Oklahoma State University is known for its traditions, but some traditions took longer than others to gain popularity on campus.
The Student Union Activities Board's Dragonfly is one of those traditions.
Shantel Mandalay, a drag queen from Oklahoma City, got to experience her first Dragonfly on Thursday evening.
“Actually it’s kind of ironic, when I went to school here at OSU, we attempted to have this,” Mandalay said. “That was 20 years ago, and we have 25 people come to our show and it was so unsuccessful. They didn’t do it again the next year.”
Dragonfly is now one of SUAB's signature events that has people wrap a line around the second floor of the Student Union hoping to get one of the 486 seats available in the Student Union Theater.
OSU Queer & Allies President Andy Baker said the acceptance of this kind of display of the LGBTQ culture is encouraging.
“Representation of our people is very important here, especially at OSU,” Baker said. “It is monumental because it is the one time of the year that a lot of us get to be our authentic selves.”
For some of the students on campus, the best way to feel their true selves is to perform in front of their peers as their drag personas. Each year, Dragonfly has several student drag queens like Olivia Lycan compete with drag lip sync performances. Lycan is this year's Queen of Paradise.
“It’s good, I’m glad that they are accepting of it and actually love it like I do… it’s just so empowering, I love it so much,” Lycan said. “Last year I was sitting in the audience and to be here this year and to have actually won is just such an amazing thing to me.”
Lycan wasn’t the only one to be inspired to try drag after experiencing Dragonfly. Patricia (Pat) Thai helped organize the event while she was a student here. Pat Thai is now a drag queen in Oklahoma City and was invited to perform alongside other drag queens this year.
“It feels amazing to have a hand in something that is going to have such a great impact on the university and to leave a really great legacy behind,” Thai said. “A lot of us don’t get a chance to do that on such a large scale, and I am just thrilled to have had that opportunity.”
In the 12 years since Thai’s first Dragonfly and the 20 years since Mandalay’s failed attempt to bringing drag to campus, Dragonfly has become one of the centerpiece events for the LGBTQ community on campus.
“Now they’ve brought Dragonfly back, so it’s really amazing to see how everyone supports it now,” Mandalay said. “I started when there was a time of… it was looked down upon, and now I think with the mainstreaming of "Rupaul's Drag Race," it gives people an opportunity to realize and gives more acceptance. So I think it is great that this event was so successful tonight.”
Baker said they hope this event and other LGBTQ events help inform people about the community on campus.
“Pretty much the Dragonfly culture embodies what we as the LGBTQ community have striven for here on campus, which is to have our voices heard, to be seen as equals, to have an event where we can bring in a crowd just as equal to that as the non-LGBTQ community,” Baker said. “I really hope that we bring home a message that we, as queers, are here on campus and we are here to have an impact.”