Casavina, in a blue sequined dress, and Selena Minogue, in a flamingo skirt, joked about the terrible things their interpreters have done through American Sign Language. Falling asleep, arguing and never showing any expressions were common problems.
The two drag queens, who gathered internet fame through their YouTube channel called Deafies in Drag, performed Friday night at the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. The event was hosted by Signing Gators, a UF student deaf culture organization. About 200 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people attended the event, which ended Gainesville’s Deaf Awareness Week events.
The Deafies in Drag channel, which they started in 2015, has more than 2,400 subscribers. The two queens have comedy videos on the worst types of interpreters, drag slang in sign language and sketches about deaf culture. Their Facebook page has more than 50,000 likes.
At the show, the drag queens played games with the audience members, including trying to lip read what people were mouthing and using foam hands to sign sentences.
Vina said drag works well for the deaf community because it’s an exciting visual art and goes against negative stereotypes of the community, such as hearing people thinking deaf people can’t be performers.
“We needed something different, something happy, something fun, something big,” she said.
The queens also said they use their show as a way to connect with the hearing community about what it means to be deaf.
“Deafs aren’t going to bite you,” Minogue said. “We like interacting with hearing.”
Kia Vallery, a deaf Gainesville resident, said through an interpreter she wants the hearing community to understand she can do the same things they can do despite being deaf.
“We want people to understand that we are not sad because we’re deaf,” the 47-year-old said. “We don’t want to be treated differently. We want equality.”
Ashleigh Poole, the Signing Gators president, said this year the organization held its longest Deaf Awareness Week, going from five-day events to seven.
Friday’s show of Deafies in Drag had the most deaf community members to attend a Signing Gators event in the past four years — about 50.
It cost $3,000 to bring the queens, which was funded by Signing Gators and other student organizations, Poole said.
Poole said she encourages UF students to learn from the deaf community members themselves.
“As hearing students, even though we’re officers of the club, we don’t want to be the ones teaching deaf culture or ASL to students,” Poole said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that one of the drag queens names was spelled as "Casa Vina." The correct spelling is "Casavina." A previous version also stated the crowd size was about 80 people. There were about 200 people, according to audience member check-ins made by an organizer.
Deafies in Drag stars Casa Vina (left) and Selena Minogue (right) pose with their fan.