For years, students have enjoyed watching the spectacle that is Miss Hendrix. The dances, the contestants, the outfits—for everything that Miss Hendrix is and does, it has always been entertaining. Yet Miss Hendrix is also a tradition that has constantly grown and changed over the years. The most important changes have been in order to create a show that is more respectful and representative of the material where it draws its inspiration.
At this year’s Miss Hendrix competition, students will see something that hasn’t been a part of Miss Hendrix since its inception at Hendrix College. This year, female contestants will be able to compete to win the crown, because both drag kings and drag queens will now be contestants. Anna Caroline Lee and Anna King, both seniors at Hendrix College, are competing this year as male characters that they have created.
This is a first for Hendrix. As long as the competition has existed, it has been treated as a drag show available only to male contestants who then create female personas and characters. Both Lee and King were excited about this opportunity to represent drag king culture to the rest of the campus.
Lee was inspired to take this opportunity to compete in Miss Hendrix because of her love for performing. When other opportunities to dance at Miss Hendrix came and went, Lee decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I wanted this really bad, and if someone else was not going to give me a chance, I’m just going to do it on my own,” Lee said.
In light of this change, it’s important to note some challenges that drag kings may have to face that drag queens may not. Drag queens emphasize exaggeration of their body parts in order to appear feminine, while drag kings have to emphasize that which makes them seem more masculine. However, Lee noted that both drag kings and queens have a lot in common, as well.
“They both are dressing up as characters to embellish their own characteristics and bring out their personality rather than hide it,” Lee said.
King was also inspired to perform, but for different reasons. “I thought it was time for there to be not just drag queen contestants, but also drag kings,” King said.
King also saw the importance of this change and said that she “wanted to be a part of that change for Miss Hendrix—and not just on the character side, but on several other aspects, as well.” She is interested in gender and the human body and thought this would be great learning experience.
When discussing other changes that Miss Hendrix may need to make in the future, King stated that she wants to see the competition really focus on the roots of the drag culture movement it portrays.
“That’s what we’re paying homage to; that’s the roots of drag,” King said. King believes it is important to recognize where drag culture comes from and whom it has most benefited. She also has a lot of hope for Miss Hendrix to continue changing in years to come.
Tonya Hale, director of Student Activities, has already seen an amazing transformation of the Miss Hendrix competition over the years that she has worked at Hendrix. She saw the origins of Miss Hendrix as more representative of a “Womanless Beauty Review” and is glad to have seen Miss Hendrix change into something more meaningful.
“It’s been a work in progress,” Hale said. “If this is about drag culture, we need to understand that drag is for everyone.”
Hale believes that this change is especially important because of the impact it can have on the students in the audience. “There might be some students who still don’t understand it, but maybe it will allow some students to dig deeper and start thinking about gender, masculinity and femininity, and what it all means,” Hale said.
Concerning the title of Miss Hendrix, Hale said that it might be a question for the future. She deferred to the students to ultimately be the agents of change in this respect. “It may be something we stick with, and people understand it to be something different,” Hale said.
Hale stated that other changes had been made to this year’s Miss Hendrix competition. The swimsuit portion was removed in favor of a new dance portion with the contestants that will allow them to showcase their characters even more. Also, the special guest portion of the show will be very important this year because Hendrix was able to book drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Katya became famous after starring on “RuPaul,” a television show in which drag queen contestants compete against each other for prestige and cash prizes.
Hale stated that this change was ultimately a necessary one to make.
“We wanted to be as progressive as possible and celebrate this culture,” she said. “Drag culture is so important to the LGBTQ community, and we wanted to honor that.”
King noted that there is a unique pressure that she feels as one of the first female contestants in Miss Hendrix.
“I’m on a mission,” King said. “I just want some first-year, second-year student in the audience to look at me and say, ‘That can be me in two or three years.’ I want it to mean something to someone.”
Photo Credit Leah Hadley