put this whole costume on and then I transform into this larger than life fictional character,” said Edwards.

Local performers from across the Carolinas were also recruited to participate, including Erica Chanel, Ariana Venti, Kristi Darling, Vegas Van Dank, Don Javi and Winthrop’s own Rebecca Starrdust.

“We wanted Rebecca Starrdust to perform not only because of their talent, but because we (DSU) are student run. We love representing our students and giving them a platform to be creative,” said DSU president Kasey Morello.

For Starrdust, it was their first live performance.

“It was terrifying for that to be my first performance ever, knowing I’m not a dancer, to be performing (with) one of the best dancers in drag race history,” Starrdust said. “However, I had an absolute blast and Alyssa was so nice and so encouraging, and it’s truly something I will never forget.”

The event was sold out, which wasn’t surprising because Drag WU is considered by many to be one of DSU’s most popular events.

Performers often interact with the crowd while putting on a show full of empowering music and dancing.

“I feel like Drag WU uplifted the community and overall tone of the campus. Everyone there was laughing, screaming and cheering like there was no tomorrow. The cultural meaning behind it will stay in my mind for a lifetime,” said Savanna Fiegl, who attended the show.

Organizers said the goal of Drag WU is to highlight a community many students would not normally be exposed to.

“Drag WU is a really important event to campus. For one, it’s been a tradition now for over 10 to eight years that we’ve had it,” said Angelo Geter, Winthrop director of campus programming.

“Winthrop has a lot of students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, so I think it’s really important that we have events like Drag WU that showcase the importance of it to that community, so that students can feel they have a connection to it. And for those students who may not identify that way, they will also understand the importance of that culture as well.”