Despite it being 53 degrees Thursday night, eager students line the sidewalk of Burruss Hall. As they wait, fans take pictures with the shining lights of the iconic building in the background. At 7:30 on the dot the doors opened and concertgoers donning heels, leather and their trendiest threads flood the lobby to climb the stairs that would lead them to an evening of latex and diamonds.
Ever since Virginia Tech’s Black Student Alliance announced Megan Thee Stallion and her opener Key Glock would be coming to Tech, fans have been counting down the days to the climax of their “Hot Girl Semester”.
Among the excitement, many may not notice the students sporting blue T-shirts, some of them bearing “Hot Girl” followed by their names on the back, who have worked tirelessly for this night to be possible. Even then, they’re still running up and down the aisles making sure every detail is perfect leading up to the final moments until the lights go down. Though the adrenaline is high in anticipation for the event they have planned to finally be brought to life, they’re still sure to greet everyone with a smile and upbeat attitude.
The show may have lasted an hour and 20 minutes, but organizing the event took months of hard work by BSA members including Director of Live Entertainment Caitlyn Stokes, a senior studying family and consumer sciences.
“Every year, we switch off with (Virginia Tech Union) of who gets homecoming, and so what we do is come up with a list of artists who I think would be good to come for whatever concert that is,” Stokes said. “We started narrowing down based on availability, price range, all of that good stuff, and then that’s when we started picking the top people we kind of wanted and putting in offers for those people.”
When it came to the final decision, it was the versatility of Megan Thee Stallion that stood out. As one of the front-runners of the music industry, Megan has pushed boundaries and become an enigma for students, rap enthusiasts and anime fans alike.
“She’s a college student, so that’s one of the things that I think makes her really relatable, especially with her doing so much like travelling and always being on the road, but at the same time still keeping up with her studies,” Stokes said. “This summer she started this whole movement of her little “Hot Girl Summer” and it kind of caught on to everyone. Regardless of who you are and what you look like, everyone is able to have a hot girl summer; everyone is able to feel proud of themselves; everyone is able to do what you want to do and feel proud of who you are. I think that’s kind of a thing that people need especially coming here. It’s just a lot of things that empower people in a certain type of way.”
When the specifics are finally confirmed, the team can then share the news with students. Though with an announcement like this, it has to be done with finesse. In a series of tweets, BSA teased its followers with a video listing potential artists.
“I knew I wanted to do a video to announce it so people could get excited before. With the timeline, we wanted tickets to go out on sale as soon as possible to just make sure the word is out before homecoming week and people actually know about it,” Stokes said. “We just had to wait until everything was secured and then we just decided to drop a little video saying, ‘guess who it's going to be,’ and then a day or two after it we announced who it was.”
Director of Communications Are’Yanna Dickens, a sophomore double-majoring in fashion merchandising and design and multimedia journalism, found herself with multiple tabs open on her laptop, taking in the overwhelming amount of responses coming in from the teaser videos. At exactly noon, the scheduled time for the announcement, fans were so eager to hear the news that they messaged the account to inform Dickens that she was late by two minutes.
“I was two minutes late dropping it and I got DMs saying, 'it’s 12:02. Where is it?’ Dickens said.
As soon as Dickens finally sent out the announcement, there was an overwhelming number of responses from not only Virginia Tech students but from other colleges as well.
“When we said, ‘It’s Megan,’ it was people talking about it and excited for it that were just like, ‘I can’t believe they got Megan,’ because she is the new artist, she’s fresh and she’s relatable to college students because she is a college student herself,” Dickens said. “It was just a lot of my phone blowing up from people who were excited about it.”
Stokes was in the Black Cultural Center on campus when the announcement of who was performing was uploaded onto social media, so she saw the impact and excitement of the announcement first-hand.
“It was exciting because of all the build-up we got. We announced right after we dropped the video of who it was so the build-up was already still there with people guessing who it is, the excitement and everything like that,” Stokes said. “I know a lot of people under our social media were like, ‘I hope it’s Megan.’ So it was exciting to actually drop it and see it. Personally, I was in the Black Cultural Center when it actually dropped so a lot of people in there were excited and were really waiting for it to actually drop. It’s just a good feeling to actually see excitement in people.”
For Dickens, her own emotions were conflicted as she carried the responsibility of sharing such good news to the community.
“It was a bit of both nerves and excitement,” Dickens said. “First of all, I was nervous for typos or anything like that or if I spelled anything wrong. It was just nerves to make sure I hit the time. I wanted it to go out at 12:00, but also people had follow-up questions of if they can bring friends, tickets and just the nitty-gritty type of things of answering. Other than that, it was more so excitement because other people were excited. One girl was crying. One of my friends was like, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe she’s coming!’ There were a lot of excited emotions about it.”
However, this enthusiasm wasn’t mirrored by everyone. Henry Skutt, a senior studying multimedia journalism posted a video depicting the “American Dad” opening theme manipulated so that characters were asleep. The video has been viewed over 219,000 times, and numerous people called Skutt out for being racist.
“I think it’s hard to change people’s minds about that kind of thing, especially on social media,” Skutt said. “You get your opinion and you run with it; you’re not going to look into the context. I think I said this on Twitter but my friends, my family, people who know me obviously know I’m not racist, any form of that word or biased in any direction. And that’s why I defended myself so hard … Because that’s not the message of the tweet … I’m just not interested in her music.”
Yet for BSA, this type of comment was anticipated.
“I would say I kind of did expect it when I was planning it,” Stokes said. “Everyone’s not going to agree with the situations that you do. That’s life. That’s a part of our job. We are the Black Student Alliance. Everyone is not going to like what we do, but a part of our roles and a part of our whole purpose of being here on this campus is to educate people for their ignorance of the black community, of the culture that we like and we enjoy.”
In fact, this is almost a guaranteed factor that will occur when a cultural organization hosts an event.
“I think the disconnect is very visual, even before that whole incident happened ... I don’t think it really brought light to it because, just like many situations that happen on campus, it comes and it goes,” Stokes said.
The criticism and lack of understanding is only a fraction of the struggle that cultural organizations face on Virginia Tech’s campus. Rather, these issues are oftentimes paired with complete negligence for their presence on campus.
“Sometimes people don’t even know who Black Student Alliance is or what they do or don’t come to the events outside of the concert if you’re not involved,” Stokes said.
People with no knowledge of these groups have become such a prevalent issue on campus that many have taken it on as an objective to alleviate the unawareness through their projects and events. With the intention of including all members of the community, organizations aim to shorten the gap between cultures, though it may not be met with the same effort.
“It’s kind of what comes with the territory being in any cultural organization,” Stokes said. “Our whole purpose is that we want to reach out to the greater community, but it’s also about people wanting to be able to be reached out to.”
As Stokes mentioned, the same sentiment is shared by other cultural organizations such as Virginia Tech’s Asian-interest sorority, Kappa Alpha Delta Phi.
“I definitely think there’s a divide with our events, like raising Asian awareness,” said President Jamie Liu, a junior majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise. “It’s a lot of people in the Asian community that come in but less of people from other cultures that don’t know much about our culture."
Though these problems will likely not disappear any time soon, for a moment, among the crowd made up of people of various ages, genders and ethnicities, it seems as though the community is united in anticipation for a performance that celebrates diversity, expression and liberation.
The lights go down and the auditorium erupts in cheers. For the next 80 minutes, we are all “Hot Girls.”