Connect with us

Pride

YAAAS KWEEN! Meet 2019 Pride Parade Grand Marshall Nina West

Laura Dachenbach

Published

on

What can we add to the cultural explosion that is Nina West? A homecoming Pride Parade to welcome home our queen from the RuPaul’s Drag Race runway and congratulate her on her new EP Drag is Magic for children. For 18 years, Andrew Levitt as Nina West has performed, entertained, encouraged, empowered, advocated, and given back in more ways than we can count. (Although one tangible place to start might be the $2 million that The Nina West Foundation has raised for local and national charities that provide services to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as children and family charities.) (614) is pleased to share the insights of this amazing performer at such a career-defining moment.

Thank you, your majesty, for everything you have done, and for everything we look forward to from you in the future.

Tell me about your background and how it has channeled
your activism. Correspondingly, how has drag created
opportunities for you?

I started becoming really involved in my community as a child, volunteering with my family. That continued when I began school at Denison University, as service is a pillar of the school. When I attended college, I had my own story of bullying—and I never wanted anyone else to have to feel that. So, wanting to give back and protect became my focus to help younger queer people like me. 

The art form of drag is where you get to create the world you want to live in. You have freedom to create characters that demonstrate what you really want to say. Along those lines, you also get to create your own opportunities. When I first started drag, no one wanted to book a queen at their event. I was forced to create opportunities for myself to be on stage. As pop culture has embraced drag, I have benefited from the swell of mainstream popularity; but I have never forgotten that in order to do specific projects I want, I have to create those opportunities for myself and collaborate with brilliant and open-minded folks who share a similar vision.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

You have a commitment to old-school camp. How has your experience on RuPaul’s Drag Race shaped you as a performer? Has it refined your act? Made you more experimental or competitive?

RPDR is the greatest stage for drag—it is also drag’s toughest bootcamp. I learned that it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! At the end of this experience, I am reminded that someone like me—with years of experience and knowledge—brings a tremendous amount of worth to the competition. Drag Race has reminded me that you’re never too old to dream, and this opportunity has given me the ability to create things that 10 year-old Andrew would have never thought was possible. The show hasn’t refined my act; rather, it has reaffirmed my voice. I have always felt that I was an experimental artist, and have always seen myself as being competitive. But the show’s critiques allowed me to receive and apply feedback that I had not previously been in a position to take. 

The theme of Columbus Pride this year is “The Power of Pride.” How do you feel that you and your work embodies this theme?

I believe my career is a living example of the power of pride. Not to sound simplistic, but I feel like a phoenix that rose out of the ashes. I could have [gone] in a myriad of different directions after college—including dark places, like suicide. Rather, I chose to surround myself with other queer leaders and artists that helped me develop a strong sense of pride in myself and this community—and I hope I’m a part of that continuing legacy today.

In the excitement of the moment, have you thought about the future? Where do you see yourself going?

This is the most exciting time for my career. I am learning to quickly readjust and allow for the multiple dreams and priorities to shift. I’ve waited for these opportunities for so long, and all the doors are opening at once. It feels hard to keep up! It feels incredible for people to see me on TV, and then continue to help spread my message of pride and kindness in their own circles. It is astonishing to me this recent social media push to see me on SNL—and I would welcome that opportunity! I am passionate about working with children, and so continuing to create work around inclusive children’s music, books, and animation is a dream I’m currently getting to live out. I welcome any possibilities that allow me to continue to advocate for the silenced, while compelling real change through this art form. •

To learn more about the Nina West Foundation, visit ninawest.com. 

Continue Reading
Comments

Pride

Swallow your pride, literally, with themed food this month

614now Staff

Published

on

We never want you to swallow your pride...unless it's food. This year, eateries and drinkeries across the city are showing their pride with new menu items offered this month early. So, get out there and swallow your pride, literally!

Hangover Easy | University District and Olde Towne East

No matter what you call them—flapjacks, hot cakes, pancakes, yummy breakfast circles—HOE's festive menu items will have your tummy celebrating Pride in the most satisfied way possible.

https://www.facebook.com/HangOverEasy/posts/2311354398931158

C.Krueger's | 17 Brickel St, Columbus

How sweet are the new Pride cookies at C.Krueger's bake shop?! You'll be the hero of the party when you show up with a box of these cuties before the parade this Saturday.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByKHRt-gULw/

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams | Multiple Locations

n celebration of #PrideMonth, Jeni's is partnering with our favorite drag queen, long-time friend, and fellow ice cream lover Nina West on a very special, very limited flavor in our shops: NINA WEST’S DREAM PUFF.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByK6bL7JygC/

BrewDog USA | Multiple Locations

This Pride, BrewDog is honoring Nina West with Elevengendary: Tart Wheat Ale with Butterfly Pea Flower. Proceeds benefitting the Nina West Foundation. Available June 14th at all 3 BrewDog bars.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByVXvLPghRk/

Laughlin's Bakery | 15 E. 2nd Ave, Columbus

Rainbow macarons are back for Pride month!

