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Drag queens on the importance of sharing their art with East Lansing

January 16, 2023
<p>Performer getting ready for The Diva's Ball, held at the Hannah Community Center on January 13, 2023.</p>

Performer getting ready for The Diva's Ball, held at the Hannah Community Center on January 13, 2023.

Photo by Denille Reid | The State News

Rodger Giessman was presented with a challenge: help execute a drag show in just 10 days.

He then called drag queen Caj Monet and asked her to perform at what would soon because The Diva's Ball. Monet said she would've come even if she had been asked three days before. 

“He needed me, and he's dressed me for the pageants that I won in 2016," Monet said. "So, I'm here to support him and spread my love for the art of female impersonation, to people like me and not like me.”

The coordinators of The Diva’s Ball wanted to bring drags shows back to East Lansing and knew Giessman would be able to find the right entertainers for the show.

 “I said, 'Absolutely. We can definitely put a show together, it’s going to be a lot of work, but let's do it,'” Giessman said. “I got some of the best drag queens in the state of Michigan and we were here.”

Giessman, also known as DJ LipGloss, has been working with drag queens for nearly 20 years. He started his career as a nightclub DJ, then became a promoter and show director. He now travels the country helping queens get ready for national pageants

Drag queens performing at The Diva's Ball attested that the show was made possible because of the support Giessman has given to queens throughout the years. 

 “It's nice to know that people have your back,” Giessman said. “And it's nice to know that the connections that you've made matter and you know, there's maybe some people that they wouldn't have shown up for, so it definitely made me feel good.”

Sapphire Shade, who also performed in the show, said she was happy to be able to be back performing in Lansing after not having as many opportunities to do so since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shade said it was extra special getting to perform alongside some of the queens who inspired her to start entertaining.

 “Actually one of the lovely entertainers right here (Gabriella Stratton Galore) was one of the first people I ever saw on performance,” Shade said. “And I was like, 'I really want to be her.' And it was just like seeing the work that all of us girls put in, it was just so ecstatic. And it just helped me find who I was as a person.”

Being apart of a group centered around love and inclusivity, as well as the community support, is what made the event special, Shade said.

Monet said it was nice to have opportunities like the Diva’s Ball for college students to attend, specifically.

 “College is made up of a bunch of different people,” Monet said. “There are all these different genders who need representation and a place to feel like you're not living in a straight world.”

Orion Story, another queen who performed at the show, said it's important to have such events in the community – especially because of the discourse that currently surrounds drag queens.

 “Having events like this and being not just supportive but, coming out and giving it your all, fully supporting it, that is really important right now,” Story said. “That's what we need, because when there's one person hating we need five more going against that.”

Giessman will be working with Float Nation Live to help bring more events like The Diva’s Ball to Lansing. He is hoping to turn it into a monthly event where people can gather and enjoy the art of drag. While Giessman recognizes that there has always been drag events in the Lansing community, he wants to bring awareness to more people.

“I want to advertise on a broader spectrum and get people who may be interested and not know where to look or know where to go," Giessman said. 

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