Alum Miss Toto Emcees SEE’s Spring Drag Show Tonight
Photo by Omoleye Adeyemi/SEE
When Rock Evans ’14 was growing up in Cumberland, Md., Ursula, the conniving, octopus-y sea witch from “The Little Mermaid,” was a regular visitor to their family home. Then a young child, Evans thought Ursula made pit stops at everyone’s house, like a husky-voiced, purple-skinned version of Santa Claus.
“As I got older, I was putting the pieces together, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t really Ursula, because that’s not possible,’” said Evans.
Interacting with Ursula, in reality a drag queen who was friendly with Evans’ mother, was the beginning of a journey that took Rock down a winding path from aspiring marine scientist to Miss Toto, the drag persona under which Evans now performs.
Tonight, Miss Toto will again emcee Student Entertainment Events’ (SEE) annual Spring Drag Show, featuring Kornbread Jeté, who appeared on the television reality competition “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and local drag queens Sirène Noir Sidora Jackson and Angelle Zhané.
The drag show is always “one of the most magical nights,” said Carey Cameron ’24, SEE’s performing arts director. “It’s one of my favorite events that we do, because everyone just feels so elated and happy to be there, and excited to celebrate.”
Evans came to the University of Maryland as the seventh student-athlete of their family, following in the footsteps of their parents, who met when Sonya Cooper Lathrop ’77 cheered for William Evans ’77 on the football team. Evans planned on eventually going to medical school, but soon changed the focus of their biological sciences degree to ecology and evolution.
“I’ve loved the ocean and sharks and marine life for as long as I can remember,” Evans said. “Everyone wants to be a marine scientist when they grow up—they all want to work with dolphins.”
In college, Evans worked at a marine biology summer program in New Jersey and later won a scholarship from UMD to study great white sharks in South Africa, where they learned the predator is “so much bigger than you picture.” After graduating, they went on to the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science to tag sharks for research and earn a master’s degree in marine affairs and policy.
One day in 2015, toward the end of their time in graduate school, Evans went to a party where anyone who dressed “non-heteronormative” got free drinks. “I was like, ‘I can do that.’ I put on a wig at the bar,” they said. They met a drag queen who declared that, with their energy and personality, Evans should consider coming back to the bar and performing the following month: “That was my first booking.”
From that point on, Evans has been making their splash (mostly) on dry land. They now live in Chicago and are pursuing drag and DJing full time, performing at venues around the country. Evans uses their background in cheer and in fitness instruction, which they’d taken on during graduate school, to create routines in which she dances, does splits and back flips, all in mega-heels while lip syncing to songs like Beyonce’s “Break My Soul.”
Sometimes the setup even combines Miss Toto’s passions: in one recent event, dubbed “Drag and Tag,” she performed on a boat as she and other attendees tagged sharks in Florida.
“I’m always a party girl,” said Evans of their Miss Toto persona. “I’m always down to have fun. I’m a ‘yes’ girl through and through. I want to make sure everyone around me is having fun, and I’m very, what’s the word? Motherly.”
The over 800 people who reserved tickets for tonight’s sold-out show in Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom “should expect to laugh,” said Evans. “I’m definitely going to do some tricks, because I can’t be at the University of Maryland in front of all those people and not do some stunts.”
Having Miss Toto emcee the annual event is something of a SEE tradition. When Cameron started in her position at SEE, her predecessor told her that Miss Toto had been a hit with students at the 2019 event, and that Cameron should consider inviting her again. She wasn’t sure until she saw Miss Toto perform. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, we have to bring her back. She’s just so fun. She engages with the audience so well.” Their status as an alum who brought lots of school spirit was a bonus, said Cameron.
Drag shows aren’t being so well-received elsewhere amid a recent nationwide surge in anti-drag activism. In February, protesters disrupted a drag queen story hour at Loyalty Bookstores in Silver Spring, part of a wider movement falsely accusing drag queens of pedophilia and inappropriate behavior with children. Last month, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a provision banning “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or in places where minors might be present. (A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the law shortly after.) More than a dozen states have proposed a slew of similar measures.
“Drag queens are an easy target for people to get riled up about because it is something they don’t know anything about,” said Evans. “They only see one obscene clip from one obscene drag queen, and they’re like, ‘Oh, drag queens are groomers and all drag queens are pedophiles.’ And it’s like, no, you just saw one video of a person doing something they shouldn’t have been doing in their profession. But that happens in any profession. That’s why HR exists. We don’t have a national HR for drag queens.”
Evans hopes that their own performances for young people at high schools and colleges offer a new perspective on what might be a difficult time for LGBTQ youth. They “see us adults performing onstage, being happy and joyous, and you might feel so terrible because you’re in high school and you’re getting made fun of or whatever your situation may be. But then you see us and you’re like, ‘Okay, I have two more years and then I’m out of here and I can do what I want.’”
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