Archive for: May 2016

Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Poo Poo Platter: Serving Up Austin Drag

Jessica Jones, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

At 9:20, the stage manager throws open the dressing room door.

“Ready to go on at 9:30?” he asks.

But everyone shakes their head; Cupcake is running late—they’ll need more time. Seconds later, a frazzled man rushes in with a large suitcase in tow. The dressing room quickly becomes a center of chaos.

He yells that he only needs ten minutes. As Brady rips open the suitcase, one thing is clear: a transformation is about to take place.

Brady puts a hair net over his short, buzzed head and gets to work on his face. Quick brush stokes of foundation, blush, eye shadow. He swiftly applies glue to his fake eye lashes and places them perfectly on his lids. While he finishes up his lipstick, someone straps his heels. He shoves gel implants into his otherwise empty bra, and gives them a shake as he glances in the mirror. Next, he places two different wigs on his head and pins then into place.

Exactly 10 minutes later as promised, he sings, “Cupcake is reaaaady!”

Someone hands him the mic and he steps onto stage.

The dressing room looks like the aftermath of a tornado, but the five remaining queens backstage are too excited to even notice the mess. Tonight is a Poo Poo Platter show—and they’re ready to serve up the most unique of Austin’s drag.

Poo Poo Platter was formed three and a half years ago, after founding member Waldo moved to Austin and saw an opportunity to bring a new type of drag to the area. At the time, Austin drag was focused on female allusion, but Waldo knew others would want to join him in bringing a lighter-hearted, funnier type of drag to the city. With now more than ten members and at least two shows a month you could say it was a success.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show. Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Although they are a troop, every member gets to design their own part of the show, from music and props right down to costumes and makeup.

“We’re very much independent contractors. Everyone does their own thing, they’re responsible for their own acts,” said queen Arcie Cola.

But being a part of the troop certainly has its benefits. It’s easier to book shows when you’re offering more than just one act, and the members understand that. Many of them had solo careers as performers before joining Poo Poo Platter, but enjoy the special relationships that being a part of this group provides.

“You can always be an individual performer, whereas being in a troop it’s a family. So for me it comes down to work and family,” said Zane Zena, who performed as a wrestler previous to joining Poo Poo Platter.

And the closeness of the group is apparent, even to an outsider. Whether they are helping each other in the dressing room, taking a cigarette break or just dancing around together during a rehearsal—it is clear that the group shares a special bond.

A big part of that bond is their agreement that “drag” is something that cannot easily be defined.

“When somebody tells you that you can’t be something—you do it. That’s drag to me,” said Zane Zena.

While Cupcake was more keen on not defining it at all, “I don’t know what is and isn’t drag… It’s not my problem to define the word, I’m not f***** Merriam Webster.”

And while the actual definition of drag may not be important, the troop agreed that there is a definite need to shine a light on drag as a real performing art.

Poo Poo Platter cast. Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

Poo Poo Platter cast.
Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

They practice hours a week and spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on making their own costumes. Yet, people are still quick to dismiss drag as being a real art. Respect—that is the universal word each queen mentioned. And the Austin International Drag Festival this past weekend was one step in the right direction.

An entire weekend dedicated to promoting and supporting the drag community, Poo Poo Platter was able to host events and mingle with infamous drag queens from around the world. More than anything, the second annual festival acted as a way of spreading the idea that drag is an outlet for artistic expression, not simply men in dresses.



The Great Diaper Need

Story Package By Alejandra Martinez, Ashlyn Warblow and Trisha Zyrowski

Story By Trisha Zyrowski

When babies are kept in dirty, wet diapers for an extended length of time, they are suffering from diaper need. A silent crisis in America, diaper need affects 1 in 3 mothers according to a study conducted by Huggies.

The expense of disposable diapers, averaging around $1,200 a year for one child, often leave low-income families to choose between diapers and other basic needs, such as food.

Struck by the lack of diaper aid available to families here in Austin, Beverly Hamilton founded the Austin Diaper Bank in 2013.

“Often diapers are a dollar a piece when you buy them at the store and that ends up being a huge cost over time,” Hamilton said. The Austin Diaper Bank estimates that nearly 12,000 babies and toddlers are in a diaper need situation, based on 2012 US Census Bureau data. 

