Drag Bingo fosters a fun and positive community at UNLV

Anetra on stage at REB's Drag Bingo at the Student Union in Las Vegas, Nev. on Oct. 4, 2023. Photo by Kalin Sipes.

Heads covered in colorful wigs and the sounds of clacking rainbow fans filled the Student Union Ballroom. Rebel Events Board (REB), a student-driven organization that plans campus-wide events, held Drag Bingo on Oct. 4. The Season 15 runner up from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Antera, was in attendance. The event attracted over 500 students, most of whom had a smile on their face.  

The event was in part to celebrate Las Vegas Pride Month, which is held annually in October. Spectrum, a UNLV student organization dedicated to building community for LGBTQ+ students and allies, had a table and were handing out flyers, stickers and pride flags. They were excited to spread the word about pride month. 

Spectrum president Vianne Daniels shares, “A lot of students maybe haven’t seen a drag performance before, so it gets them in front of that. It also just builds excitement about pride month and the community.”

Community and inclusivity was on the forefront of the minds of REB members as well. Kelechi Odunze, who coordinated the event, shares, “REB wanted to be more inclusive to all of our students and we really just want people to have fun. We thought we could bring a new, fun vibe and include more students with Drag Bingo. We plan to do it every year, it’s one of our biggest events.” There were over 500 people checked in before bingo had started.

“I love ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ It’s so fun being able to see a drag queen on campus. I think that’s what brings a lot of students out, the energy and excitement that they [the drag queen] brings,” said Odunze. Many students expressed the same excitement to see drag in person. Many had watched season 15 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and were already fans of Anetra. 

“It’s surreal to have the opportunity to meet someone that we look up to and we’re really thankful for that.  It’s really fun for everybody and brings together a fun community where we can all have a good time,” said student Lesly, who did not want to share their last name for fear of repercussions.

All students needed for entry was the free Rebel Event Pass. Upon entry, students were given bingo cards and a dobber. Free neon wigs with a “bob” haircut and rainbow fans were placed at tables. Sandwiches and drinks were available and students had about an hour to mingle with one another. Around 6 p.m., Anetra took the stage and performed one song before bingo started. Cell phone cameras went up as students excitedly recorded and cheered for the drag queen.  

Beyond seeing Anetra, this event was a place for students to feel included. “I think it’s a great way for members of the [LGBTQ+] community to find other members of the community,” said Kel Carden, the event coordinator for Spectrum.

Four rounds of bingo were played total. Prizes included $50 in dining dollars, a Kodak printer, a Stanley tumbler and an Instax Mini camera. Each winner had the opportunity to go on stage with Anetra and walk the runway while being cheered on by their fellow students. “We all like drag and it’s a great combination of drag and bingo, so we had to come. It’s pretty cool how they’re able to put this all together, more importantly for students, it’s free,” said student Kimberly, who also did not want to share their last name for fear of repercussions.

To go to “RuPaul’s Drag Race Live” at the Flamingo, tickets start at $59.00 and end up being closer to $100.00 after taxes and fees. So for college students, this event was an opportunity to see drag on a budget.

As bingo commenced, Anetra walked around and interacted with students. Many interactions were students taking a selfie with the drag queen or a short conversation. Anetra asked several students what their major was while entertaining the crowd with jokes.

“I’m stressed just hearing about midterms, but good job to you. Stay in school,” joked Anetra. 

After the four bingo games, Anetra selected eight students to strut the runway. Students were able to share their drag name then perform for their peers. Audience members were able to vote for the winner by cheering and everyone was cheered for. “Last year we came and it was a lot of fun, and we’ve had a lot of fun tonight too. We’ll definitely come again next year,” said student Katharine Javier.  

Beyond colorful bobs, drag bingo fostered a positive community of students. Many look forward to the next drag bingo at UNLV.


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