Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Lessons In Drag Educates, Entertains Audience

Sydney Collinger
Dr. LaWhore Vagistan performs at the Cat in the Cream.

A plethora of exuberant “Yes Aunty!”s reverberated through the crowd at drag queen Dr. LaWhore Vagistan’s show “Lessons in Drag” at the Cat in the Cream Monday. The show included some lecture, some lip syncing, and some audience participation. The show sought to inform people on South Asian and South Asian-American issues through drag, and it successfully did just that.

Dr. LaWhore Vagistan is the drag queen persona of Dr. Kareem Khubchandani, associate professor of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at Tufts University. Dr. Vagistan as a character combines the style of a South Asian, or Desi, aunty with that of a drag queen while spreading knowledge at the same time.

During the first half of the show, sometimes I laughed. Other times I felt so emotional that I almost shed a tear. College first-year Morgan Saunders noted that she felt the same. 

“I didn’t know it was gonna be funny,” Saunders said. “It was so funny. But at the same time, so emotional [and] educational. I think just to be able to experience all those in just a couple of hours [is great].”

From one of her earlier bits, in which she lip synced to an interview with a woman that worked at a call center in India, I was hooked. She explained that those who work at call centers must put on an accent, typically American, for the customers that come across their lines. She began this performance by lip syncing to “Telephone” by Lady Gaga, to which people began to roar and shout out “Yes Aunty!” 

Each lip sync performance mesmerized me, especially as a person who hasn’t seen many drag performances. I was also drawn in by Dr. Vagistan’s level of creativity.

Dr. Vagistan then drew the audience’s attention to the model minority myth. She asked an audience member to give a working definition of this myth, which includes the damaging stereotype that Asian Americans are highly intelligent and the hardest-working of minorities. Dr. Vagistan then connected this with spelling bees, jokingly referred to as the “Indian Super Bowl.” 

In this performance, Dr. Vagistan playfully poked fun at the myth by lip-syncing to the ABCs, to a news anchor reporting on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and then to kids participating in the spelling bee. What roped me in the most was the moderator of the spelling bee asking Dr. Vagistan to spell “glamorous.” Unsurprisingly, she pulled out the song by Fergie and the crowd erupted in laughter. 

The transition under the guise of a spelling bee only worked to further the point of how creative Dr. Vagistan was with this performance.

It’s not a surprise how well Dr. Vagistan blended education with her performance given her career as a professor. She entranced the crowd from every quiver in her lips to every shake of her hips. 

She also included audience participation in her performance. At one point she said she would be doing Zumba and needed five volunteers. College second-year Sayanth Shajit was one of several students who got the opportunity to join Dr. Vagistan on the stage to Zumba. 

The music attested to the excitement Shajit felt with this performance, given that there were a great amount of South Asian songs included.

“I was expecting just a drag show, but I didn’t expect all [the] academia part,” Shajit said. “I was pleasantly surprised by that. I knew she was also a professor, but I didn’t know that would be part of the show. I was just expecting to have a good time.”

Saunders came because she knew that a queer performer of color was coming to campus. They remained entranced throughout the show, along with much of the audience. 

“I love when they brought Z [an aspiring drag queen in the audience] up [to dance],” Saunders said. “I thought that was a beautiful moment because I love to see people supporting each other, especially in this community.”

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