VIDEO/PHOTO: Bigger, better Trans Excellence returns to City College with Black Box drag show

Trans Day of Visibility celebrated for for second year on campus
Deja Re performs “Fabulous Baby” by Patina Miller during her second set at the Trans Excellence Drag Show at the City College Black Box Theater, Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Photo by Oliver Reed/City Times Media
Deja Re performs “Fabulous Baby” by Patina Miller during her second set at the Trans Excellence Drag Show at the City College Black Box Theater, Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Photo by Oliver Reed/City Times Media

After the success of last year’s first-of-its-kind Trans Excellence Drag Show at San Diego City College, event organizers Lucy Plascencia and Tristan Hartley had a clear idea of how they wanted this year’s follow-up to be.

Plascencia and Hartley invited San Diego-based trans-serving organizations, developed a communications strategy and locked down Black Box Theater, the venue that ultimately made their vision a reality.

“I wanted this to feel really grand and really fabulous,” said Plascencia, who is the coordinator at Pride Hub. “The way we approached it this year is we just wanted to go bigger and be more expansive and get more visibility.” 

A 100-person capacity crowd filled the bleachers at Black Box Theater on April 3 with a theater lighting production that helped fulfill the organizers’ mission of making the second annual Trans Excellence Drag Show the spectacle they imagined.

To watch the video and/or read a transcript, click here.

Returning performers Deja Re, Madamé Brazil and Jamie Arangure shared the spotlight with San Diego organizer Strawberry Corncakes, who made her City College debut.

Each of the showgirls choreographed two routines, rotating their outfits to match the theme of their songs, which ranged from Sara Bareilles to Lizzo to Gloria Estefan.

Between every performance routine as the audience waited in darkness, the voice of Deja Re presented each dancer with their personal background. As the music started, multi-colored spotlights illuminated the stage for the performer to emerge from behind the black curtains of the theater.

Among the performances that drew the loudest responses was Strawberry Corncakes’ “Pound The Alarm” by Nicki Minaj as she ascended the stairs of both sides of the stands throughout her performance. 

Click on image below to see a photo gallery of the Trans Excellence Drag Show.

Second-year biology student Juan Londono, 24, said he supports the local San Diego drag scene, having seen Strawberry Corncakes perform several times in the community.

Londono said he appreciated the awareness the event raised and its role in providing representation for the LGBTQ+ community at City College.

“I feel like people put (drag) in one box,” said Londono, who is part of City College’s LGBT Familia Club. “Drag throughout centuries has been so many different things. From theater to art shows, to performance art, to Dr. Doolittle, there’s so many aspects to what drag can be, to what drag is.”

Drag culture was also among the drawing points to the event for second-semester City student Kaitlyn Olsen, 18, who said wearing costumes was a gateway that inspired her interest in doing drag. 

“I cosplay and I go to anime conventions,” Olsen said. “I recently performed for the first time at Anime Los Angeles, which had probably an audience of like 1000 people. And that really kicked off the stone of ‘I would like to do this (drag).’”

San Diego City College community members Arianna Martinez Cabral, far left, Jonathan Gonzalez, center left, Tay Richardson, center right, and Andy Cross, far right, share their thoughts on how they think drag elevates trans excellence Wednesday, April 3, 2024. The second annual Trans Excellence drag show was hosted at City College at the Black Box Theater. Graphic by Naylise DeGroat/City Times Media

To read the thoughts of City College students and community members on how drag elevates trans excellence, click here.

After the show, the four women sat in an hour-long panel and discussed audience-submitted questions that gave insight into their involvement in the drag scene and their experiences as community organizers and trans women.

Prior to the venue’s doors opening, a luncheon was held outside the theater where five community organizations, such as Services for Trans, Intersex and Gender Diverse Experienced-UCSD, tabled and educated visitors on the availability of trans resources in San Diego.

Though well-attended, 2023’s Trans Excellence was held inside City College’s Pride Hub meeting room, not a typical space for the pageantry typically put on display for drag shows.

Hartley hopes to make it an annual event and extend involvement in future Trans Excellence events to the school’s students.

“I do want to get students involved and feeling like … this is your campus to show and celebrate who you are authentically,” Hartley said, “and also, maybe to try on some heels and step out, put on a mug and see what happens.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story has been corrected to change the misspelling of Lucy Plascencia’s last name. City Times regrets the error.

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