Devils Backbone brings drag show, LGBTQ+ representation to Lexington

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the University’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center


The queens interacted with their audience during the performance by climbing on top of the bar, tables, and more. Photo by Brianna Hatch, ‘23.

Bri Hatch

Decked out in elegant, vibrant gowns and sequined bodysuits, six drag queens lip-synced to popular songs and danced — launching into back handsprings and splits — at a fundraising event for Washington and Lee University’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center Jan. 22.

Devils Backbone Brewing Company hosted the sold-out performance, giving the audience of community members and university faculty and students a two-hour-long experience complete with themed drinks and snacks like “pride rolls” and “‘gin’der fluid.” 

But the best part of the show, according to Bri Mondesir, ’22, was interacting with the queens directly. 

“I think my favorite parts were when [the queens] were right up in our faces and it felt like you were part of the show,” Mondesir said. 

The event also provided an inclusive and accepting space for those in the audience. 

“The whole idea of drag is to be who you are and feel accepted,” said Elyssa McMaster, ’22, who serves as an LGTBQ+ peer counselor at Washington and Lee. “I feel like that’s not always super easy to find on a college campus, so it felt liberating in that sense.” 

This type of environment is also not easy to find in rural areas like Rockbridge County, Mondesir added. But that only makes events like these all the more important. 

“In every community, there’s going to be people who are not going to be within the ‘normal’ gender binaries that we set,” Mondesir said. “So whether it’s a rural place, or a city, I think there should be representation.”

McMaster, who grew up in Roanoke, agreed. 

“Being somewhere so rural, it’s not the easiest place to grow up queer or feel comfortable in queerness,” she said. “This kind of space showcases that it’s ok to do what makes you happy and be who you are.”

According to Jake Reeves, assistant director of inclusion and engagement for LGBTQ+ support at Washington and Lee, Devils Backbone reached out about donating a portion of the $20 ticket sales to the university LGBTQ+ Resource Center. Reeves happily accepted the offer.

“I think it’s fantastic when any business demonstrates their willingness to be welcoming and inclusive,” said University Counselor Rallie Snowden, who also advises Washington and Lee’s LGBTQ+ peer counselors. “And there are also staff members [at Devils Backbone] that are part of the LGBTQ community. So they were using their sphere of influence to bring more inclusive events to this area.” 

Snowden, who attended the drag show herself, said that local businesses are filling a hole in Rockbridge County by hosting events like these. 

“There are events that come through the university, but it’s like a desert, unfortunately, for those that aren’t affiliated with this university,” Snowden said. “What’s really missing is LGBTQ support and resources for the wider community.”

Snowden, McMaster and Mondesir also said they’ve heard that Devils Backbone plans to host drag shows again in the future. 

“So on top of the event being really fun, it felt like going forward there’s a plan to continue having this environment, which makes me really excited,” McMaster said.