Divas in the Desert proves fundraising can be fierce
Music, a cheering crowd and bold makeup could all be found Thursday night in the Social Sciences building, as Delta Lambda Phi hosted the annual Divas in the Desert drag show.
Doors opened to the public at 7:10 p.m., and around 400 people filled the audience, according to Ahmed Al-Shamari, the fraternity's treasurer and one of the drag performers of the night.
Just two weeks ago, Al-Shamari was crowned the University of Arizona Homecoming King on stage in a bowtie and waistcoat. Thursday night, Al-Shamari took the stage in full hair and makeup, lip-synching and dancing to songs.
"It's very fun being able to kind of represent the University of Arizona in such a diverse fashion … to represent my community in such a positive light," Al-Shamari said.
Delta Lambda Phi, a social fraternity at UA, puts on the drag show to raise money for the organization. The money goes toward social events, recruitment week, advertising and other aspects of the fraternity.
The fraternity has been hosting a drag show almost every year since it was chartered in 2006. The event also allows the fraternity to reach out to students and other members of Greek Life through expression and entertainment.
"I just like how we all come together. All of our alumni come back, and they love this show, and the other Greek organizations as well love the show … Just a fun event to put on for other people," said Juwan Chase, emcee for the event.
Chase hosted alongside Diva, a professional drag performer who got involved with Divas in the Desert five years ago and has helped out every year since.
"The first year I had done it I fell in love with the organization, with the fraternity, all of its members, what they stand for, what they do for the community," Diva said.
Chase and Diva cracked jokes, introduced drag queens and did raffles between some of the performances. Raffle prizes for audience members ranged from a winter-themed basket to a free 60-minute massage.
While some of the drag queens, including Al-Shamari, have participated as performers in the event's previous years, TJ Gohlwar performed drag for the first time at this year's Divas in the Desert.
Going by the stage name Taj Mahal, Gohlwar said lots of training and preparation went into planning the performance, as well as mentally preparing to do drag for the first time.
"I realized it's my senior year, 'go big or go home' type of mentality. So that's why I'm here today – going big," Gohlwar said.
Some Delta Lambda Phi members expressed how important this drag show is for them and the LBGTQ community. They explained how the show allows them to express how they feel and be themselves.
"There are students [here] who are like this, and we are here, and we're queer, and we're amazing. And look at what we're doing every year, and look at the audience we garner, and look at the success that we have," Al-Shamari said.
The fraternity members also want to show support and provide a sense of community to other LGBTQ people in light of the political climate.
"Everybody's so tense right now … This is like our little safe place," Chase said.
As the event went on, performers lip-synced different songs, danced on stage and walked up and down the aisles. Members from the crowd waived dollar bills in the air as the performers walked by for them to grab, which was announced to be going to the fundraiser as well as the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.
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One audience member, Sonja Pacheco, has been to the performance two previous times. Her brother is one of the performers, and she said she enjoys getting to watch the shows.
"They put a lot of effort into it. It's a great group, I love it," Pacheco said.
The event ended around 9:30 p.m., and audience members were able to meet the queens and take photos with them. The annual event brought in a large group, and the drag queens said that they enjoyed it.
"It's just good to perform with your brothers," Gohlwar said.
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