Prizm News / February 25, 2019 / By Bob Vitale
‘I’m here to do me,’ says the pageant
winner, theater veteran, comic and philanthropist. That might be enough
to win the ‘RPDR’ Season 11 crown.
By Bob Vitale
So America, meet Nina West. The drag persona of Columbus’ Andrew Levitt is a legend in Central Ohio, voted along with zookeeper Jack Hanna and Buckeyes legend Archie Griffin a couple years ago as one of the city’s favorite celebrities.
It’s all up to Ru as to whom Ru-les as the Ru-lustrious champion of Season Ru-leven. But if you want our advice, Ru, go with our girl…
This Ain’t Her First Time at the Rodeo…
“I’m just a really big ol’ man in a dress,” Nina likes to say.
But she’s no neophyte.
Levitt, a native of North Canton and a theater graduate of Denison University, has been doing drag for 18 years. He made Nina his full-time job last year.
Nina first made a name for herself outside of Ohio with a victory in the 2008 Entertainer of the Year pageant. It’s a title whose runners-up include Shangela, Alyssa Edwards, Trinity the Tuck and fellow Season 11 competitor Brooke Lynn Hytes.
She’s a Student of the Game
In his weekly “DragCast” podcast, Levitt often discusses “Drag Race” and the drag community.
When Manila Luzon was eliminated in early February from Season 4 of RPDR “All Stars,” he talked about different ways of playing the game: with a “Survivor”-like strategy of eliminating competitors vs. doing your best and playing nice.
“‘Drag Race’ is not so set up that way,” he said of the more cut-throat strategy. “At least the fandom doesn’t want it to be.”
He also said he has asked former contestants who’ve made their way to Columbus what they would have done differently on the show.
Sounds like Nina’s going in with a plan.
She’s a Comedy Queen… and More
In her pre-season interview, Nina describes her style as “big, campy, classic drag.” She’s more than that, though.
She’s done pageants. She’s done live events where she needs to think on her feet (her interaction with Adam Rippon in the live-streamed Season 11 “RuVeal” was a highlight of the otherwise cringe-worthy webcast). Levitt, as Nina West and other characters, also has done theater.
She Gives Back
In a 2018 story in The Columbus Dispatch, Levitt estimated that he has raised more than $2 million for charity as Nina West. Among his favorite causes: Kaleidoscope Youth Center and Equitas Health.
Nina has emceed huge events such as the Ohio AIDS Walk. And at every big Nina show, tips from a final charity number—about $1,500 each time—go to community groups.
“Not only has she helped raise money to help support our mission, she has used her platform to educate and raise awareness about the issues that affect our community,” says Equitas Health Chief Marketing and Community Affairs Officer Joel Diaz. “The impact of her support for Equitas Health’s life-saving work is forever cemented in our history.”
“I love you so much and cannot wait to watch America fall in love with you!” Nina’s drag mother, Virginia West, posted when news broke of the Season 11 casting.
It’s easy to see Nina becoming a Jinkx Monsoon or Bob the Drag Queen: that fan favorite who also wins the crown.
“I’m here to do me, and I’m here to do the one thing I’ve done well for 18 years,” Levitt said on that recent podcast. “Win lose or draw… I’m still going to do me at the end of the day.”
FIND OUT MORE
Season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” starts Thursday, Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. on VH1. We’ll have special coverage of Nina West’s run at the crown throughout the season at PrizmNews.com.