Columbus, Ohio – Tuesday, November 26th 2019 – Andrew Levitt, better known as RuPaul’s Drag Race Alum Nina West, was named National Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year on Tuesday November 26th 2019 at a ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. To celebrate this momentous occasion, they are launching “The West Christmas Ever – 25 days of Christmas” in conjunction with The Nina West Foundation. The Nina West Foundation has made a point in years past to celebrate the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year is no different. In their biggest campaign ever, they will provide daily grants of $1.000 from December 1st to 25th 2019 to LGBTQ+ organizations across the U.S. Donations will be made to organizations that have an impact on the LGBTQ+ community and its members. The organizations were chosen for the work they do every day to address LGBTQ+-specific issues, including healthcare, homelessness, trans rights, youth advocacy, veteran support, HIV and AIDS, equal rights, suicide prevention, addiction and recovery, anti-bullying, immigration, and more.
Each day, from Dec 1st to Dec 25th 2019, Nina West will announce via her Social Media channels the organizations that will benefit from the grants.
“The holiday season can be difficult for so many in the LGBTQIA community” said Nina West. “With this tremendous platform given to me by RuPaul’s Drag Race, I wanted to continue to lift up and elevate my community, and what a better way to do that than to help celebrate organizations that do just that. I hope this will motivate fans of the show to give what they can- time, talent, or treasure – during the holiday season. And, if people are moved by the work of the Nina West Foundation, I hope they will consider donating to help us further our mission of equality and equal access for all. Also, all I want for Christmas is for people to register to vote! GO BIG AND BE KIND THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!”
YASS Magazine was there to meet Nina West and we have an exclusive interview just for you.
Tell me about The West Christmas Ever. What shall we expect?
It’s my very first Christmas EP and it contains five different songs that are fun, campy, traditional and represent completely different aspects of my personality.
What is the Nina West Foundation which supports LGBTQIA programs nationwide? How did you decide to get involved and start this foundation?
I wanted to do this and start the Nina West Foundation because of the people who are more likely to feel alone and isolated and I wanted them to feel that there is someone to look up to and someone that is looking after them. When you are marginalised, in any way, be it a woman, an LGBTQIA person, a person of power you can find out that you don’t have a lot of people on your side. And we have to stick together. So it is really important that I use my platform and also my talent and my abilities to raise money for people who need it.
How important is activism to you?
Activism is very important to me, especially with this platform that I have been given where I can stand up and use my voice for all the people that need it.
How different is it now that you inspire so many people and you are a role model compared to the beginning of your career?
It does not feel different to me, because I still do what I was doing and I go forward and try to produce good work and use my platform to do good things and help people. Apart from the fact that the scale is now bigger, the only thing that has changed is the network. Now I have the opportunity to go around the United States and around the world and talk about being comfortable in my own skin and my identity. It is surreal, crazy and humbling, but from my perspective it does not feel like a different thing, I am still doing the same with a much bigger scale.
You have been performing for 18 years. How has your drag style evolved since the time you started?
When I first started, I thought that drag had to be about femininity and about looking like a woman, but I learned over the years that when you are in drag you can be anything you want to be. This has helped my style evolve and I have learned a lot about my drag.
How was your experience in RuPaul’s Drag Race? Did you expect that people would love you so much?
It was tough, not easy. People immediately see the glamour and they think that it is easy to be a queen on the show, but the reality is that it is a really tough goal. When you are in the process, making the show it requires a lot. You have to be focused, you have to be settled and need to have a thick skin, because you might do something that it is not necessarily great or something that it is not really part of you or you might be emotional and week or might get highs and lows feeling that you are under a microscope. It is tough, but I am really grateful I had the chance to do it because it really changed my life.
Did you expect that people would love you so much and that you would become the favourite one?
No, not at all. Because of the fact that I was an old queen getting on the show, I was unaware that people would have this reaction. I was surprised and I did not expect this to happen. I would never think that I would have this great chance to my career. When I left the show, and people started to have strong opinions about me this is when I started to realise that my career would start all over again.
What makes you so special is that you are always so special and loveable is that you are always so genuine and authentic.
Thank you so much. This is really hard to detect on camera and I want to thank you for noticing this. I am never acting and I always want to be my real self. And this is what the show has done to me, it really brought be down to being who I am. During the show I was emotional and raw and real. And the fact that people saw this is so rewarding. I was not trying to come up with a catchphrase or a T-shirt design, I just wanted to show RuPaul and the world who I was and, luckily, people liked it. It is really magical!
Do you recognise yourself when you see your season of RuPaul or the editing shows a different Nina from what you really are?
I think I was my most authentic self and in that situation this is who I was. And if anyone were to blame anything on the editing, because the editing is there, I want to say that what you see is there, it is things that we said or did. So, we cannot blame the editing.
Nina have you watched the Drag Race UK?
I haven’t watch much yet because I have been on the road. But, from what I have seen I love it. British queens are so different, they singers, comedians, actors. They are so many things at the same time and it is a different style of drag. It is very nice to show that there is also this different style of drag compared to what we have seen on the drag race so that people can identify themselves.
You were the first person to walk the Emmys red carpet on drag. How do you feel about this and what was the reaction?
I was over the moon doing that. First of all, because I was unaware that I was the first person in drag, and I am really grateful that I went and that I met some of the most incredible people in Hollywood. It was very much like a fairy tale experience and I am very grateful.
What is your Christmas wish? What would you ask Santa to bring you?
Oh Santa bring me a man! My wish for the next year is that people start to come out as themselves this year and open their minds to much more open dialogue and conversation, something we really need. People should be comfortable to be who they are and who they want to be seen and other people have to accept this.
What are your future plans Nina?
My Christmas EP just came out! Also, I did a voice over for an animated short movie that will be released next year, and there are discussions about it being nominated in the academy awards. I am touring in the UK and Europe in January and then I come back to the states and I work to another solo project and then.. I will keep this as a surprise.
Fans of Nina West or anyone who wishes to learn more and/or help with this initiative can donate to the Nina West Foundation at www.ninawest.com/foundation/
About The Nina West Foundation
In 2015, Andrew Levitt (aka- Nina West) established The Nina West Foundation in Columbus, Ohio to lift-up and support nonprofits that provide services and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.
About Nina West
Nina West is an American drag queen, actor, and singer based in Columbus; Ohio played by Andrew Levitt. She rose to national prominence with her appearance on the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11, where she placed sixth and won Miss Congeniality. She made history at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in Sept 2019 when she became the first ever person to walk the carpet in Full Drag while her season won 5 Primetime Emmys Awards including best Reality Competition Show. In June 2019, New York magazine named West one of the top 100 Most Powerful Drag Queens in America. On November 8th, she released her first Christmas EP, “The West Christmas Ever” featuring Disney Legend Jim Cummings which debuted at #5 on the Billboard Comedy Charts.
West has been performing in central Ohio and around the United States for the last 18 years, doing regional theater and of course, drag. As Nina West, she has produced over 35 main stage production shows. West hosts the annual “Heels of Horror” show at Axis Nightclub and has also hosted the competition “So You Think You Can Drag?. In 2008, she won the Entertainer of the Year award, and was included in Columbus Business First’s “40 Under 40” list in 2018. Nina is a LGBTQ advocate and has raised over $2.5million for charitable causes in the last decade alone with her charitable foundation The Nina West Foundation. In 2019, Andrew Levitt was named Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year for National Philanthropy Day.