Queer Student Union vogues the night away


Humboldt’s QSU hosts a ball and cabaret paying homage to the transgender community.

By | Alexandria Hasenstab

A person wearing a grey fitted suit complete with a bowtie and five inch heels steps onto the runway. With their hair slicked back and a full beard made of glitter on their face, they begin their walk.

Multicolored lights illuminate the room, but a spotlight keeps all eyes on the person on the runway. Every step is taken with a confident swing of the hips, until they misstep and trip off the end of the runway.

Surprisingly, the person does not stumble but instead gracefully falls to the floor as the crowd cheers loudly.

This move is part of a style of dance known as voguing. Although this dance was made famous by singer Madonna, it has roots in the transgender community.

Humboldt State’s Queer Student Union payed homage to the transgender community with a ball and cabaret held in the KBR on Feb. 18.  

David Ontiveros is the treasure of the Queer Student Union. Ontiveros wasn’t a performer but still decided to wear black thigh high boots and matching corset to the event. Ontiveros was one of many people who helped organize the event.

“We want people to understand the importance of trans, queer people of color,” Ontiveros said. “They created the scene that we’re paying respects to, and they helped in creating the modern queer community.”  

The event was a combination of runway and dancing competitions as well as performances from students, alumni and community members who support the Queer Student Union.

Photo by Liam Olson

From Left to right: The winner of the Queenest of the Queens: April Showers, Winner of Queerest of the Queers: Sadie Shellmire, winner of Kingest of the Kings: Aaron Space Museum.

Ten-year-old Sadie Shellmire got her makeup done by one of the performers before going on stage to compete in the Queerest of the Queer runway challenge.

“I feel good,” Shellmire said. “I’m looking fly, I’m looking beautiful, I’m looking fierce.”

Shellmire won Queerest of the Queers by impressing the judges with her runway strut and voguing skills.

“It’s important to have confidence to get up on stage,” Shellmire said. “If you don’t have enough confidence to get up on stage, you won’t have confidence to do anything. It’s like going in front of your family. They will applaud you no matter what happens, so what is there to be afraid of?”

Photo by Liam Olson

Queen Mantrikka Ho hosted the event. Mantrikka has been performing in drag for over 15 years. She feels that the Queer Student Union is an important group for young people to be involved with.

“Especially in this day and age people need guidance, queer people need guidance, queer people of color specifically need guidance,” Mantrikka said.

Mantrikka talks about how the queer community has been pressured to be palatable to the rest of the world. She thinks that needs to end.

“I believe that queer culture has always been radical, and I think that we need to maintain the radicalness,” Mantrikka said.

Mantrikka has been a performance artist for a large portion of her life, she said being on stage makes her feel cathartic.

“How often do we get to go on stage and be our full genuine selves, a side of ourself that is really deep.”

Photo by Liam Olson

Drag Queen Rosa Mendoza is an HSU student on academic leave. Mendoza has only been performing in drag for six months, but already feels that it has a big societal impact.“It’s a fun way to break society’s norms,” Mendoza said. “It pushes on society’s rigid gender roles, which is my favorite part.”

Photo by Liam Olson

Wren Broekema struts down the runway during the Queerest of the Queer challenge.

Broekema is president of Queer Student Union and the queer community building coordinator. Broekema planned the event to pay homage to the trans community, specifically trans people of color. “This event in particular is in response to the political climate,” Broekema said. “We also want to showcase queer people of color.”

Photo by Liam Olson

Dancer Sarah Lee is from a dance group called Les IllumiNaughty with her friend Kath Collom. The pair performed for the Cabaret portion of the event. This is their group’s fifth year performing for Queer Student Union events. Lee said that events like the one this past Friday, are very important for students to be involved in because it’s an enjoyable way for people from all walks of life to come together. “We can come together and play and be merry!” Lee said.

Photo by Liam Olson

Queen Ophelia Cox performs a burlesque piece during the cabaret portion of the event.

Photo by Liam Olson

Lady Sedusa is a local drag queen and performer. According to Sedusa the importance of events like the ball and cabaret is that it gives everyone a chance to step out of their comfort zone. “You don’t have to be white or black, straight or gay, skinny or thick, to perform,” Sedusa said.

Photo by Liam Olson

Drag King Hugh Johnson is an HSU Alumni who performed during the cabaret.“The idea is to raise awareness, giving credit to the people of color who created the queer community,” Johnson said. According to Johnson, the event is a tribute to the balls that were held within the queer community in New York City in the 1980s.

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