“The inspiration for the show was to go back to the days of Tiffany touring malls in the ’80s,” says Chad Kampe, the guy behind a Minneapolis mall drag show that recently made history as the first drag event to take place inside a large-scale shopping center. By all measurements, the event was a success: Having sold-out weeks in advance, May 19 saw 500 people gather at the Rosedale Center mall to see some of their favorite queens — including RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Peppermint, Trinity Taylor, Blair St. Clair, Monique Heart and host Carson Kressley — perform in front of the Von Maur department store.
Most interesting, though, is that this mall drag show received an unexpected boost in promotion from the unlikeliest of places: the city’s conservative Christian right, who were up in arms, ranting and raving about “normalizing degrading sexual costuming and performances that are found at gay bar scenes,” and, even worse, “targeting” kids.
Kampe, who runs Flip Phone, the premier LGBTQ event promoter of Minneapolis, tells Hornet, “The mall approached Flip Phone to do a drag event, and we wanted to make history with the first-ever drag show. The show was 100% family-friendly, and many families and kids were in attendance.”
Prior to the event, Kampe had noticed some unusual comments left on the Rosedale Center Facebook page. It seemed some of the city’s more conservative set were appalled at the idea of a drag show outside the confines of a lascivious gay bar. “Have you run out of recruits that you have to seduce children whose minds are not even matured enough to make an adult decision? Despicable behavior on your part!” read one of the more hilarious comments.
The attempt to trash the event, dubbed “Shop ‘Til You Drag,” with online hate continued. One group in particular, calling itself the Child Protection League Action, was behind most of the trolling.
Some trolls even went so far as to label the event’s drag queen and trans performers as sexual predators and child molesters, which particularly incensed New York City-based performer Peppermint. She tells Hornet, “Statistically gender-nonconforming people fall victim to hate crimes and sexual violence at a much higher rate than others in the population. Labeling drag queens and trans women predators just because you think we look different only serves your delusional narrative that anyone who is queer is a sexual predator.”
Kampe tells Hornet that a “robo-call tree” was created to contact Rosedale Center and convince them to pull the show. The Christian right-wing proceeded to bombard the mall’s Facebook page with negative reviews, to which Kampe enlisted his own crew — the city’s LGBTQ and allied community — to fight back. He asked fans of his events to “visit [the League’s] page and fill it with love and joy about the show.”
Close to 200 people did just that.
“For every one negative review we had 10 positive reviews supporting the show,” Kampe says. “They didn’t stop the show! The trolling actually fueled the show, and we sold out two weeks early!”
Through all the outrage by right-wingers disgusted at the idea of a family-friendly mall drag show, the Rosedale Center mall remained steadfast in its support of the LGBTQ event.
“The show was an outstanding success, and the mall said the stores saw bigger crowds and spending on the day of the show. The audience was fantastic,” says Kampe. “They were showering the performers with love and support. This was one of the most magical events that I have ever produced.”