High energy, out of this world looks, and jaw-dropping performances. Helen Waite brings it all to the table when she hits the stage for one of her incredible Opulence shows. You may be a fan of Penn State’s very own Slime Queen, but there is so much more to learn about the iconic Helen Waite.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Noah Rhoads, otherwise known as Helen Waite, is a 20-year-old graphic design major. Coming from a Penn State family, Penn State was a top choice for Noah. Initially, he came to college as a biomedical engineering major, but switched after freshman year.
As a graphic design major, Noah is able to brand himself as a drag performer and apply the skills he learns in class to his passion. You can check out some of his designs and Helen Waite merch on @Helenxwaite or @Noahrhoadsart on Instagram. Noah hopes to eventually do drag as a career, so he spends a great amount of time working on his personal brand and everything that goes into Helen’s performances.
VALLEY: What inspired you to start doing drag?
Noah Rhoads: “Well I’ve been doing makeup since freshman year of high school because I did all of the musicals. I really hated the makeup the beauty crew would do, so I learned to do makeup myself. I’ve always just enjoyed anything with performing, music, and fashion, and drag lets me do all of that in one thing. I didn’t even consider doing drag until I got to college … I just never thought that I could do it until I came to Penn State and met Ben (Paris).”
V: How did you get involved with Opulence at Penn State?
NR: “Miss Paris. I met Ben in June of 2019 and I knew he did drag, and I was deep down very interested in learning how to do it. We had multiple conversations but I didn’t want to step on his toes. It got to the point that I decided I needed to do it, and he was so supportive. Ben is the one who showed me where to get outfits from, and what kind of wigs to get, and how to get the different shapes. He definitely helped me out a lot.”
V: When was your first Opulence show?
NR: “My first show was October 25th, 2019. It was the Halloween show in Forum. I looked so busted and I forgot almost all of my lyrics, but I had a good time and it made me want to try harder.”
V: What does Opulence mean to you?
NR: I don’t want to be cliche and say it’s a family but like … We’re Penn State’s drag club but at the same time you don’t need any drag experience, you don’t need any makeup experience; anybody can join. It’s just a really nice group of super accepting people that I can talk to about whatever basically. Other than shows, we have our biweekly meetings. At these meetings we plan out the upcoming shows and such. At our last meeting, we asked our members to give us new ideas, and we picked a couple things and it helped us come up with our Camp theme. Hopefully we can do a makeup social soon and Drag Race viewing parties.
V: What is your most impactful Opulence memory?
NR: This is really difficult because I have a few things. I really enjoyed our first show of this semester because it was nice seeing all the people that came out. It’s a great feeling like we have a concrete audience that’s going to show up and support us. It’s really nice to have that because there’s only so much you can get from online performances. Another one of my favorite memories, aside from my very first performance, was the involvement fair this year. There were so many people that came up to our table and we got to talk to them about what Opulence does and where we perform. We got over 120 new sign ups from potential members.
V: What is your favorite performance that you’ve done with Opulence?
NR: My favorite performance was when I did ‘Pon de Replay’ by Rihanna with that rhinestone denim outfit. Not only do I think that was one of my personal best performances, but the energy I felt from the audience was so good.
V: What is your favorite Helen Waite look?
NR: I’m going to have to pick two, because my favorite look for a long time was the slime look with my orange hair. I think that’s probably my favorite overall, just because it really helped me brand myself. That outfit stands out and that’s how I started being known as Penn State’s Slime Queen. But, my absolute favorite look is the one I just posted on Instagram with the money bodysuit, because I think that’s the best my makeup has ever looked. I felt pretty confident in that outfit and I did the wig myself (with styling help from my friend Greta). I sewed in the tracks and dyed it and everything else.
V: How does it feel to be back doing in person shows with a bigger crowd?
NR: “It feels so good. Drag allows me to explore the feminine side of myself and I just like being able to express my art with people. I love getting the good feedback and I love seeing how happy our shows make people, to the fact that we’re packing the venue on a Monday night. We’ve had a line outside for every single show so far.”
V: What would you tell someone who has never been to an Opulence show, or drag show in general?
NR: “I would just say to get to one as quickly as you can. They are nothing but fun. Especially with Opulence shows, I feel like you’re bound to see all different types of outfits, makeup, and music. You’re never going to see the same thing.”
Q: Anything exciting you can tell us about the upcoming shows?
NR: We are planning a Nicki themed show this semester with PSU Barbz! It’s going to be really good and I’m so excited.
Make sure to check out the next Opulence Show on Thursday, Oct. 7. You don’t want to miss Helen’s performances, along with the rest of the amazing queens.
Have you ever been to an Opulence show? Let us know your thoughts, @VALLEYmag, on Twitter!