Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Next Best Picture Podcast – Interview With “RuPaul’s Drag Race” 2024 Winner Nymphia Wind

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is one of the most popular television shows in the world. Winner of 29 Emmy Awards and having just completed its sixteenth season, the hit show is a sensation that keeps audiences returning for more each passing year. The winner of this year’s season, Nymphia Wind (the show’s first ever East Asian winner), was kind enough to spend some time talking with us about their participation in this year’s competition, how winning on the show has changed her life, and more. Please listen to or read the transcribed interview below, and be sure to check out “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which is now available to stream on various streaming services and is up for your consideration in all eligible Emmy categories. Enjoy!

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*This interviews has been edited for length and clarity.*

Hello everyone, this is Cody Dericks with Next Best Picture, and I am beyond thrilled to be talking with the iconic, sensational winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16: Nymphia Wind. Nymphia, thank you so much for joining me today.

Of course! Thank you for having me.

Of course, literally anytime. Right away, can we start out – I know you were crowned not too long ago, but can you tell me how your life has already changed since your win?

I hear the word “congratulations” a lot now. So, it’s pretty wild to, you know, win Drag Race and fly around the country as a reigning queen of Season 16. That’s very crazy.

Truly, flying on the wind, I’m sure, as your name dictates.

Flying everywhere.

Absolutely. Now, talking to this season, one of the most inspiring moments of the entire season was seeing you talk about your struggles with your confidence and vulnerability. Did watching yourself succeed so consistently on the show help you find more self-confidence?

No, I kind of just detached from myself watching the show.

Mm-hmm.

What I’m trying to say is this is still a thing that I am learning or ignoring. You know, drag has really shown me what self-confidence looks like. So, when I’m out of drag, I can sometimes tap into that. But generally, I just kind of live my life as a little plankton just going on about.

Well, one thing that I’m confident in is that you had some of the best looks of not only this season, but truly any season of Drag Race. It was just sensational watching you just conquer the season.

Thank you.

Of course. But with a little bit of self-reflection, can you tell me what one of your favorite looks was for yourself, and if you’re able to, what is one of your favorite looks from one of the other queens from your season?

My favorite look was definitely my butoh look, the Dancing Queen one. And a favorite look of my fellow contestant would be…is it bad that I don’t remember?

I mean, there’s so many, how could you?

Yeah, there’s so many; what do I pick? The egg. The egg by Xunami is in the ball. I think that was a really cute one. I like anything dramatic and camp; that really gave me the life that I needed.

Well, an egg look is obviously food-based, and that was one of your reigning looks: yellow and white food groups. 

Exactly.

Additionally, on this season, something else that was just impressive about your entire run was that you were the only queen the whole season who never had to lip sync for her life, which is not common nowadays on Drag Race. But I imagine you are still prepared for these lip-syncs, you know, just in case.

Yes, of course. I was in constant fear of going home, so of course, I was gonna be learning those songs. I was really surprised. I was fully ready to lip-sync on the Snatch Game episode, so I’m really surprised that they called me safe, which I am, of course, grateful for. And I’m glad, you know, Plane Jane put me in the bottom for the talent show because that means no one has ever seen me lip sync, which I think is very in my favor because the last lip sync was definitely the first time anyone had ever seen me lip sync. So, that was definitely very fun. The element of surprise. The underdog.

The element of surprise has been so integral to finales lately, so you got one that didn’t even necessarily require a reveal, but you still had an amazing reveal, so kudos to you on that!

I mean, I knew I was gonna go up against Sapphira [Cristál] and Plane, and I know Sapphira is a fierce lip-syncer. So, I had to do something. I had to bring my all.

Of course.

Because this was a battle.

And you knew she was gonna bring her all, obviously. 

Yeah, so I had to be prepared.

Obviously, there were a lot of moments throughout the season that didn’t make it to air. Do you have any memories of specific moments between you and another queen that you’re a little sad didn’t make it into the edit?

So, Xunami kept saying “mad cunt” a lot. And obviously, we had to edit that out, so that was pretty sad. ‘Cause I did, like, a higher-pitched version. Xunami did the lower pitch, but, like, I would scream “mad cunt” in a very high-pitched tone. And those didn’t make the cut, so that was pretty sad. We didn’t have our “mad cunt” moment.

Now, at the finale, you had this amazing song, this amazing performance called “Queen of Wind.” Did you have any hand at all in the writing or the choreo, or was this something that was totally presented to you?

I came up with the concept. I came up with the concept of “Queen of Wind.” I gave them a few demos of the song that I was thinking of, so I gave them “Marry the Night” and “Queen of Peace” by Florence and the Machine. And, uh, another song, I don’t know if you know that song…I forget the name. It’s, like, “A small-town girl living in a lonely world.”

