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The Orion

Chico State gets all dolled up for Queer Prom

It was a Barbie-themed night of dancing, competition and live music in proud delight
Prom Royalty winners Patrick Jay and Mae Haggard shared their first dance in front of the crowd. Taken by Nadia Hill on April 18.

On a warm Thursday evening, students and community members gathered, adorned in pink in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium for Chico State’s fifth Queer Prom

It was a Barbie-themed night of dancing, competition and live music in proud delight. The atmosphere had the charming awkwardness of a middle school dance but with an overall feeling of joy and gratitude for the community.  

Attendees came with partners and groups of friends dressed to the nines in glamorous, prom-appropriate attire. There was a sense of occasion with flashy dresses and suits, tasteful thrifted fits, a cowboy in leather chaps and everything in between. 

The event was hosted by the Sociology Association of Chico State with guidance from the Gender Sexuality Equity Coalition and was organized by the GSEC program coordinator Abraham Trujillo. Trujillo is a recreational hospitality and parks management major with a focus on event management, finishing his last semester. Queer Prom served as his final on-campus event before graduating. 

Trujillo explained that putting on a large-scale event like the Queer Prom was a hectic process. However, he takes great pride in his contributions to GSEC and the larger Chico queer audience.

Abraham Trujillo before announcing the winners of Prom Royalty. Taken by Nadia Hill on April 18

“It is my mission, especially when it comes to an event like this, to create a space where the queer community and allies can feel comfortable and safe to be who they are,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo called events like Queer Prom inherently political, commenting on the turbulence facing LGBTQ communities across the country. Although he made it clear he received zero pushback from the school, he did express some dissatisfaction. 

“I think this school does somewhat of a lacking job of helping organizations create these events. I feel like there’s a lot of hurdles and obstacles you have to go through to get to do something like this,” Trujillo said. 

The event started around 5:15 p.m. with a subdued piano and singing performance which matched the relaxed pink lighting of the expansive auditorium. Later, there was a runway-style walk-off to pay homage to Ballroom culture

One participant and former student, Diego Muniz, was encouraged to hop up and strut down the dance floor.

“It was absolutely nerve-wracking because a friend dragged me over to do it, and I’m so glad she did. It was spur-of-the-moment stuff,” he said, “It was a lot of fun.”  

After a fierce battle, Patrick Jay was named the victor. At 7 p.m., a DJ took the stage, and the party began. Remixes and mashups of contemporary pop songs filled the room at total volume as people sang and danced along. 


By 8 p.m. the prom court winners were picked from a bowl of handwritten nominations. Boyfriend-and-girlfriend Patrick Jay and Mae Haggard were crowned as the Queer Prom King and Queen. 

The couple had their first dance to music performed by Rose Fields. Soon, the crowd of around 60 was encouraged to join, and after another live acoustic song, the DJ retook the stage with thumping bass and familiar lyrics.


“I didn’t have a prom, and neither did he. It was awesome to have a prom experience like this,” Haggard said.



Along with giving queer people the chance to re-experience prom, many of the current college cohort missed out on prom because of the pandemic.

The theme was well-executed. Each of the roughly 12 tables featured an elaborate centerpiece made of artificial pink roses and a silhouette of a Barbie doll’s head. 

Pink lights splashed the walls, and the stage was flanked by projections of the same silhouettes. The event was on the smaller side and there were a few empty seats.

The check-in desk was right next to a large display of Barbie dolls in various colors and sizes. 

I mainly have that Barbie Doll display there because it’s more diverse,” Trujillo said. “It wasn’t just the white Margo Robbie version of Barbie.”


There were multiple places for photographs, including a professional photographer with a life-size Barbie box, a 360-degree spinning camera and a light-up prom sign complete with a second Barbie box. 

Given the exhaustive success of Greta Gerwig’s 2023 summer blockbuster, it seems vendors were prepared for Barbie-themed events. 

Trujillo said he chose the theme because of its campy femininity and overarching feminist message. 

I am here to create an experience and it being a Barbie theme I’m going with the flamboyant and the hyperfeminine and the pink of it all,” he said.

Prom guests, like senior Joise Smith, were very excited about the prom theme. 

“I love Barbie. My friend loves Barbie so we are totally siked for it,” Smith said. 

With previous prom themes being Midsummer’s Nights and The Wizard of Oz, this year’s theme was more flexible for people’s attire. Attendant Allen Brockman found out about the theme at the last minute and still managed to come dressed accordingly. 

“Because there have been so many Barbies and Kens, you can dress up as whatever kind of person you are,” he said.

Students are generally pleased with Chico State’s — more specifically, GSEC’s — efforts to host queer-centered gatherings and create a sense of community.

Smith, who is a political science major, raved about GSEC’s mission and commitment to the wider community. 

“I appreciate the presence that GSEC, Chico Pride and Stonewall here in the city of Chico do for the queer community,” she said.

Nadia Hill and Callum Standish can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Nadia Hill
Nadia Hill, Arts and Entertainment and Food Editor
Nadia Hill is originally from Carson City, Nevada, and is in the middle of her sophomore year. Currently, she is double-majoring in journalism (public relations) and studio arts. She is one of two social media managers on The Orion. Both writing and social justice have captivated her with the field of journalism and is excited to continue with her second semester on The Orion. In her personal time, she enjoys painting, performing and working with children.
Callum Standish
Callum Standish, Opinion and Features Editor
Callum Standish is a third year journalism and news major from Castro Valley, California. Standish is in his second semester on The Orion and now serves as the arts and entertainment editor. He has broad interests in cars, music and the environment. Standish enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of Chico on his bicycle and wasting time with friends. His goal is to get everyone involved in the community on-and-off campus. 

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