April 30th, 2013 by Nina with No Comments
The Annual Denison University Drag Show was last night. I know this may sound terribly cliche but it is one of those bookings that really makes what I and so many others do worth it. Every year we get to go this amazingly picturesque campus in this quaint little town of Granville and entertain the students for a couple hours. And every year, I am reminded of my college experience at this university.
When I was a freshman at Denison, I remember seeing a table at the Student Activites Fair for a group called Outlook. I saw the rainbow stickers and a picture of Harvey Milk. I circled a few times, flirting with the table. Every pass by the table got a little closer and then a little closer. Finally, after I don’t know how many times, I was stopped. The jig, as they said, was up. That is when I met Lindsey and David. I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant at the time, but it changed my life.
I went to a meeting on a warm early September Monday night in the Women’s Resource Center that was then, at the time, in Fellows Hall. This was 1997. The blinds to the meeting space were all drawn. It was very private. My heart was still racing. I had only told a few people at this point that I was gay. And now, I was sitting in a room of about eleven other queer students. The returning students were doing the best they could, giving smiles of comfort. Their eyes said, “it is all ok.” The few freshman, like me, were fidgeting, and eyes seemed to be more on the floor than anywhere else. There were so many things talked about in that first meeting – Visibility Week, National Coming Out Day, allies on campus, GLBT staff like Dr. Ann Shaver and the incredible Fred Porcheddu, outings to Columbus, and then the first mention of the Denison Drag show, started by graduate James Smith.
My ears perked a little bit but more so out of fear of this thing I didn’t know – drag. My first experience with a drag queen had only been a couple months prior to that when I went out for the first time to a gay bar in Akron with my friend Matt. I was already on edge because I had lied to my parents about where I was going. I think the excuse this time was a trip to get coffee somewhere and head to a bookstore to find the latest Stephen King to pour over before bed. Alas, that night, I didn’t return home with a book. Rather, I came home with a vision of a very colorful and cacophonous entertainer – this person was larger than life. I had never seen anything like it. Here I was, finally, in the wilds of a gay bar staring at my first encounter with the she-beasts I had seen before in Too Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar and The Birdcage and I was lost. I will never forget that feeling of seeing my first drag queen, and honestly, I was scared.
So, in hearing about these drag shows, I didn’t know what to make, but that would happen in April, and it was just September. I could worry about that when it came. Months passed, and I was coming into my own, becoming more comfortable with my sexual orientation and what that meant to be openly gay. In almost a flash, the year was coming to an end and the drag show was here. That first year, I sat in the audience, watching entertainers come onto the Slayter Student Union stage. That is the night I met many friends, but wouldn’t know it until years later. I met Maria Garrison, Missy Marlo, Sasha, Janet Garrison, Dominique Larue. What was this I was seeing? It was amazing, awesome talent – gorgeous flips, splits, and shakes. I was sucked in, and that night in April, I officially became a drag hag. I loved it. After the show, the entertainers did a quick question and answer portion and talked about their lives outside of the glitz and glamour. It was all so fascinating. I sat there with bated breath, curious to know about what their life was like. That night was magical.
After the show, I remember walking back to Curtis West, my residential hall, waiting to talk even more about what I had just witnessed. It was unreal. And this was the experience every year. One of my lifelong friends from college, Justin, and I would cackle and plan for every show after that, excited to work with the entertainers. We were ready to wait on them hand and foot – scouring for fans for the dressing room and trying to ensure that all of their needs were met. It is because of this show that I got in drag for the first time ever, my senior year, with my best judy Justin. That was the night that Meisha Mae and Nina West were born. It was a March evening. I want to say the 30th. Somewhere in that area. 2001. It was because of this show that I met Virginia West, who, for the Drag Show at Denison my senior year, allowed me to take her last name for that one-night engagement. I don’t think she thought it would turn into this all of these years later. It is because of this show that I got even closer to my friend Patricia. She was the very first to ever paint my face before a party in Smith Hall. That was an odd night. Another story, another blog. It was because of this show that I met people who became my friends, idols, and family. Other than Virginia, I met Virginia’s then-boyfriend Brian AKA Pretty Punasti. I also met Mary Ann Brandt, Tula Tubesucker, Carizma, Beverly Ford, Alexis Fontaine, Blossom, among many others.
This show has been going on for years. I remember going to a GLBT conference my junior year, talking about this particular event that we did, and other schools were just in shock we had a drag show. When I was in school, I can only think of Oberlin in northeast Ohio doing what we were doing. And that is because of the awesome vision of James Smith. James Smith changed my life. Is that the point? I think through writing all of this out, it is what I have realized. And I am so thankful for him.
