By Lily Barnette
In October, the Bell Hooks Center at Berea College hosted a campus Pride Week in celebration of LGBTQPIA+ History Month! Throughout the week spanning from October 10th to the 15th, there was a variety of festivities that students could enjoy like live music, movie nights, and student activist speakers. The grand finale, a drag show (a fan favorite for college students) at the end of the week was co-coordinated by Student Life and the Theatre Department and it brought in regionally-based drag artists.
Berea has only had three sponsored drag shows, but already, they have grown to be some of the favorite and most packed events on campus. Some of the drags are themselves Berea College graduates and so, are especially excited to perform in their alma mater, including Benita Bloom.
The Berea Torch was able to reach out to drag artist Benita Bloom, a drag queen situated in Lexington, and interview them to talk about how they first knew they wanted to do drag, what they love about it, the challenges, and more!
When asked about why they began doing drag in the first place, Bloom talked about how they came out after they graduated Berea College and went to Pulse Night, what used to be a gay bar in Lexington that has since closed.
“The drag queen, who is my drag mother now, I saw her crawl across the stage and she had chains hanging out of her nose and everything. And I was like, ‘I really want to try that.’ And so for Halloween, she put me in drag… The most exciting part about it is just being able to connect to the community because I have been able to go all over the state and help different charities throughout my 13 years of doing this. That’s been the most exciting part — all the wonderful people I’ve met and all the wonderful stories I have heard.”
Afterwards, Bloom discussed one of the most challenging aspects of drag that they have personally experienced, as someone who is not a traditional drag queen. They described a traditional drag queen as who dresses up in pageant outfits, and highlights feminine traits associated with women.
“So when I first started, I was a horror queen. I did blood-spitting, blood all over the stage. and those kind of things when it was cool before Dragula [a reality drag show]. And now, I’m a bearded queen. Both of those are considered non-traditional. They’re not the pageant… We really push the boundaries of gender.”
And as a last note, we asked Bloom to leave a message for Berea College students! Here is what they had to say:
“The message I want to send is that it’s okay to be yourself. I was gay when I went to Berea and I didn’t find support. There was not a drag show like this. It didn’t happen when I was there and I didn’t find that support. And for that reason, I didn’t come out until four years later. The biggest thing is you’re not alone. There’s people here. There were so many people in that auditorium and they’re there to support you.Benita Bloom