“Now that’s just on poverty numbers alone. There are a lot of other people who for various reasons, usually crisis type situations or big life changes, inflate those numbers as well,” Hamilton said.

In Travis County, about 20,000 people total are likely in diaper need, including elderly, the impoverished and homeless, and people in crisis situations, said Hamilton. Despite the need, diapers are not covered under any federal assistance program. 

The Austin Diaper Bank is able to provide families in need with diapers through 45 partner agencies across central Texas.

In three years, the Austin Diaper Bank has given out over 400,000 diapers and helped over 5,000 people with diaper need. This year they are distributing about 10,000 diapers per month, which is already an increase over last year’s distributions.

“There are so many reasons why diapers are important for the day to day life of some people,” Hamilton said.

The Austin Diaper Bank relies heavily on diaper donations and volunteers to operate.

“We couldn’t have a diaper bank without volunteers,” Hamilton said.

While disposable diapers offer convenience, cloth diapers can offer parents a more eco-friendly and cost-effective way to care for their children.

Whitney LeBlanc, owner of Austin’s Enlightened Baby, wanted to create a space for people to purchase all natural baby products in one place. Environment, cost and safety for your baby are a few reasons it’s important to use natural products, said LeBlanc.

“Washing machines can do today what they could not do back in the day, you used to have to, like, soak them in a vat in the backyard to get the poo off,” LeBlanc said, “I know why disposable diapers were invented, but we don’t have to do that anymore.”

LeBlanc went on to say that disposable diapers are convenient and we’ve come to rely on that, as a society.


“We actually don’t know how to diaper any other way, so we are having to totally relearn how to use something that’s reusable,” LeBlanc said. “Cloth diapers are fantastic for your pocketbook.”


The cost of disposable diapers can add up considering that babies are in diapers for about 30 months.

Alecia Page, a mother of two kids in diapers, has always used disposable diapers for both of her children. Page loves the idea that cloth diapers are better for the environment and a cheaper option in the long-run, but still ultimately made the decision to use disposable diapers.

“The first and most important factor in our decision was that at the time of both of my children’s births we lived in an apartment without a washer and dryer and I felt it would be inappropriate to wash soiled diapers in public washing machines,” Page said.

In addition, with a one-person income for the family of four, the initial cost of cloth diapers was something they couldn’t afford at the time, despite any future savings.

“It’s an initial upfront cost, but we’ve found that it’s about four and a half months of a break-even point,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc explained that for cloth diapers, parents are only paying for the first four to five months, the other 25 months is savings. According to her, even if they’re using the most generic disposable diapers, that’s a minimum of a $1,000 they can save.

Despite the differences, cloth and disposable diapers are actually similar in a lot of ways.

“All-in-one cloth diapers are just like disposables, in terms of use, it gets soiled, you take it off, and you put a new one on,” LeBlanc said, “The difference is, you put it in a bag to be washed, versus putting it in a bag to go sit in a landfill somewhere.”

Cloth diapers are also important to Austin Diaper Bank’s cause, said Hamilton, “cloth doesn’t solve every problem, however, because a lot of people that we help are in shelters, they don’t have the ability to do all that washing and for our homeless population, it’s certainly not an option.”

There are a lot of options within cloth diapers, providing parents with the flexibility to choose what fits best for their lifestyle. The three most popular kinds include: prefolds and covers, pocket, and all-in-ones.

LeBlanc said parents would need about 25 to 30 cloth diapers for the entire 30 months that the baby is in diapers, versus the 7,000 to 10,000 disposable diapers needed for the same period of time.

To supply a baby with all of the cloth diapers they will need over the course of 30 months, depending on the type, can cost anywhere from $250 to $700, saving parents at least 58 percent in comparison to disposable diapers.

“We definitely offer [cloth diapers], but at the same time we know the realities of our society mean that we need disposables,” Hamilton said.

Photographs By Trisha Zyrowski and Alejandra Martinez





All Infographics by Ashlyn Warblow


The Detriments of Islamophobia

by Amayeli Arnal-Reveles, Faria Akram, Stephanie Rothman

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