On Feb. 23, the UWM Drag Show will celebrate 20 years of wowing the Milwaukee community. A lot has changed in the last two decades — from the show's beginning at UW-Milwaukee's Union Ballroom to hosting thousands at the Miller High Life Theatre — but what hasn't changed is the meaning behind the glitter, the makeup and the wigs.
To many, this show represents freedom of identity and expression. Considering the intrinsic link between the drag community and the LGBT+ community, seeing someone go beyond stereotypes and binaries and being celebrated for that is empowering to those who have been told those aspects of their identity aren't valued.
"This is a celebration, it's also an opportunity for people to build community and foster a sense of belonging and have a sense of knowing who they are through and through. And that is something I really value about both the social components of the drag show, but also the deeper historical elements that are within drag," Jen Murray, the director of UWM's LGBT+ Resource Center, says.
Aside from building a community for LGBT+ individuals, the UWM Drag Show hopes to foster an open and educational environment for everyone.
"I think the show has an impact on Milwaukee. It gives [Milwaukeeans] a look into the LGBT community. It humanizes us. It shows them that we're people. It gives them a way to celebrate us in one of our greatest accomplishments, to celebrate our talented youth. It gives them a way to ask questions, and I think that is the most important thing. The show gives an opportunity for people to have a conversation," drag performer and UWM Drag Show co-host Lady J says.
This year's UWM Drag Show takes place Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Miller High Life Theater and is open and free to the community.