Nina West Saves Christmas, Raises $16,000 for Charity
by Christina Best
I moved to Columbus in May after living in Nashville the past three years. I’d attended a few drag shows while living in Music City, so I had a general idea of what I’d be walking into at Nina and Virginia Save Christmas.
“You can expect a lot of choreographed group numbers as well as individual performances,” my friend, and one of Nina’s drag daughters, Christian Cimoroni told me before the show over cornbread at Philco.
“Nina’s more elaborate shows happen in the spring and Halloween. So, tonight’s show will probably be funny,” added Adam Oehmler, who’s helped with set construction for several of Nina’s shows.
Nina and Virginia kicked off the show by performing a “duet” to “Where Are You Christmas” in matching pink and purple 70s-inspired dresses and go-go boots. The rest of the performers joined them on stage for high-energy, choreographed routines to “We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame followed by “Turkey Lurkey Time.”
Roxy Nikole kicked off the first set of solo performances with an angst-fueled “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink 182. Following Roxy was Nina’s first solo routine—an “Elf” mashup during which she effortlessly navigated between dialogue and music from my favorite Christmas movie. I’ve never seen a drag king, so I also enjoyed Chuck Sparrow’s suit-to-lingerie routine to Bob Rivers’s “Winter Wonderland” parody, “Walking Around in Women’s Underwear.”
The show was at its best during the group numbers. The energy the performers brought to the stage when they worked together was contagious. My favorites included a group routine to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” and their finale to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” during which Nina and Virginia donned sparkly green jumpsuits while their troupe were all dressed as reindeer.
The most affecting performance of the night, however, was the group’s interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as performed by Pentatonix. Nina and Virginia earnestly sang along while Roxy, Chuck, and Amanda Sue joined them onstage carrying the transgender, American, and gay/lesbian flags, respectively.
By the show’s conclusion, it was obvious that love and charitable acts are what guide Nina and Virginia’s performances. From their Christmas shows alone, they raised over $16,000 for Columbus-based charity Besa. Nina also encouraged the audience to donate their “time, talent, and treasure” to charities such as Planned Parenthood and Stonewall Columbus.
“The support from Nina and Virginia, the cast and crew, and the audience is beyond heartwarming,” said Besa Executive Director Matthew Goldstein. “They are all dedicated to raising this city up, and they’re doing it. In this time and in this place, it’s exactly what we need in the world.”
Through Besa, the money raised will make roughly $50,000 in community impact. Here are highlights of what the money will provide: 250,000 diapers packed for needy families, 1,000 individuals and families served meals at a local homeless shelter, and hand-made blankets for 250 foster children.
“Besa is committed to different aspects of our community, so when you give to them, you’re not just servicing one organization,” Nina West said. “They do more than 300 service projects in a given year. One could be at the Ronald McDonald House. One could be with at-risk LGBTQ teens. The work that’s being done is tremendous.”
As a straight, white female it is easy to ignore the ways that other members of society have been and continue to be marginalized. This show helped me gain a better understanding of what drag shows represent to members of the Columbus and LGBTQ community. Nina’s shows are always a safe space where people can be whomever they choose. This year, Nina and Virginia saved Christmas and helped show that Columbus’s homegrown love and tolerance go a long way.