Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

On the Record with Sofia Tomasic and Bella Schmitt: Reviving Drag Ball

College fourth-year Sofia Tomasic and College first-year Bella Schmitt are members of this year’s Drag Ball committee. Alongside other committee members, they have been working to plan the event and provide a new vision in hopes of making the event more exciting and invigorating for students. The 2024 Drag Ball will take place at The ’Sco on March 16. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Can you explain a little bit about what Drag Ball is? How did it all come together? 

BS: Drag Ball is an Oberlin event centered around queer joy, queer art, and queer expression: a place for students to go and have fun and be exposed to new forms of art.

ST: It’s been a tradition since the ’90s. This year is kind of different than usual. Over Winter Term we made the budget and planned the majority of the event. Usually it’s only planned by one or two people, but this year it was a committee, which makes it a lot less of a stressful project. Usually there’s not really anyone to teach the next round of people planning [the Drag Ball], so we’re trying to make it a more stable event.

How do you discover, reach out to, and secure performers outside of Oberlin students?

BS: Mostly through Instagram. We went through a lot of performers. We had a lot of days where we went through a bunch of people’s Instagram [profiles]. Also, for the Winter Term project, we went to Drag Brunch [in Cleveland] and there were people there that we really liked. And so we considered [that as well].

How has Drag Ball evolved over the years?

ST: Over Winter Term, we interviewed some alums about how it was in the past versus now. In the past, I think it was a much bigger event. In the early 2000s, they had all of Wilder [Hall].

BS: Yeah, it was much bigger, they had Wilder Main [Space]. From talking to alums, it seemed like the earlier years of Drag Ball were more of a party and it was more student-run. Students were the ones performing. In more recent years, it’s been that you come and you watch drag performers, professional drag performers. This year, we wanted to get a lot more student involvement. So we’re having a costume contest and a lip sync battle for students. Also we are pulling a bunch of performers from OBurlesque. 

ST: We are just wanting to kind of go back to the original; having students come in drag versus just having students come and watch drag. 

BS: One [other] thing we’re doing this year is that we have the Drag Ball, [but also on] Monday we have an educational event.

ST: A lecture. 

BS: Yeah. In previous years, you had to attend some sort of educational thing in order to get a ticket to Drag Ball. We kind of thought that we should just let everyone come and have that educational event as an option. 

Are you doing anything else this year that’s different from previous years?

ST: We’re emphasizing drag kings a lot more. This is the first year that we have a headliner that’s a drag king. 

A lot of states have been implementing anti-drag measures and legislation. Why is drag such an important aspect of culture to uphold?

ST: Obviously it’s important to push back against homophobia and transphobia in our own communities. I also think it’s important at Oberlin [specifically], because I feel like Oberlin has such a strong queer culture, so this is something to preserve.

BS: I think that, with mainstream shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, people have drag accessible to them, but a lot of people don’t get to see actual drag shows. This is a good opportunity. 

I also think that drag feels like something that’s very accessible [in general]. A lot of people do it without that much experience, just as a fun thing. For me personally as a trans person, doing drag is very gender-euphoric. I know that a lot of cis people also have this need to express some other gender just for fun. 

ST: It’s a great opportunity to participate in queerness. It’s not high stakes and it’s just fun. It’s political, but it’s not dreary in the same way that some political action can be.

What sparked your interest in Drag Ball at Oberlin?

BS: I first got interested in drag from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and then I went and saw a couple drag shows, and I decided that I wanted to do drag. I saw this Winter Term opportunity and I was like, “I want to take every opportunity I can to get involved in drag.”

ST: Bella actually performs drag!

I’ve always been into fashion, and I wanted to be more involved in the Oberlin community, and I am good at logistics.

Who is your favorite drag queen?

BS: I’m trying to decide! I’d say Sasha Velour, Pineapple Honeydew Delight, and Simone.

ST: Dean Heartthrob, who’s [a drag king] from Cleveland. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

BS: I hope that the Drag Ball continues to be a tradition and I hope that we have more drag events at Oberlin.

ST: Hopefully this can reinvigorate it, get people more interested, and make it a bigger event for next year. Because right now, our budget is a lot smaller than it has been in the past. Hopefully with more interest and better organization, the next couple years of Drag Ball can be more of a revival. 

BS: Students should come in drag, or some sort of expressive outfit. Just for fun!

ST: It’s inclusive of everyone. There’s no particular kind of drag that you have to do. It’s just about great outfits and gender expression. 

BS: The theme is Time Machine, so interpret that how you will!

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