Earlier this year, oSTEM at Mount Sinai and the Stonewall Alliance hosted the first Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race. As one of the organizers, I can honestly say that the inception of this event started as a joke. Hosting a drag competition at a Hospital/Graduate School/Medical School was a nice thought, but it would be an over the top event that we definitely didn’t have the means to bring it into fruition. Thinking of planning such an enormous event was a little intimidating, but we figured that we could gauge interest from the Mount Sinai Community. We were shocked by the enthusiasm we received, so we kept on rolling with the punches.
Since you can’t have a drag show without competitors, we started our planning by reaching out to the LGBTQA+ Community of Mount Sinai to recruit performers. Four fierce queens came forward to compete in the show: Holly Buckets (Tyler Martinson), Crispy Cream (myself), Daisy Chains (Phil Cohen), and HeLena Heelz (Benjamin BenZvi). I am so lucky to have been on stage with these amazing ladies. Each one was more stunning than the next, bringing their creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to stage to dazzle the audience!
After securing our queens, the organizers and myself began locking down our beneficiary, the Ali Forney Center, an NYC-based non-profit dedicated to protecting LGBTQ youths from the harms of homelessness and empowering them with the tools needed to live independently. Tyler Neasloney, the Special Events and Communications Manager for the Ali Forney Center, was incredibly enthusiastic about our endeavor! To show his support, he volunteered to be a judge for the competition and put us in contact with members of the NYC drag scene to find a host for our show! Of the queens we contacted, Lagoona Bloo, a NYC-based drag superstar who appeared on Season 13 of “The Voice”, eagerly agreed to host the Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race and ensure it was successful!
Over the course of several months, this pipe dream continued evolving into something real. Ann-Gel Palermo, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in Biomedical Education, and Jerry Chipuk, Associate Professor of Oncological Sciences, volunteered to be Mount Sinai Celebrity Judges. Then, excitement for the event began spreading to the broader Mount Sinai Hospital System. Members of the Institute for Advanced Medicine Prevention Team offered to table at the event to promote safer sex products/services and employees of the Mount Sinai Teen LGBTQ Support Group in Child Psychiatry contacted us about bringing their teens to the event to expose them to the affirmative LGBTQA+ environment of a drag show. Just when I thought the Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race couldn’t snowball anymore, the frenzy continued spreading outside of Mount Sinai altogether! Local businesses saw our event as an exciting opportunity to support the Ali Forney Center and Mount Sinai, so they donated gift certificates for us to raffle. As I mentioned, the Mount Sinai Drag Race started as a joke, but it was rapidly crystallizing into something beautiful.
The Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race became even more special to me as I prepared to compete. I had never done drag before and honestly had no idea where to start. Thankfully, I had a supportive group of friends within the Mount Sinai Community who was invested in seeing Crispy Cream get the crown.
After months of preparation, the night arrived. Leading up to event, we were all a little nervous about how many people would show up and whether they would have fun. We very quickly realized that this apprehension was misplaced because hundreds of enthusiastic individuals came to the Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race, showing their support for the LGBTQA+ Community and raising funds for the Ali Forney Center! All the queens came prepared with fabulous costume changes, astounding talents and wonderful lip sync performances. In between acts, Lagoona Bloo, made sure there was never a dull moment and even put on a special performance. Thanks to our drag queen DJ, Miss Pho King Ho (Don Nguyen), and the magnificent crew working behind the scenes: Eziwoma Alibo, Tristan Fehr, Gavriella Hecht, Akio Kozato, M.Q. Perkins and Zebulon Vance, the show ran smoothly and kept everyone entertained!
I’m happy to report that the event was hugely successful. In addition to raising over $2,700 for the Ali Forney Center, the Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race became an opportunity for diverse groups within the broader Mount Sinai Community to promote multifaceted positive changes within the LGBTQA+ Community. I am so honored to be part of the team that orchestrated it and ecstatic to making the Mount Sinai Charity Drag Race bigger and better next year!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris is a third-year PhD Student in the DRS MTA who researches tissue engineering approaches to repair painful intervertebral disc defects. He holds leadership positions in Student Council, oSTEM at Mount Sinai and Stonewall Alliance to organize fun, impactful events that contribute to the dynamic Mount Sinai student community.