Drag superstar Nina West is taking the world by storm. Her new children's book, THE YOU KIND OF KIND (endorsed by none other than the Queen of Kindess herself, Dolly Parton) is out now! The first of its kind for children by a Drag performer, THE YOU KIND OF KIND shares the empowering message of kindness, community, love, and inclusion.
West can also be seen in the new ROKU Original Movie WEIRD: The Weird Al Yankovic Story out on November 4th, 2022 starring Daniel Radcliffe and Evan Rachel Wood, and she is currently touring the country as Edna Turnblad in the national tour of Hairspray.
BroadwayWorld spoke with Nina West about how she came to write a children's book, feeling the power of your own magic and kindness, and much more.
Nina, you do everything! You've already conquered drag, theatre, music... what made you want to write a book?
I think this was such a logical step for me. When I was eliminated from RuPaul's Drag Race during season 11, I released a children's music EP called Drag Is Magic, which had 5 original songs on it. That really began this journey 3 years ago, and I am thrilled it did. I really love telling stories and sharing them with others. I also believe in kindness as a pillar with which I try to lead my life by and I have seen the incredible magic that can come to the world be giving it.
Kindness has always been such a huge part of your message as an artist... did you know immediately that it would be the driving theme of the book?
I knew that I wanted the book to be rooted in something that is intrinsically me. I wanted the book to be bright, colorful, full of heart, and with a message. And I think this was the right introduction into the space and the landscape of children's picture books. I believe in the power of kindness and can easily speak on how it can have such a powerful impact on the world.
You have Dolly Parton's endorsement! How does that feel?!
How does it feel to walk with unicorns on clouds while eating your favorite ice cream flavor? I imagine that is what this feeling is! Honestly. The Queen of Kindness celebrating this story and the value of the person telling it is incredible, and I am forever grateful to Dolly for her love and her example.
How excited are you for audiences to see your portrayal of Divine in Weird and how weird was it moving from a Divine-inspired role to playing actual Divine in the film?
This was really the opportunity of a lifetime. I grew up with Al in my life as a kid of the MTV generation. I loved Al and the wonderful weird world he embodied and inspired. So, fast forward to 2022 when I got the chance to play an icon in a movie about another icon? HEAVEN. BLISS! Unreal! It is truly bizarre how all of these worlds are intersecting in my life, but I am so grateful. And I hope you are ready to laugh. Because this movie is EPIC.
And meanwhile, you're still killing it in Hairspray. Having been on tour for a while now, has anything surprised you about the experience?
The greatest surprise I have discovered on this tour is how I feel every night I am finding new motivations and more information about Edna and the world she inhabits. I have been with the show for a year, and I still feel as excited about it as the first day of rehearsal.
Who do you hope reads this book and how do you hope it makes them feel?
I think this book is for anyone and everyone. Yes, we have the big, overarching message of kindness, which is something we could all benefit from and be reminded about how powerful a tool it is in this world! For Nina West fans, there are so many easter eggs - from outfits to moments in my career! I also have a few hidden friends in the book as well, celebrating some people who really represent the kindness personified! And of course, the opening illustration of the book is a celebration of Hairspray, thanks to brilliant art by Hayden Evans!
Ultimately, I want people to feel the power of their own magic and kindness in the world...because when you give kindness, it does come back to you. ALWAYS! So, I truly hope this book inspires people to give kindness and make this world a better place for all of us. Sure that sounds like a major undertaking, but it all can start with a smile or saying hello to someone or just listening to another person.
Photo credit: Max Fleury
Book art: PA Press