The Mall of America — which opened nearly 30 years ago, in August 1992 — will kick off celebrations of the big 3-0 with its first drag show, on Jan. 21.
The lineup includes some of the country's top gender-bending theatrical talent, including "RuPaul's Drag Race" stars Latrice Royale, Jorgeous and Farrah Moan, along with beloved Twin Cities queens. Landon Cider, the first drag king to win an American TV show competition, is also on the bill.
When Chris Grap, Mall of America's lead storyteller and experience designer, mentioned the center's upcoming birthday to Chad Kampe, the local drag events producer seized on the idea of a '90s theme. "He just spun like a top," Grap said.
Kampe, who is known for bringing his Flip Phone drag parties into mainstream venues such as Treasure Island Casino, Rosedale and Macy's, leaned into the Mall of America's history of hosting music stars.
In the 1990s, pop phenoms Britney Spears and Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block performed in the megamall's rotunda. Chart-topping singers Shania Twain and Mariah Carey made appearances, as did the boy band NSYNC, which was mobbed by thousands of teenage autograph seekers.
"We're going to be re-creating a lot of those iconic performances with drag performers," Kampe explained.
Grap said the MOA is excited to host a drag event because of the way it brings together facets of fashion, arts and entertainment. "It is larger than life — it's over the top," he said, describing drag's mashup of glamorous getups, music, dance and comedy. "This is just another celebration of a different form of entertainment and art that we haven't showcased yet."
In the decade since Kampe started Flip Phone, greater awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has "totally changed" the public's perception of drag and broadened the audience for what was once a niche art form, he said.
"When we first started bringing drag into different places, people were like, 'Oh, maybe,' and now drag is everywhere. We've brought it to the public libraries and schools."
Kampe sees the MOA show as a way for drag to get the attention it deserves. "This is really our chance to bring it to the masses and say, 'Drag is here. It's inclusive to everybody, it's family-friendly and it's fun.' "
Drag's turn in a brighter spotlight has stirred its share of critics. But the mall is used to opening its doors to the widest possible audience. "That's the nature of this place, Grap said. "With 365 days a year and all the events that we do, there's going to be something for everybody at some point."
Attendees are encouraged to wear '90s clothes and participate in the audience costume contest. "Come in your best scrunchies and fanny packs and get ready for a totally rad time," Kampe said.
Tickets are available at FlipPhoneEvents.com for seats on the rotunda floor and standing-room spots on the balconies. (Viewers can watch from Level Four without tickets.)