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Student performers sang high notes and spun on trapezes as part of Leo Factor, a student talent show hosted by raunchy joke-telling drag queen Pandora Boxx.
Pandora Boxx, winner of Miss Congeniality on the second season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” opened the show Thursday with a lip-synched performance of “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls, her performance replete with sexual gestures and dance moves that entertained the audience in the packed Morgan Auditorium.
“I was channeling my sadness and sorrow into the song,” sophomore music major Thomas Del Carmen, who won third place said. “There was a guiding light that I was able to find mid-semester, in the song, but I’m not sure if it’s another person or if it’s me guiding myself. I was able to get myself out of the darkness.”
Freshman criminology major Kaitlynn Carmell won first place and $300 for her performance of “Titanium” by Sia and David Guetta to background piano music.
Carmell sang some portions of the song originally sung in a higher pitch with a lower, subdued voice, and her voice rose in pitch and volume when she sang the lyrics “stone-hard, thus bulletproof glass,” prompting cheers from the audience.
Bailey Scherer, sophomore speech communications major won second place and $200 for a video of herself swinging, spinning, climbing, and hanging by her feet on a trapeze to the song “Killing Me” by Jacob Whitesides.
In the video, called “Sink,” she performed in a room where a projector showed footage of black, swirling smoke.
Del Carmen, who signed up with the alias “Guam” for his national origin, received $100 for his third place performance of “Drift Away” on piano, which he composed himself.
He said he wrote the first half of the song a week before the show, and the second half just a few hours before his performance. He had originally planned to perform Titanium, but was told that someone else had chosen the song.
Del Carmen said his song was about what he struggled with this semester.
“I was just really feeling like this semester was just rough for me, just a lot of realizations, and I realized ‘I’m not okay,’ but it was okay, I was happy to finally realize that,” Del Carmen said.
Other students who performed included senior psychology major Jedaun Carter, introduced as “J. Carter,” who opened up the night of performances. She sang the sorrowful lyrics of “Blackbird” by Nina Simone in acapella style.
Cheyenne Avila, junior creative writing major, sung “Again” by Kehlani to acoustic guitar background music, and senior journalism major Tyler Evains, introduced as “Tyler Shaun,” sang “Penthouse Cloud” by The Internet.
The last student to perform was freshman psychology major Zachary DuBois, who had signed up to perform less than an hour before the show began.
“I just saw all the people performing, and a sense went through me and I felt all of the energy and I wanted to be on stage and perform,” DuBois said about his last minute choice. “I wanted to participate and be a part of my school’s community.”
DuBois asked the audience members to stand up, with their hands over their hearts, as he performed the national anthem. He said his song choice was out of a sense of patriotism, and that he did not expect his voice to get scratchy during the high notes.
“Well, I mean, I love my country, I love all the people here, and why not be a patriot?”
Cindy Vallejo, interim associate director of office of student life, Osvaldo Jaime, senior business administration major, and Shane Rodrigues, broadcast operations manager of the communications department, served as judges.
Jaime said it was very difficult to judge the performances.
“The judges are going to determine the winner based on the criteria of originality, creativity, preparedness, stage presence, quality, and crowd appeal,” Boxx said. “The acronym is ‘ahk-sheh-pup-sh-qua.’”
After the student performances, Pandora Boxx danced and lip-synced to the lyrics of “My Vagina is 8 Miles Wide” by Storm Large to a clapping, laughing and cheering audience.
Carmell said she had performed in choir since the sixth grade, but otherwise had no formal training. She practiced singing “Titanium” during the week in between the initial auditions and her performance.
“It’s one of my favorite songs to perform, and I feel it, just how you express it, and vocally, it’s one of my favorite songs. I performed it before, and it just kind of came to me,” Carmell said. As for her $300 award, she said, “I’m probably going to pay my tuition with it.”
Jaime said that inviting Pandora Boxx was the result of collaboration with the GSA, ASULV, Joann “Jojo” Gaters, CAB concerts chairwoman, and Elizabeth Galioto, CAB comedy chairwoman.
“I believe it’s important for someone from that (LGBT) community to host an event like this. It was nice to have GSA out here just to show the collaboration between clubs and organizations on campus,” Jaime said.
Aryn Plax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.