Oh, “Don’t Stop Believing?”

Yeah, yeah, that song.

Yeah, Journey, of course yeah.

Yeah, yeah, Journey. So, I presented this idea that I wanted to have a feeling of: they were fighting for something, they had somewhere that they needed to go, and they needed to transform into this Queen of Wind. And that they had to dig themself out of the dirt, kind of vibes. So, I kind of presented them with that concept, and they came back with it.

And you started the number with this gorgeous outfit that I was reading was inspired by Peking opera costumes. Can you talk a little bit about that? 

So, that tiger outfit is a general kind of clothing within Peking opera. It’s not like your traditional Peking opera outfit, but it was inspired by that. So, it’s basically a very masculine figure. And this tiger general, I imagined, is weighed down by a lot of arrows and, you know, is struggling a bit, fighting for their life, and is hurt and burdened. And I imagined a person breaking out from all that burden and all that pain and suffering, and becoming the Queen of Wind and freeing themself from all of that. So, that was the basic concept for the clothing. Am I making sense?

Oh, absolutely. Because that actually read, and just hearing you elaborate on it, really intensifies some of your intentions, so I totally get that. And a lot of your looks were highly conceptual throughout the season, but they also were always underlined by couture fashion sensibilities. Can you tell me some of your favorite designers?

I love Madeleine Vionnet – the person who invented the bias cut. Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen. There are a few more: Hussein Chalayan, Thom Browne, and a few others that I cannot remember right now. But, you know, I like any fashion designer who is dramatic in their own way and has a signature, and when you look at the work, you know whose work it is. So, having that recognizability and design-sense and dramaticness in their garments is what I look for.

As a fashion-based queen, can you tell me what came first? Were you more into designing fashion for fashion’s sake, or did you design fashion-based drag for yourself?

Design for fashion or design for drag?

Yeah, which one came first for you? Was it kind of a symbiotic thing?

Oh, I guess fashion came first. Yeah, I think fashion came first. And once I started doing drag, fashion design and drag kind of just merged together. But I started by doing fashion illustrations, and it got to a point where I wanted to start making these looks happen. So, ta-da!

And, in your pre-Drag Race career, was there a specific moment where you decided, “You know what, I do think I want to audition for Drag Race?”

I think it was always at the back of my mind to audition for Drag Race because I knew I was American, so I could…this is an option for me that I could do. I always thought about it, but you know, living in Taiwan, Drag Race felt so far away. It didn’t feel like something that could actually happen.

Originally, I was going to move to New York in 2020 to audition for that position. And just, you know, ’cause Taiwan’s small, you kind of feel like you plateau at a certain point, and there’s just, like… there’s only so much you can do. So, moving to New York was an option for me to further my drag career and really see where drag can take me.

So, I say I moved to America to explore my drag. But, also, in the back of my mind, it’s also to maybe attempt to audition for Drag Race.  But, in 2020, the pandemic happened, so I couldn’t move. I just stayed in Taiwan, and I auditioned for the first time in Taiwan just to go through the motions and see how this whole process works.

And, in 2022, I just felt like I heard a voice saying that, you know, baby, it’s time. Something called me to America to make that move. And I really felt like it was time for me to make the move to America. And, initially, when I told my friends that I was moving, I always said, like, you know, it’s a change of scene and to see where my drag career can take me, but not telling them that I was gonna audition for Drag Race because I didn’t want to jinx myself or oversell myself and get people excited and then not end up making it.

So, it was always in the back of my mind, auditioning for the race. And in 2022, I just sent in my audition tape, filmed it, and got the call. To me, this was very surprising, but it was also not surprising. Surprising in the sense that it is happening so fast. I just moved to America four months ago, and then this is already happening. Like, this is crazy and unreal. So, that happened, we got on the show, and now we’re here!

So, did you only audition once before getting on the show?

Well, technically, two times. But, once in America.

I’m approaching the end of my time here with you, but before I let you go, if you had one piece of advice you could give to queens who were going to compete on Drag Race, what would it be? 

Put a recording of self-motivation into an iPod and listen to that. And bring calming music. Bring your emotional support music with you into an iPod. ‘Cause I feel like, a lot of times, cause you’re so isolated, and you’re by yourself, you don’t have your emotional support who reminds you of who you are. So, in the competition setting, you kind of sometimes forget who you are. And that is a scary thing in this competition show. So, find things and bring things that recenter yourself into you and just be yourself. That would be my advice.

Well, thank you for showing us who you are in this amazing season of Drag Race, Nymphia, and I’m so excited to see what the future holds for you.

Thanks.

Have a good one!

Bye!

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is now available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+, and more

You can follow Cody and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter @codymonster91

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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