For many, TwitchCon Amsterdam was a chance for the streaming community to meet each other, chat with brands, and watch some esports tournaments – notably Twitch Rivals.
But it was the event’s drag showcase that was really the talk of the convention. Capping off the first day, the TwitchCon Drag Showcase was the first event of its kind and saw over 60,000 people watching in the centre’s Glitch Theatre and streaming online – many of whom had never seen a drag show before.
Not only was the drag showcase the epicentre of LGBT+ representation at the convention, it was an opportunity to highlight the diversity of talent on Twitch. There’s far more to the platform than just playing video games, even if that’s done in makeup and a wig.
The showcase, which I made sure to attend, was presented by Irish queens Dona Tarte and Nikkie Stones.
“Not only did Twitch invite and bring over a handful of queer artists to their convention on a prime time slot, but they entrusted it to myself, my co-host and our fantastic producer,” said Dona, who I caught up with after the show.
“After a very long lockdown and working with these artists during it, looking down the line after taking a bow, it felt astounding, a moment I’ll never forget.”
“Being a drag artist of seven years and constantly feeling invalidated and that I was never good enough, being on that stage really made me feel like all the work I put in was for something,” added Nikkie.
“I’m also extremely proud of being able to show more representation within the drag community and hopefully have opened even more eyes that no matter what your gender identity, racial heritage, or sexuality, drag is for everyone.”
It’s taken a few days to sink in but on Saturday I got to co-host the best moment in my Drag career so far..
Co-hosting the first Drag Showcase at @TwitchCon Amsterdam, peaking 60k views + a packed theatre
Completing a life goal of mine WITH these artists meant a lot 😭💜 pic.twitter.com/RfwoUDE0zF
— Dona Tarte is warm (@Dona_Tarte) July 21, 2022
For some of the performers, the event offered a chance to get back on stage. Drawn to Twitch during the pandemic as a way of diversifying their drag, a live show at the convention was liberating.
“Even though I’m used to performing on a stage, it’s not every day that you get such a huge platform like the Glitch Theatre – not only is there a big crowd in front of you, you have that extra ‘responsibility’ of knowing that there are thousands of people watching you live online,” said Portugal’s Marge Mellow.
“Being part of the first Twitch Drag Showcase was an experience I’ll never forget, feeling IRL the sense of community and companionship from fellow gamers and drag enthusiasts was overwhelming in the best way possible.”
Said London-based Aubrey Wodonga: “I have been performing for over 15 years but this is honestly a career highlight for me, and I feel such a strong connection to my fellow talented drag artists that I got to share this with.”
— Eevoh (@Eevohhh) July 17, 2022
For other queens, this was their first time performing live on-stage, in front of a huge crowd.
“My first performance ever was cheered by more than 60,000 people and I wish I could put into words the emotions I went through,” said Twitch Ambassador Eevoh. “When I got back to my hotel I burst into tears as I never thought that I would be living a dream such as this. I hope the energy that was in that theatre lives on to the next drag shows on Twitch.”
“Being part of Twitch’s first drag showcase was just surreal!” said Portuguese queen Miss Cookie Doe. “I will never forget the warmth that the audience gave me which kept me energised during the whole performance.
“It’s very important that drag was represented at TwitchCon so we can show the world that drag is an art that has many forms and that drag is everywhere. Also the European Twitch drag scene is so small I hope we inspire new queens to come to the platform.”
The showcase was an explosion of positive, queer energy and one of only a few examples of marginalised representation at the convention. And despite some inevitable negativity, the response from the audience was joyful.
“I think in this keyboard warrior time we’re in, where many people are quick to online critique behind a blank profile, it was inclusive and diverse for everyone to feel welcomed and to find their own little piece of safe space,” said Heather Phetish. “It definitely didn’t stop a few negative comments…but I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of love that overshadowed any negativity and the feedback, as well as the figures, speaks for itself.”
“This representation is important not only for showing just how many people would show up to and support drag on Twitch (which was unbelievable), but equally so for the resistance that popped up online and across social media,” said Aubrey. “However loud this resistance is I feel like it demonstrates there is a lot more work to be done, and getting queer people to the front of Twitch is just as important as ever!”
“The backlash is a great place to see why we needed this in the first place,” said Dona. “Most of what I’ve seen is that ‘I miss when Twitch was just about gaming’. A hard pill to swallow is: we were, we have and we always will be part of the gaming community and the Twitch platform, since the very start. Had we been up there building a shed together on Minecraft, I promise you there would’ve been yet another excuse.
“The gaming industry has always been associated with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and trust me, the list goes on. Twitch bringing us over and highlighting a very colourful side of the platform and being unapologetically queer is a phenomenal step towards breaking the box that so many bigots want us to stay in.”
Not only was the event entertaining, it opened the eyes of many audience members to a whole new artform.
“The amount of people who stopped us queens on the TwitchCon floor the day after asking for photos, signatures and hugs, many saying it was their first time seeing a show let alone a drag artist in person was astounding,” said Dona.
“The demographic was so broad too! People from all walks of life gave us nothing but love and it truly warmed my heart especially during these dark times of right wing activists trying to demonise the artform as a whole and using that to attack the trans community while they’re at it.”
Said Marge: “Having airtime to show the world our art is, at the very least, validating and reassuring that we can and should keep shining in our brightest colours.”