“I am a queen of Christmas,” exclaims Nina West. “I have five Christmas trees in my house. I have a classic Santa Claus tree. I have three Disney Christmas trees, and then I have one of a kind classic rustic old-time antique ornaments that I’ve collected over the years.”
West is beloved by RuPaul’s Drag Race fans as the winner of the Miss Congeniality Award in Season 11. The honor was clearly not without merit, as a phone conversation with West — real name Andrew Levitt — is effervescent and upbeat. She’s polite to a fault.
She’s also talented to a fault. Anyone lucky enough to have witnessed her performance at June’s Capital Pride can attest to that fact, as she roared through a brilliant Disney princess medley with a dazzling (and funny) array of rapid-fire costume reveals.
“The fact the stage was right in front of the Capitol was overwhelming,” she says. “I felt this tremendous responsibility to be uplifting and in the moment, especially in this dialogue and the conversation that’s taking place daily within our country. It was important to me.”
West, named in 2019 by New York magazine as one of the “100 Most Powerful Drag Queens” in America, has a particular affection for Disney. “It’s the storytelling,” she says. “Disney gives you permission to dream big, and that no dream is crazy or unattainable. It’s like that line in the Cinderella song, ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.’ I am an optimist — glass more full than empty.”
West has just released a holiday EP, The West Christmas Ever, which is as festive and funny as you’d hope. For the narrative portions, West snagged the legendary Jim Cummings, who voices the current Winnie the Pooh. Meanwhile, this Saturday, Nov. 23, West hosts the latest incarnation of “A Drag Christmas: The Naughty Tour,” produced by Murray and Peter Presents, at the Warner Theater.
“It’s a golden ticket,” says West of the touring that occupies more than half of her professional life. “I try not to even for one moment second-guess the opportunity. I’m on the ride of a lifetime. I’ve met more people in the last six months that have changed my life than I have probably in 18 years of performing. I’ve traveled the globe. I just got back from Australia with plans in 2020 to go to Japan and the Far East for another round of touring.”
Culture wags are exulting drag as a major touchstone that has finally permeated mainstream society, but West has her own feelings on the matter. “Drag will always be a subcultural art form that belongs to the queer community specifically. What I’m doing is that distinctly gay, queer, LGBTQ art form, and sharing it with the world. Having people respond to it so positively is pretty great.”
Nina West hosts “A Drag Christmas” this Saturday, Nov. 23, at The Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. at 8 p.m. Tickets are $38 to $56. Visit www.dragfans.comfor more information and additional cities on the tour.
The West Christmas Ever is available on most streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music. Visit www.ninawest.com.
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Randy Shulman is Metro Weekly's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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