Chemeketa drag: it’s for everybody 

The line up of Queens and a King at the end of the show. You can catch the
Caliente XL crew this coming weekend, June 8-9, at Capital Pride in Salem.
Photo by QUINN STODDARD of Keizertimes

In partnership with Chemeketa Community College’s Safe Haven group, Caliente XL productions, owned by Richard Arias Jr. (whose stage name is RiRi Caliente), put on an all-ages drag performance for the second year in a row on Friday, May 31, at Chemeketa College. 

With a steady hand, drag performers expertly applied swaths of foundation, blush and coloration to prepare for the rainbow festivities of the night. 

Of these performers, Keizertimes was privileged to sit down and chat with the event lead, Arias, as he applied makeup for the show. 

Born in Klamath Falls, Arias noted moving around when younger, from Oregon to northern California and then back to Portland and finally Salem where he moved to be closer to family. 

A life-long theater kid, Arias’s drag journey began in 2003 after a close friend passed from HIV. His friend made him promise to try out drag which he did in 2012 and has been gracing the stage as RiRi, also known as the mother of Salem, ever since. 

Being born legally blind, Arias noted how drag acted as another avenue to express himself. 

“Drag has become a freedom for me. To educate, to inspire and to hopefully give somebody out there who might be watching an opportunity to ask themselves, ‘Hey, can I do this?” 

RiRi Caliente (Arias) in full attire as she performs onstage .
Photo by QUINN STODDARD of Keizertimes

The short answer is yes you can. 

The show featured multiple title-holding queens and one king who performed to modern and aged musical hits such as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Oregon title holders included Mr. and Ms. Oregon Gay Pride Sunshine and Sterling Ray McPherson. 

The event was held to celebrate the start of Pride month and raise money for Capital Pride, a queer-led nonprofit dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ community in the Salem area. 

Speaking to the importance of having queer events such as the drag show, Arias noted these events often act as safe places for LGTBQ+ folks from those who are questioning their place in the world to those who just want to have fun. 

“There’s a lot of people out there who are not aware of the art form of drag and or have a very skewed idea about what it is. This is a way to be free. This is a way to express ourselves,” Arias said. 

“What we’re doing here tonight is to entertain, uplift and make people feel good while hopefully giving them an escape,” Arias added. 

Despite the positive message Arias and company promote at the event, drag performances have come under fire due to perceived issues. 

When asked about those that disagree with their performance, Arias stated, “Give it a chance.” 

“I have had people tell me after shows, ‘you know, thank you for showing me that it’s not as scary as everybody thinks it is,” Arias finished. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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