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByakCeAAdXw/

Daddy Cakes Columbus | Visit online

Place your order now for this magnificent tower of Pride—complete with Funfetti layers!

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByN_660A2ie/

Plenty O' Cookies | Visit online

This drag queen baker is whipping out the most gorgeous Ohio and Pride-themed cookies! Host a baking party now.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByK5OkRA23w/
Continue Reading

Pride

Meet the Guest Editor: AJ Casey, Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus

614now Staff

Published

on

Cincinnati native AJ Casey brings over 25 years of experience to her new position as the Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus. This month she let us become part of her busy June preparations to help us shape our Pride cover package and we can’t thank her enough.

What excites you about your new position at Stonewall?

What excites me most is that it truly is a brand-new day at Stonewall Columbus. Not only do we have new leadership, but we have a new building, new board members and limitless new opportunities to engage with the LGBTQ+ family throughout the city and county. We are focused on being a catalyst for positive growth and are adamant in the pursuit of a united and thriving community.

Our new facility offers 15,000 square feet of light-filled space that is just begging for creative new programs and services. We’re partnering with organizations such as Equality Ohio to provide free legal clinics; and North Central Mental Health Services to offer LGBTQ+-friendly counseling. And there is so much more room for creative, engaging programs that I can’t help but be excited about the good that can happen here.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

After 38 years, Stonewall Columbus is still the largest and only LGBTQ+ community center in central Ohio. As we move forward, we are fostering relationships to ensure that everyone in the extended LGBTQ+ family can experience Stonewall Columbus as theircommunity center.

Tell me about the work of your parents and how it has shaped you and your work.

My parents were very active in the Civil Rights Movement. My mother was an organizer and get-out-the-vote activist. My father was an attorney and one of the first African American men to be appointed Assistant US District Attorney during the Kennedy administration. Dad’s career was centered on eliminating discrimination in public schools, police departments and state-run construction projects. My parents taught each of their three children (I’m the middle child) the power of confidence when the world rejects you and the necessity of excellence to forge personal success.

My own work is informed by the ongoing struggle for equality. My life—as black, female and lesbian of a certain age—places me in multiple social, gender and political intersections. The consistent driver throughout my career has been visionary empowerment. I have mastered skills that allow me to help people initiate change in themselves, their organizations and communities. I am a perennial student of this work and I have invested decades in honing my craft.

We’ve seen many steps forward and several steps back in LGBTQ+ inclusion and rights in just the past few years. Where do we go from here?

Within the LGBTQ+ family, progress encourages us and setbacks strengthen our resolve. For example, recently, nearly 100 LGBTQ+ advocates showed up at the Ohio Statehouse for hearings around the proposed Ohio Fairness Act (Senate Bill 11) and hundreds more submitted written testimony in support. The bill, if passed, would add LGBTQ people to the laws which make discrimination illegal.

During the public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, one advocate reminded the senators how long people within the LGBTQ+ community have been fighting for this law. “We’ve been showing up for decades in support of these rights,” he said. “And we will keep showing up until we share equally in the rights of all Ohio citizens!” So, if the question is “Where do we go from here?” the answer is an unequivocal we keep showing up until we help create a society, a city, a state where all of us thrive.

While the LGBTQ+ community in Columbus finds strength in being a large community, it is also a community with lines of division. How can we be more intentional about reaching out to and including more people?

We must be intentional about reaching out to and including more people. Period.

At Stonewall, that means that we are deliberate to about diversity and inclusion. We show it at the board level, the staff level, in our volunteer outreach and in our programs & events. We constantly ask ourselves who else we can bring to the table to ensure that our biggest plans are as welcoming and inclusive as possible.

I think that inclusion is about building relationships, not numbering participants. It’s not just about having people of diverse backgrounds or identities in the same space. It’s about how those assembled in that space combine their collective genius to create more powerful outcomes. Inclusion requires us to demonstrate what Dr. King described as “a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

And I also have to quote RuPaul here. At the end of each episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ru says “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” I believe that outreach and inclusion therefore require a dedicated practice of building self-confidence, self-acceptance and self-love. These practices have been a part of my personal journey and been prominent in my career. I intend that they will play some part in how we move forward and pursue a heightened sense of unity as an LGBTQ+ family.

You met your partner at Pride. Tell me about how that happened.

Singer/Songwriter Tracy Walker was one of the performers at Columbus Pride in 2016. I didn’t see her perform and hadn’t heard of her except to read her bio in the Pride Guide.

