July 3, 2020

Webster’s yearly drag ball inspired alumna to take the stage

As Webster anticipates its upcoming drag ball, one alumna looks back at what inspired her to take the stage as a drag king.

The annual drag ball at Webster University is a start for many people hoping to step into the land of drag. It’s a large step for some and a small jump for others.

This year, the ball will be held on April 10 at 7:30 p.m in Grant Gym. LGBT Alliance club president Jay Hinchman told The Journal that the doors will open at 7 p.m. and has a forgotten sea theme. The event is all-ages and all students are welcome to audition.

Emily Ratkewicz is one person who made the large step into being a drag king. She started out shy and then she attended her first drag show, spending the night laughing at the wild performances. Ratkewicz saw her first drag king and realized that could be her up there. Ratkewicz had done high school lip-syncing competitions, so she had some of the needed skills. She could be the next drag king up on that stage, and after attending a few more shows, she was.

Webster's yearly drag ball inspired alumna to take the stage

Emily Ratkewicz takes the stage at the FOMO factory in Houston, Texas

She immersed herself in the culture. Her favorite was Rydyr’s Thursdays nights, an all-king show. Shortly afterward, she found out another dorm student was getting involved in drag, so she learned from them. Her fear was her biggest enemy. Ratkewicz was on the volleyball team and worried she would be picked on. Ratkewicz debated doing it and eventually decided to take up the call.

“It’s all for fun,” she said.

She gave in and teamed up with a friend. They both began practicing makeup, looking at YouTube tutorials and found some suits to use in men’s thrift stores. Both girls had never done masculine makeup before so they began researching.

Ratkewicz describes their first performance as a blast. She was terrified at first but managed to rally her spirit. She took part in the drag ball her senior year with a mashup of her and a friend’s favorite songs.

Ratkewicz wished she could do it more as it helped her cope with family issues at home. She loved to dance, play with makeup and mess with people’s heads in the style of her drag king.

She found out Rydyr was doing an amateur night at Attitudes, a nightclub in St. Louis, and signed up. She was comfortable enough with the host and the venue to take part. She met another drag king by the name of Dickie Rebellion. It was Rebellion’s first performance as a king — exactly like Ratkewicz. This night propelled them into being good friends and they tried to have performances together as often as possible.

Word eventually reached Ratkewicz, via her friend Dickie Rebellion, about Grey Fox’s discovery nights. There she met numerous other drag scene people. Dickie and another performer by the name of Dick Von Dyke started MANic Mondays which gave Ratkewicz an outlet for herself. She could be paid for her drag performances.

“This was a complete dream come true,” Ratkewicz said

Now Ratkewicz has moved to Texas and has become a regular in two drag shows, but she never forgot her roots at Webster.

She confessed she was very happy with her current situation. Doing cosplays and managing characters helped prepare herself for playing Hugh Dandy. The character is of her own creation and she enjoys it. She loves the fun in drag and does her best to have as much fun as possible in a positive way.

Ratkewicz encountered one problem with being a drag king: binding her chest to make it appear flat.

“Ace bandage is not a good choice. It can restrict breathing and break ribs or make you pass out as you dance,” Ratkewicz said. “Dancing lets in more air and will constrict the bandages.”

A local king told her to use duct tape and tape them under the armpits. “It’s not a comfortable thing to do the first few times,” Ratkewicz confessed.

Ratkewicz instead suggested binders in place of ace bandages.

The biggest lesson Ratkewicz learned about drag was it is more than flashy costumes and lip-sync.

“I’m glad Webster gave me the chance to try [drag],” Ratkewicz said. “Their open-mindedness and encouragement to be involved really helped me to open up, be comfortable with who I am now.”

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