Virginia’s George Mason University had a real queen for Homecoming this year.
Ryan Allen, a popular host of the George Mason University’s yearly drag show, was elected its homecoming queen over the weekend in an emotional crowning ceremony at halftime of the sold-out GMU vs. Northeastern basketball game at the Patriot Center. He beat out two female finalists after a student e-mail poll last week. Allen — or, rather, his drag queen alter ego, Reann Ballslee — assumed the title of Ms. Mason wearing a large green-and-gold bow sewed for him by the theater department’s costume shop and visible even in the cheap seats, as well as a wig, lamé blouse and black skirt and heels. At the same time, a fellow student Ricky Malebranche, a junior from Woodbridge, was named Mr. Mason.
“For me it was just for fun,” Allen said on his decision to enter the pageant. “In the larger scheme of things, winning says so much about the university. We’re one of the most diverse campuses in the country, and . . . we celebrate that regularly.” Some students have applauded his victory as a measure of the broadmindness of the 30,000 member student body, and that they felt engaged in homecoming week — held during basketball season because Mason has no football team — for the first time. But others said his election was an embarrassing setback to Mason’s recent efforts to revamp its image from a suburban commuter school to a distinguished institution of higher learning. Officially, the university is “very comfortable with it. We’re fine,” said spokesman Daniel Walsch. They’ve never made a rule that requires participants in the Mr. and Ms. Mason pageant to compete along precise gender lines, he said.