Nina West is the love child from an orgy of fabulousness. A love of Bette Midler's duality, Oprah's philanthropy and The Muppets' playfulness gestated to form the Columbus drag superstar.
Nina West is the love child from an orgy of fabulousness.
A love of Bette Midler's duality, Oprah's philanthropy and The Muppets' playfulness gestated to form the Columbus drag superstar.
West planned to move to New York after finishing a theater degree at Denison University, but after the Sept. 11 attacks, she stayed put. She first did drag that year and never expected she'd still be doing it a decade later.
"It's hard to get on stage anyway," West said, "let alone with four layers of tights and four pounds of makeup."
She's cognizant of the stigma associated with drag. Her 32-year-old male identity isn't a secret, but this superhero of the LGBT community doesn't flaunt it either, as a way of protecting her family. Cruelty is her kryptonite.
"Drag is such a great expression that gay people shouldn't be ashamed of loving who they love," West said. "Some people want to classify me as a cross-dresser and that's it. I see myself as an entertainer and artist."
Nina West is funny.
The moral of her campy stories - whether told as spoofs of Katy Perry songs (i.e. "I Kissed a Bear") or drag versions of "Pee-wee's Playhouse " - is to always love yourself.
Nina West is fashionable.
The outfits make the woman. Hers are housed at the Junctionview studio she shares with her drag performance partner Virginia West. The hundreds of costumes include a giant kraken, a bedazzled rainbow jukebox dress and a blue Alice in Wonderland-esque number that "makes me feel beautiful," West said.
A plastic storage bin houses drawers full of stage jewelry that's caked with old makeup. She wears Max Factor Pan-Stik foundation; she can get three applications out of one tube, applied on top of a skin prep product called No Sweat.
It takes about two hours to tuck, stuff and transform.
The hardest thing for her to come by is a good heel. West wears a size 15 but can squeeze into a 12 Wide at Payless. Shopping "in the ghetto," she said, garners fewer looks of disapproval than in the suburbs. Women motivate her to shop for stilettos as a man.
"Women are really such a great inspiration for gay men," she said. "Especially watching women be so free and bold. I think all gay men want to feel lifted up. Strong women inspire that."
Nina West is 6 feet 4 inches tall, with an even bigger heart.
Giving back is her most cherished tenet of personal style. Her favorite performances are those where she raises money for a good cause, and she never ignores a fan.
"He makes himself so approachable," said West's friend and right-hand-stage-man Michael Bishop. "He responds to everyone and talks to the crowd at shows. He has created this character that everyone loves."
And of that, Nina West is proud.