By Hannah Newman
After Lincoln Funderburk’s return to the stage as drag persona Lexi Lagato, the senior musical theater major stole the show, taking an Amazon TV and bragging rights as the university’s newest “Rider’s Got Talent” champion.
The Student Entertainment Council brought the campus talent to stage on Jan. 27 with “Rider’s Got Talent.”
“Any chance to perform something on a stage I will run and grab,” said Funderburk.
The idea behind bringing the show to life was to give students a place to display their passions aside from singing that “R Factor” embraces.
Six Rider students took the stage to showcase their talent for the Rider community.
First was sophomore music production major Najee Davis, who performed a song on the piano blindfolded, entrancing the audience.
The next to perform was arts and entertainment industries management major Mekhia Gwynn, who carried out a contemporary dance piece.
Entertainment chair for the SEC and sophomore film and television major Emily O’Connor hosted the show, being the bridge between the contestants and the crowd.
“My favorite part about that was just really seeing the talent, getting to know them … [being]backstage with them and then seeing them perform, ” said O’Connor.
In the middle of the show, junior English major Joe Giambelluca and his collection of voice impressions had the audience amused– from impersonating characters like “Spongebob” and “Harry Potter” to politicians.
The show shifted to poetry as freshman environmental science major Emily Ivanauskas, who goes by she/they pronouns, shared an original poem. Ivanauskas said that her love for poetry began in middle school, but they didn’t start believing in their own voice until junior year of high school.
In continuation of bringing their own beat to the stage, freshman Mya McFarland and her hip-hop performance elicited a sea of head bopping from the audience.
To break up the heat of the competition, returning “R Factor” contestant and senior arts and entertainment industries management Ida DeMarco took the stage and performed “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse.
Last but not least, Lexi Lagato, also known as Funderburk, performed. The drag performer had been a staple at performance events, recently participating in the drag show during the fall semester.
Funderburk was motivated to sign up for the show after Nick Barbati suggested it to him. Lagato’s mouth dropping performance won her the title of “Rider’s Got Talent” champion by the end of the night following former “R Factor” champion, freshman English Kamanay Belcher performance on the ukulele as a guest performer while the audience voted for a winner of the competition.
Funderburk’s passion for drag sparked from his evolving background in musical theater and past experience as an athlete.
“I’m used to being on a stage and playing a character and singing and dancing and acting and doing all the things from head to toe,” said Funderburk.
The passion and perseverance of the performers, along with support from the Rider community, drove the show to a victory in the eyes of O’Connor.
“Seeing [the performers] go out and show the talent that they love … and seeing the Rider community come together and support people being vulnerable is what I love personally,” said O’Connor. “It takes a lot to get on that stage.”