Strong Showing from Swim and Dive at the CU Drag Show
It was early in the afternoon, but people were already spraying their bodies gold, duct taping their breasts, wobbling in high heels and painting over their faces with makeup to contort their appearance in preparation for the night’s drag show hosted by the University of Colorado’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
Among the drag queens and burlesque dancers that gathered on November 4 were nine members of the university’s swim and dive team. Some performed their own individual acts, but all of them, in one way or another, helped their teammates in their own performances.
Austin Ward, a swimmer, joined the show last year because he “wanted to do something that was completely out of [his] comfort zone.” He fell in love with the atmosphere, so he came back this year to perform again, bringing eight of his teammates to help him perform to Taylor Swift’s new song “Look What You Made Me Do” and performing a duet with Brianna Morgan, a diver, to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s rendition of “I Won’t Dance.”
“Drag [is] a form of art,” Ward said. “You have to mix hair, make-up and clothes together for a female look… put on a show that people will enjoy.”
Ward practiced his routines every day leading up to the show, playing his songs over and over on repeat and running through his routine in his head. When the day finally came when it was time to take to the stage, Ward dressed up in a bright blue wig, a floor-length dress and stiletto heels, and headed into the spotlight.
“I don’t know how women walk in heels like that,” Angelo Baca, the men’s swim captain and Ward’s choreographer for the show, said, “let alone with the dress he’s in.”
Morgan came on stage in a black suit with her hair tucked tight in braids around her head. The two danced around each other in circles, lip syncing to their assigned parts.
Once the first performance was over, Ward hurried backstage to change into the costume for his second performance. He laced up a corset, swapped out his blue hair for black and went back onto the stage accompanied by eight of his closest teammates who were all dressed in black slacks and white button-up shirts.
At his command, Ward’s teammates fell to the floor as he walked into the crowd. The lower gym was filled with students, parents, faculty and community members who had come to support the show. When Ward stomped back to the stage, audience members followed, sprinkling money on the platform.
At the end of Ward’s second performance, most of the swim and dive members went back to their reserved seats near the front of the audience while others went backstage. “It’s Little… Miss… Sunshine!” the announcer’s voice boomed over the speakers just as everyone was settling in their seats. Centerstage was Rebecca Jacobs, a diver, dressed in black slacks, a sparkling red vest and a tie to match.
“I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t really even thinking by the time I got on stage,” Jacobs said. “I was just having too much fun. I was feeding off everyone’s energy.”
As Rick James’ “Super Freak” started to play, the packed crowd erupted into cheers. Jacobs flung her top hat into the audience, throwing it all the way to the back row, and ripped off her tie. Next to go were her Velcro pants, which took a few tries to get off. Finally, the sparkly vest. All that was left were bright red stars, screams from the audience and one-dollar bills scattered on the stage.
“Everyone was going absolutely nuts when I took off my vest,” Jacobs said. “The best part would’ve been ripping off my pants, but I couldn’t get them off until I tried three or four times. I was too excited.”
Jacobs lied down on the stage, her chest heaving, with a wide smile spread across her face. The music stopped, she gathered her loot ($12 total) and went back to her seat to cheer on her team’s last performance of the night.
Morgan took the stage with two of her teammates for her second act to “Sweet Transvestite” from “The Rocky Horror Show.” It was Morgan’s fourth year performing in the show, so she was accustomed to the atmosphere of the show and the attention from the crowd.
“I was excited… I love being on stage and having all eyes on me,” Morgan said. “During the performance, I was just thinking about my facial expressions. This time… high eyebrows!”
Morgan danced around her teammates, who were shaking in the corner of the stage, before taking a seat in the leather chair set out for her at the back of the platform. She tilted her head back, kicked her legs in the air and sunk down before getting up a final time and taking off her costume. Nearly naked, her hands in the air, Morgan grinned as the crowd rushed to the stage to make their final donation to the team.
Written November 7, 2017 for Sports Writing