Somehow, we both ended up in the performers’ VIP tent that Friday night. It was already dark outside when we struck up a casual conversation standing in the glow of a string of white lights. Something about the glow around her made her appear angelic to me. Two minutes later, Tracy moved in to stand real close to me. That’s when I knew that this was more than a casual conversation! That was three years ago this Pride. We’ve been standing close in the glow of each other’s light ever since.

That’s the power of Pride. It is the perfect intersection of authentic personality and extended community. At Pride, people can discover themselves, explore new ideas and—sometimes—find true love.

When you’re not an activist/nonprofit leader/director, what can you be found doing? Reading leadership books and books about world religions or philosophy. Traveling to beaches and bask in the sun. Shopping.

Continue Reading

Pride

Pride Calendar

Mitch Hooper

Published

on

Columbus might be viewed as a cornfield in the Midwest to the rest of the world, but what they might not know is we have the third-largest Pride celebration in America, giving major cities like San Francisco and New York a run for their money. In way of celebrating all the city is championing this month, this extended calendar is your guide to Pride with art exhibits, parades, festivals, and so much more for you to sink your teeth in.

Pride At The Wexner Center For The Arts

The Wexner Center For The Arts will be featuring two artists whose work touches on LGBTQ+ lives. Starting June 1 until September, Alicia McCarthy: No Straight Lines will be on showcase where her abstract takes on punk and queer subcultures is highlighted through various styles of media such as graffiti and found or recycled items. Additionally, Barbara Hammer’s work will also be on display with Sensual Bodies on June 13 which features her experimental abilities. Just a short week later, another variety of Hammer’s work, Political Bodies, will be shown. Of the different works in the 100-minute video compilation is Would You Like To Meet Your Neighbor?—an exploration through hidden queer histories.

Loud and Proud Tour – Columbus 2019 Pride After Party
June 13 @ TRISM

Even before parade festivities kick off on Pride weekend, you can get the party started at one of campus’ most popular event spaces for a party raging from 9 p.m. Thursday night to 2 a.m. Friday morning. Join hosts Karin and Skyler and hit the dance floor for an LGBTQ+ DJ lineup that includes Kandy, Cristy Lawrence and Skyler Madison. Tickets are just $10, so get yours quick.

Photo by freemind-production for Shutterstock.

Columbus Pride Tea Dance
June 14 @ BrewDog in Franklinton

What other Pride event offers the opportunity to bump shoulders with a Grey’s Anatomy star? Join the hit show’s Ohio-born Jake Borelli on the breathtaking rooftop bar at Brewdog’s Franklinton location for drinks and dancing. The Tea Dance is a reference to secret afternoon speakeasy meetups among the LGBTQ+ community in the 1950s and 1960s, but make no mistake, this event is all about letting your pride be seen and heard from the highest reaches of downtown.

Unity Ball
June 15 @ Axis

At Axis’s 18th annual Unity Ball, you can have a blast celebrating Pride without feeling guilty about the money you blew through when you wake up hungover. The last 17 years of the event have raised over $1 million for local charities and LGBTQ+ civic groups. The $20 tickets also include admission to Dragapalooza, making this one of the hottest tickets in town over Pride weekend.

Columbus Pride Brunch 
June 16 @ Greater Columbus Convention Center

We know you’ll be getting hammered for Pride weekend, so why not start your Sunday recovery by getting some quality food in your system. Brunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Convention Center while Andrew Levitt, aka Nina West, will be honored. Levitt, a Columbus-native, placed sixth on season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. What better way to wind down Pride than a hearty meal and the chance to meet a local celeb? •

Photo by aceshot1 for Shutterstock.

Pride Throughout The City

Of course, the big celebration that rivals NYC is Stonewall’s Parade on June 15 which steps off at Poplar Ave. and High St. Furthermore, you can join in on the fun on June 14 and 15 with Stonewall’s Pride Festival at Bicentennial and Genoa Park. But what’s a party without an afterparty? The official after-party for both days of Pride this year is hosted at Ms. Vikki’s Restaurant & Banquet Hall. There are VIP tickets available which secure you a table, allow you to skip the lines, and receive complimentary drinks for the night. However, Stonewall isn’t your only chance to celebrate Pride in Columbus. Community Pride will be hosting a variety of events such as a Spoken Word and Live Arts and Performances event at The Vanderelli Room on June 4. The schedule slate for Community Pride also includes a Queer Club Night on June 7 and a Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion on June 11. For more details about Community Pride’s events, speakers, and locations, stay tuned to their website at columbuscommunitypride.org.

Continue Reading

No mo’ FOMO

Missing out sucks. That's why our daily email is so important. You'll be up-to-date on the latest happenings and things to do in Cbus + be the first to snag our daily giveaways

Shop Now!

The Magazines

X