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Kazma Knights dances and lip syncs to "A-YO" by Lady Gaga, during her second number at a performance at the Eclipse Company Store in The Plains, Ohio, on Sept. 24. Audience members react by taking photos and videos to take home and handing her cash tips.

Kazma Knights and other drag performers to bring holiday cheer to Athens

Ohio University has become a popular location for drag shows, previously hosting RuPaul's Drag Race All-Star Silky Nutmeg Ganache in August. Yet, drag can be found beyond the bricks of Athens this holiday season.

On Dec. 3, Kazma Knights, a local Athens drag queen, will be hosting her fifth annual "Kazma's Holly Jolly Holidays" toy drive drag show at Athens Uncorked, located at 14 Station St. All toys go to Children Services in Athens County. The president of the organization, Knights, has also teamed up with the Southeast Ohio Rainbow Alliance to create five drop-off locations for people to bring toys as well.

"I think in a lot of ways, the energy will be kind of the same because there's always the sexy confidence when it comes to drag performance," Jack Wilburn, a sophomore studying classics, said. "We have a group chat with all of the queens and we were asking about, like, 'What's the age limit of the show?' It's an 18 and up show, and they were like, 'OK, so we can be like the slutty people that we are and show up like that."

Wilburn, otherwise known as Evelyn Everything on stage, is excited for audiences to see him perform some of his favorite holiday songs.

"It'll be really festive and really bright and cheery, whereas the last one was a little more spooky, Halloween-themed," Wilburn said. "I know at least in my case, I'm doing some Ariana Grande songs from her Christmas album for the show, so it'll be a very cheery vibe."

Reed Holt, a sophomore studying music production and recording industry, will be performing as Rayley Saphron, taking a more formal approach to their performance.

"I think the main difference is my setlist," Holt said. "(Athens) Uncorked is more of a wine bar, so I'm kind of going more of a formal approach with my set, and that's not something I normally do. Normally, I do more fancy numbers. I'm doing a slower ballad, more emotional set rather than a big, dancy set." 

Wilburn and Holt both are new to the Athens drag scene, performing for the first time this year in October at "Kazma's Spooktacular Homecoming Drag Show." 

"Kazma got me my first gig, so with that, I'm forever grateful for Kazma," Holt said. "Kazma is really the person who got me to launch my drag career, the person who got me really to officially say I'm an official drag queen. Forever and ever, I'll be grateful to Kazma. I do look at her like my drag mom."

Wilburn said the energy from his performance was untouchable, grateful for the support he received from his friends and family.

"The energy is so much fun," Wilburn said. "I invited lots of my friends to the show, and feeling them coming to support me and being able to just have that reciprocal energy of me delivering an amazing performance and them enjoying it was the best part."

Meanwhile, Kazma Knights, known as Chris Nivel outside of drag, began performing five years ago after receiving encouragement from another local drag queen. Now, Nivel says his favorite thing about performing is getting to be someone else.

"Probably just getting to be someone else," Nevil said. "You really get to let go, and there's not really a care in the world. Outside of drag, I work a very professional finance job, and so the worlds are completely opposite."

Holt says the audience also plays a big role in their love for drag, feeding off the crowd's energy and support.

"It's the audience," Holt said. "I mean, I love figuring out the outfit, I love picking a number, I love doing the number, but it's really about the audience. I'm in a sense kind of a people pleaser (and) I love entertaining people. I like seeing people happy, so when I'm entertaining people, performing on stage, all I see are smiles, all I hear is screams, all I hear are people being happy and enjoying life, and that's the best part of drag."

The drag queen has found inspiration from other queens as well, always carrying with them the advice of Maya Bizness as they continue to develop their drag career.

"The queen Maya Bizness, she told me, 'There are a lot of queens in this world. What makes you different from other queens? And why should you be doing drag?'," Holt said. "I think that comment alone helped my performance get to that level of epicness at The Union and has really carried me not only in drag but also just through life."

Nivel says audience members can expect a variety of drag performers and of course, some Mariah Carey Christmas music.

"Obviously, holiday themed," Nevil said. "We're trying to keep it more holiday-focused instead of Christmas, but I'm sure you'll hear a lot of Christmas songs, maybe some Mariah (Carey), but nice wintery outfits. We've got just about every type of performer. The dance the house down divas, we've got the comedy, we've got the glamor. You name it, it'll be there."

The event will have two shows, the first being from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the second from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 for one show, $20 for both shows and $20 VIP for only the second show. Additionally, tickets are $10 for one show and $15 for both if one brings a toy.

Regarding drop-off stations for donations, they can be found outside the Ohio University LGBT Center entrance, Athens Uncorked, Peddler's Junction, Athens Community Center and OU's Human Resources Office. The LGBT Center is located in room 348 in Baker University Center, Peddler's Junction at 1002 E. State St., Athens Community Center at 701 E. State St. and OU's HR Office in Grosvenor Hall, room 113.

The drag show will also include performances from Crylee Chimera, Miss Lady Dior, Mystique Monroe and other performers. 

"I would especially invite queer people because nobody is as out and proud and loud about their queerness as a drag queen," Wilburn said. "If you're looking for a shining example of individuality and identity, then a drag queen is the perfect example for you."

Nevil encourages new people to join in on the fun of a drag show because of how accepting the environment is.

"Nobody is going to be shunned," Nevil said. "It's a very accepting, open environment for people to be themselves. A lot of times, our events are people's only time to be themselves, and so that's another really cool thing."


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