Categories: Interviews

Interview: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Winner Nymphia Wind on Makeovers, Sewing and Her Signature Color

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RuPaul’s Drag Race is a global phenomenon with the flagship series still running, as well as All Stars seasons, international Vs The World seasons, and regular international seasons. The series has given pop culture moments across its run, as well as producing winners that find success in different avenues: Trixie Mattel (All Stars 3) running multiple businesses, Bob the Drag Queen (Drag Race season 8) touring with Madonna on her celebration tour, Sasha Colby (last year’s winner) touring the world and providing some of the best drag shows one can see. Each winner has their own set of skills that elevate their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent above that of their competitors. 

This season, after stiff competition and more design challenges than ever before, Nymphia Wind emerged victorious after never landing in the bottom throughout the season. A queen known for for her heightened fashion sense and hilarious ways of annoying her fellow competitors, Nymphia tackled every challenge in season 16 with a ferocity that eventually earned her a spot in the finale. After pushing herself into the final two with Sapphira Cristal, Nymphia performed to Kylie Minogoe’s “Padam Padam” with a couple of reveals that defied the normal route of tossing off clothes at the very beginning of a lip sync. She proved her star power and was crowned the winner of the season, now the reigning Drag Superstar.

I sat down with Nymphia to discuss her time on the show, dealing with multiple design challenges and how quickly she was over the excess of sewing, and her inspiration for her final lip sync look. 

Tyler Doster: All right, so I want to start by congratulating you on winning. What was your journey like, from the moment you found out you were on the show to actually entering the workroom for the first time?

Nymphia Wind: A fever dream because I was so tired. A lot of the time I wasn’t registering what I was actually doing. You kind of just go with the flow and just get it done. It was definitely a crazy period in my life of disbelief and stress, crying, breaking down, sleepless nights, and excitement. 

TD: What was the process of creating different looks to bring with you for your journey on the show?

NW: You’re given a brief, and you look at what the themes are, and you just find ways to think of an amazing outfit for those themes and get it done in the given time.

TD: When you got any of these briefs, were there any that immediately stood out to you that you had an idea for?

NW: Yes. I was already making some stuff beforehand, and I just fit those already-made outfits, but not necessarily finished or shown or photographed. I just fit them into the brief. For instance, my pussycat doll, that was originally my New Year’s outfit for 2023, but I didn’t finish in time because Chinese New Year was in January. So I was still making that outfit, and I saw the brief, and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to fit this outfit that I didn’t finish into the pussycat category.” There are some instances where that had to happen. The flower outfit I already had, and it was already made, and I thought, “This is perfect.” I just put that in. The other stuff, I had to make a lot of them, and then there were also ones that I had to commission out because I couldn’t finish all of them.

TD: Yeah, it’s certainly a lot of work. What I wanted to mention is this season, you guys had a lot of creation going on, it seemed like more than previous seasons. How was that? I know watching it, we all got to see you pretty stressed at times, but it seemed like you always ended up being able to turn it out. What were the moments that we didn’t get to see like?

NW: A lot of these challenges, we were so tired. I personally was over it. I was like, ”Not another sewing challenge,” because when it’s the sewing challenge, it means I’m not going to be sleeping. To me it was like,”;Oh my god, I’m going to be more tired now.”; But I still had fun with the sewing challenges. Not to say it was like… It’s a lot. You are also very sleep-deprived, but it’s a mixture of excitement but also struggle because you are also under the fear of going home. You don’t want to go home and do bad. So you’re under a lot of pressure to do well. It’s a lot all at once. But looking back, it is still a period in my life that I can look back on and be like, “You know what? I did that, and I’m happy that I survived and came out on top.”

TD: Would you say that when you’ve gotten to see the season now, do you feel relief watching back? Or do you feel that same stress that you felt in the moment?

NW: I am a person where when it’s done, it’s just done. I don’t have an emotional attachment to what was already done. So looking back I’m like, “Oh, that was a really pretty fun thing to do.” I still had a lot of fun doing the show and filming for the competition because in my mind I was like, “Okay, so I’m doing this. This is a scary big project, so if I’m not having fun, it’s not worth it.” I kept reminding myself to have fun doing all of the challenges and doing all of the challenges. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the process [to] have fun because this is the only time you’re going to be able to do this. Just take advantage of every moment, and don’t let any moments slip because doing this show, the time passes by so fucking quickly. And you know Season 17’s going to come out. So you better enjoy every fucking moment and just enjoy the ride.

