"He steps into his pumps as he steps into his identity,” Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts (CFA), Bryant Alexander, said in an introduction to the event, “A Fabulous Evening With Kim Chi: Exploring Gender Identity Through Drag” that took place on March 15. The event was co-sponsored by CFA and the Department of Theatre Arts as part of LGBT Student Services’ Rainbow Week.
Kim Chi is a drag queen and runner-up of season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the first drag queen to come to LMU. Born in the U.S. and raised in South Korea, Kim Chi started her drag career in Chicago in 2012. She is known for her intricate makeup and high-concept outfits, as well as her relatable humor. She said in a video introduction to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season eight: “I want to earn enough money to be able to afford guac on my burrito bowl without worrying about the consequences.”
Many people in the audience were talking enthusiastically about Kim Chi before the event began.
“I’m really excited that she’s here, [and] I’m really excited to meet her,” Isaiah Brown, a sophomore communication studies major, said. “I skipped some of my homework because I was like, I need to meet her, even if it’s only for half an hour. I just want to be in her presence and bask in her glow.”
Celine Alvarado, a sophomore English major, shared similar sentiments.
“She’s my favorite. […] She did amazing that season [of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”], and she’s also an Asian American and also part of the LGBT community, which is like, me! She’s been such an inspiration and always talks about her experiences and struggles, and […] just to see her, my dream has come true. I never thought I would see her in real life,” Alvarado said.
Anthony Garrison-Engbrecht of LGBT Student Services gave the first introduction of the night for Dean Alexander. Alexander then followed by speaking about the link between gender and identity.
"Drag for me, besides being a performance, becomes a study in the presumption of gender," Alexander said. "It forces a close examination of the construction of identity.”
Alexander continued, “We all become complicit, forced to think about what makes drag drag, and how we perform gender every day. [...] The performer you will engage with today will ask us to suspend our disbelief while also believing in the real or surreal [aspects] of gender performances.”
Following Alexander, assistant professor of costume design, Leon Wiebers, gave an introduction to Kim Chi. He said that Kim Chi is so unique because she performs around her Koreanness as well as her American identity, on top of being queer. He also touched on her ability to turn drag into a fine art and gave some background on her life.
After Wiebers’ introduction, Kim Chi made her way through the audience as she danced and sang to “Imagine It Was Us” by Jessie Ware, occasionally stopping to sing to individual students. She wore a white kimono-inspired dress with red trim, which she then took off to reveal a shorter wrap dress covered in holographic circles.
Katie Griner, a sophomore psychology major, said in regards to Kim Chi’s performance, “It was amazing! I love Kim Chi so much. I watched like every single episode of ‘RuPaul.’[…] I love Kim Chi, I think she’s so talented and so artistic and so beautiful! Her performance was gorgeous, [and] I’m so excited to see her next one.”
Kim Chi answered questions before changing into her second outfit of the night, a floor-length red and pink floral gown with large, puffy sleeves and a crown atop a curly red wig.
In the Q&A, Kim Chi said that the hardest challenge from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was not the second episode in which she struggled with choreographed dance that almost sent her home, but holding in her pee on the runway. She also revealed that her favorite makeup brands are Sugar Pill and Anastasia Beverley Hills, and she shared that Bob the Drag Queen, who won season 8 of “Drag Race,” still owes her all the dipbrow (an eyebrow pomade from Anastasia Beverly Hills) from the winner’s grand prize in a deal they struck before the season finale.
One story line that was explored in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was that Kim Chi kept her drag from her mother because of the traditional values held by her Korean family, and in the final question Kim Chi revealed that her mother still doesn’t know about her drag.
LMU benefited from Kim Chi's presence on campus and her honesty in answering questions. She ended the night with another round of Q&A as the event came to a close.