Drag Race’s Nina West explains what people get wrong about drag queens
Drag Race star Nina West says conservatives who attack drag queens are getting it fundamentally wrong – and are in the minority.
Nina has kept busy since her appearance on the 11th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which she won Miss Congeniality.
Recently, she made her big-screen debut in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, now streaming on The Roku Channel, and has just published an illustrated children’s book, The You Kind of Kind.
The book is all about highlighting act so kindness and sharing the importance of loving yourself as well as others – a message that Nina has always put front and centre in her work, and that feels more important than ever.
Nina received the offer to write the book during the Trump era, when rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community was on the rise in the US.
“When this book was coming to life, I knew that it was a dangerous time,” she tells PinkNews.
“I didn’t know that this would be such a lightning-rod issue that it has become. It has always been an issue. This is not new.”
Lately, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has led to right-wing groups and politicians increasingly targeting drag performances and family-friendly LGBTQ+ events. This has resulted in events being cancelled, death threats towards organisers and even vandalism of queer-friendly spaces.
Nina West says the attempts to make out drag artists as “dangerous things” proves that conservatives have “no understanding of who [drag performers] are”. She believes it’s “distracting a community at large from the larger issues”.
“We’re not talking about gun safety. We’re not talking about a woman’s right to choose bodily autonomy,” she says. “We’re not talking about healthcare.”
“They’re diverting the topic of conversation, and it’s working. The problem is that we have to, as a community, figure out how we’re going to address it.
“No matter your political beliefs, we have to have a conversation about how we’re going to deal with this because this is not a majority of people. I don’t believe a majority of people think this.”
Nina West says that drag is a “representation” in many ways of the queer community.
But when performers are “being their authentic selves”, they are “automatically marked by a heteronormative society as ‘others’”.
“It’s why the religious right and conservative base here in the US makes them out to be boogie men who are a dangerous aspect of culture and society, and I disagree with that,” she says.
While the US is in “dangerous times”, Nina says her goal in releasing the book was to ensure that “people who are like [her]” can see themselves represented in the media they consume.
“I didn’t see myself ever, as a child, and I never thought I would ever be a drag queen,” she says. “That is the direction that I choose to go, and the world has opened up for me when I found that truth for myself.”
Nina West continues: “But drag, for me, is not necessarily an identity. It’s an art form. I think that’s another thing that people don’t understand – the complexity of our queer community and the art forms that represent, celebrate and challenge us.”
“My job here is to leave the world a better place, and I believe that my mission is to inspire people to put a better foot forward.
“Before me ever being in the children’s space, that was heavily rooted in my community, of working to put on incredible shows but also using my agency and my platform to give agency and voice to other people.”
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Nina West adds the conservative-right movement is “far more dangerous than any drag queen opening a book in any library could ever be”. She highlights how right-wing politicians have ‘ripped away’ rights from Americans, including interfering in how parents ‘celebrate or embrace their children’s gender identity’.
She isn’t alone in thinking the attempts to target drag are a way for Republicans to distract Americans from more pressing issues.
RuPaul said efforts to ban drag in the US are a “diversion tactic” used by politicians to “take the narrative away from the gun debate into something [else], to scare people into thinking about something else”.
“Y’all want to help your kids? Take away them guns, that will help your kids!” the Drag Race host said. “Drag queens ain’t hurt nobody. You’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
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