TD: There were so many good moments of the season with you specifically. You had so many funny moments. One of my favorite, personally, is your makeover partner being straight. How was that filming? It seemed like you guys had so much fun, and you seem to have a really delightful time just being a part of that in general.

NW: I just didn’t expect these Las Vegas drag race dancers were going to be straight, so I was just really shook. But it was also really fun to see, for people to see supportive straight men out there. So I think it was really good for people to see that. I personally can’t deal with straight men, but my partner was the good cut of the straight men, so I was really glad because straight men just stress me out. I just keep, my brain cells just die around straight men. I’m glad that I managed to not have any dead brain cells around.

TD: How have your performances changed in queer spaces after being cast on the show, throughout the season, and now that you’ve won?

NW: It has changed drastically. Before, you kind of had to fight for attention. They don’t think [about you], they haven’t seen it on TV. It’s different. But now, you don’t really have to fight for their attention. Their attention is fully on you. So your performance style changes. Now I feel more confident because of how the audience makes me feel on stage. It’s been pretty wild, feeling that love from the fans. It really makes me feel more comfortable on stage and more, I guess in general, just more comfortable on stage. Before I felt like I was running on adrenaline high because I’m naturally shy. I’m not necessarily the person who is most comfortable being seen on a big stage. After doing Drag Race and feeling the love from the fans, I feel more comfortable on stage. Okay, yeah. I think I’m repeating it also. Yes, I am more comfortable on stage now. One more point is I feel like I don’t have to do too much because before my performance style, I would be like, “Oh my God, I need to do this, I need to do that, I need to do this, I need to do this and that and that to entertain a crowd.” But now I feel like I have this feeling of I am enough, and I can play off the energy that the audience is giving me. I don’t necessarily need to keep giving and giving and giving. I could take what they’re giving and turn it into mine and then give it back to them.

TD: Do you feel this has helped you get out of your own head during performances?

NW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. From all of that, I think ultimately is what you said. Being more comfortable in my own skin and getting out of my head and just being with the crowd is how my performance has changed after the show.

TD: How did you come up with the concept of your finale lip sync?

NW: I obviously wanted to represent my country in a way. That was one of the ideas. I didn’t want to just wear a flag or write Taiwan. So I thought bubble tea was invented in Taiwan so it was the perfect thing to be a representation of my country, but also not being too direct and doing it in a camp and fun way. So the bubble tea idea came, stemmed from that. And then I thought I wanted to do another garment reveal, but I didn’t want to do your traditional rip away or do that. So I thought, “Why not just do a cartwheel reveal into another outfit?” So it was basically from the bubble tea into [each reveal] then the other garment until I’m my full yellow self. So the ultimate yellow diva was what you saw. I feel like I’m losing my brain cells and not making sense.

TD: I think it makes perfect sense. I’m totally getting it. I watched every episode this season multiple times.

NW: What I was trying to imagine in that last lip sync was revealing into my final form as the yellow queen.

TD: The final evolution of NW, right there before our eyes.

NW: Yes. Turning yellow.

TD: Leading up to that final lip sync, was there any added pressure in your mind? Only because no one had really seen you lip sync yet?

NW: No. I just thought to myself this was the perfect opportunity to present myself because no one ever saw me lip sync, so this was the perfect setup for me to really show the world what I can do. I really just said to myself, “Nymphia – well, Leo – this is your opportunity to have fun, and you have nothing else to lose because whatever happens, it’s not up to me. I’m just here to show myself and enjoy this last lip sync and have fun.” That was my goal. It was not my goal to outshine Sapphira or out-lip sync her in a competition sense because we fought to be in the top two. This was the last moment of the show, and if you’re not having fun at the last moment, you might as well just be third place or whatever.

TD: What was your favorite part of this experience, outside of the actual competition of RuPaul’s Drag Race?

NW: My favorite part is definitely traveling America and seeing the different drag communities around the city or country and seeing the different kinds of drag communities that develop from the town or city or country. It’s been really fun being able to see that.

TD: Congratulations again on winning. It was a joy to watch you all season.

NW: Thank you.

Tyler Doster

Tyler is the TV Awards Editor for AwardsWatch and from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He’s been obsessed with movies and the oscars since he was about 14. He enjoys reading, but even more, talking about Amy Adams more and will, at any given moment, bring up her Oscar snub for Arrival. The only thing he spends more time on than watching TV is sitting on Twitter. If you ever want to discuss the movie Carol at length, he’s your guy. You can find Tyler at @wordswithtyler

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