So, last night, we went back to Denison. We went home. And all of these emotions come flooding back for me. Stepping on stage, looking out at the students, I saw so many people I know sitting in the crowd. I saw a young Justin Garrison, throwing his hands up and cheering. I saw a young freshman version of myself, sitting there, newly out and trying to negotiate what he sees in front of him. I saw Patricia Taylor, sitting there, holding her best friend’s hand because of this fatastical sensory overload. And because she wants to share in this brief evening of happiness before the reality of the world sinks in after the lights are up and the queens have all gone home. But for me, heading to Denison was like heading home. Going home always feels good, and last night felt awesome.
Thank you Anisa Love, Virginia West, Jareja Rashad, Pretty Punasti, Cool Ethan, and Natasha West for an outstanding evening.
Thank you to Outlook, Taylor and the executive board, and the students of Denison University for having us and allowing us to continue to create and share memories.
Andrew Levitt, ’01
April 26th, 2013 by Nina with No Comments
I can’t believe the experience that was NINA DOES CBUS. Truly, one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have had and I loved every second of it. The cast, crew, and crowds were some of the best ever.
Since 2003, when I did my first show, Nina Network News, the charity component has been one of the most important pieces of my shows. This component has come in many forms, from the XXXposed Strip Benefit to the closing number and it’s tips being dedicated to an organization. These shows have raised considerable funds for Columbus AIDS Task Force and now AIDS Resource Center Ohio, Project: Zero Ohio, The Susan G. Komen Foundation, Project Open Hand, Camp Sunrise, The Trevor Project, Broadway Cares:Equity Fights AIDS, The Columbus Stompers, The Human Rights Campaign, Stonewall Columbus, CLGSA, Freedom To Marry Ohio, among many others. Your countless hard-earned dollars have been crumpled, balled up, and thrown on the stage for amazing causes and charity. You sit there and laugh and drink long after the show is over to help us reach a goal of being able to make a difference. It is one of those things that make this city I proudly call home absolutely amazing.
With NINA DOES CBUS, I worked with so many different people and organizations who all were connected, in some fashion or another, to charity and this city. In the vision of the show, to really celebrate Columbus and finish this love letter, I wanted the organizations to represent some of the great things about this unique city and the people who said “YES!” to working with a 6’7″ drag queen and not batting a lash. To honor these individuals, an organization was chosen and a donation will be made to an organization on their behalf.
Jeni Britton Bauer, Local Matters, http://www.local-matters.org/
Elizabeth Lessner, Project: Zero Ohio, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Zero-Ohio/194772307241509
Lesley James, CD102.5 For the Kids, http://cd1025.com/about/in-the-community/cd1025-for-the-kids
Joel Diaz, ARC-Ohio, http://www.arcohio.org/
Joshua Snyder Hill & Stephen Snyder Hill, Freedom To Marry Ohio, http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/entry/c/ohio
Gabrielle Burton, Kings, Queens & In Betweens Kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/981223409/kings-queens-and-in-betweens-a-documentary-on-drag?ref=live
Karla Rothan, Stonewall Columbus, http://www.stonewallcolumbus.org/
The staff and board of COSI, COSI, http://www.cosi.org/
I am proud to announce the cast of NINA DOES CBUS, with the help of this incredible community, has raised over $6,000 for local charities.
Thank you to everyone who came out to this show, supported the love of this city and the entertainers that call it home. Thank you to everyone who pulled out $1′s, $5′s, $10′s, $20′s, wrote personal checks, and gave their money to these organizations. We are a better community because of you. THANK YOU.
February 5th, 2013 by Nina with No Comments
Feb 23. Yeah. It is about to go down.
January 2nd, 2013 by Nina with No Comments
Join me in wishing a very happy birthday to Freesia Balls.
November 14th, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
We are gonna rock it out like true QUEEN(s). One night only.
August 24th, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
Playing all weekend long! Join us for a fabulously fun evening with some of your favorite girls!
August 15th, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
July 12th, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
Coming August 23,24,25,and 26! Below are a few teaser ads created by the amazing Christian Cimoroni.
July 2nd, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
I have not been to an HRC Gala Dinner in a few years. The last time, I was asked to host a small portion and perform. This was maybe in 2005. It was my first big hosting gig. I don’t think I had ever been as nervous as that, but it was such an incredible experience.
This year, I ahd the chance to go to the dinner and take a couple of friends along with me. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off my love of the organization without really getting a little sassy. I mean, c’mon, I am a drag queen. It has to be a little fabulous, right? So I started talking with my friend Patrick about what I wanted to do and he went right along with it and our now legendary HRC dresses were born! The look was topped off with some custom-made earrings from Kari Kerning. We really were perfect on Saturday night!
It was such a magical evening, hearing amazing stories and meeting amazing people, making huge strides towards equality for our community.
June 27th, 2012 by Nina with No Comments
A very special VIRGINIA’S TOP SHELF WEDNESDAY is coming July 18.
Hosted by the incomparable VIRGINIA WEST, with Miss Gay USofA 2012 LAWANDA JACKSON, Miss All American Goddess At Large WHITNEY PAIGE, former Miss Gay USofA At Large Kofi, and me!
Doors at 10 pm, show at 11 pm.
NEVER A COVER.