Prizm News / June 10, 2019 / By Ken Schneck
Nina West is Presented With the Shellabarger Illuminator Award
By Ken Schneck
With the start of June, Pride is most certainly in the air, and the city of Columbus kicked off the festivities in grand fashion on Monday night as Mayor Andrew Ginther and City Council President Shannon Harden awarded 2019’s Steve Shellabarger Illuminator Award to Andrew Levitt, also known as Nina West. The award recognizes an individual within the Columbus community who has demonstrated outstanding initiative to promote LGBTQ rights and, in doing so, has created a more inclusive Columbus.
Many speakers were on hand at the ceremony to not only recognize Levitt and the entire West family, but also to put the ceremony within a wider context of both the national landscape for LGBTQ rights as well as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
“We think of Pride as a celebration, but it is so much more,” said Chris Cozad, the chair of the Community Relations Commission. “Pride is a political statement and we have the right to live and love openly and safely. Pride is a civil rights movement. Though Columbus offers sweeping protections within our city limits, we are not protected in the state of Ohio. We must fight for ourselves and our rights. No one is going to give us our rights. We have to demand them.
Though national audiences are now keenly in the know about Levitt’s talents due to his star turn on the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, local fans have been appreciating the artistry and philanthropy of Nina West for decades. With Levitt currently on tour, his drag mother Virginia West was on hand to accept the award.
“I met Andrew 22 years ago when he was at Denison University and he was just a little gay boy trying to find his way,” said Virginia West. “To this day we have remained best friends. I am so incredibly honored to receive this award for him, because there is no one more deserving in this city. He continues to fight locally and nationally for everybody in our community. The West family means giving a voice to those who don’t have a voice, and we always say we are activists first and entertainers second.
Prizm was on the scene for the ceremony to capture the images of light and pride. Check out our gallery below and live stream video of the ceremony.