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Nina West on All Stars 9 strategy: 'You haven't seen anything yet'

Nina West on All Stars 9 strategy: 'You haven't seen anything yet'

Nina West on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 9 promo
Paramount+

"This season feels a lot more like a reality competition show," Nina West tells Out. "As a fan of Survivor and The Traitors and The Circle, I kind of love it."

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Editor's note: This story contains spoilers for the first five episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 9.

Nina West, the crowned Miss Congeniality winner of season 11, has always stayed true to her iconic message, "Go big. Be kind. Go West." Between her casting on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 9 and the concept of a charity-themed competition between queens representing different organizations, it instantly felt like Nina would be a big contender in the season — a sentiment expressed by Angeria Paris VanMicheals and Jorgeous in the first episode.

While the queens were right to fear Nina's talents in acting and comedy challenges like the Snatch Game, another expectation from fans has been smashed in a surprising way: this is not turning out to be the "RuPaul's Best Friends Race" season that people assumed All Stars 9 would feel like. These queens are competing, strategizing, and actually feeling some type of way when they get "cut" by the Ruby Snippers — meaning that they can't win a Beautiful Benefactress Badge during the next episode.

"The second those Ruby Snippers came out, everyone went, 'Oh, wait!' I really thought it was going to be just a different tone," Nina tells Out. "But then we all did slip into our competitive natures. Not a single one of the contestants isn't competitive, and I think that's what makes drag so fabulous and wonderful. We always want to raise our game."

She adds, "By the fourth episode, I think it's very apparent that the gloves really do come off. We were paired up in teams, and badges were being given away, and that badge move really did further the competition."

When asked about moving forward with her Snatch Game character (Liberace) despite having the same choice as Shannel, Nina gives us some insight into how things played out leading up to the season:

"I had literally come off of tour five days prior to being put in a hotel for All Stars. So, I had prepared this thing, this one thing. I was doing banter. I was writing jokes. I was doing all this sh*t to get ready for Drag Race because I had no f*cking time. I [felt like] I was doing eight shows a week… and then I was walking into the werk room."

She goes on, "Yes, we brought backups, because of course you bring a backup for the Snatch Game on All Stars. But I hadn't worked on my backup. A part of me that was like, 'Okay, bring it. I've worked on this. I can't be afraid of it.' But also, with Chanel being my friend, I wasn't trying to flex, or make her nervous, or throw her off her game."

On the other hand, Nina does acknowledge that "this is a competition" and adds: "This season feels a lot more like a reality competition show. As a fan of Survivor and The Traitorsand The Circle, I kind of love it. You can get cut, you can win a badge, you can give away a badge. There's a lot of strategy. Everyone's like, 'The math isn't math-ing.' Get ready, girl, because if you think you've seen everything, you haven't seen anything yet!"

On December 16, 2022 — during the rise of the anti-drag rhetoric from conservatives in the U.S. — Nina West wrote an open letter that was published on Out with the title "I'm scared, but I won't stop 'Drag Story Hour.'"

"It's interesting because, when I wrote that essay, I was also on a Christmas tour that was being protested. We had bomb threats. It was a crazy time," Nina reflects. "And while that was something that existed in like a moment in a bottle, it still feels that way. It's still very present. We need to be able to use our platforms and speak out. And that drag artists, specifically, are mobilized and empowered to do what we've done for decades and decades and decades, which is to stand at the gates and speak loudly to defend our community."

She continues, "It was 2018 when we filmed [season 11 of Drag Race]. Filming was two years into the Trump administration; then it aired in 2019, a year before the election. Even when I shared my story, I was at a different place. I was emotionally raw, and I felt like I'd be exposing myself, knowing what was happening in the country. But then here we are, five years later, I'm on All Stars, and I can't believe how even more prescient and more important it is for us to be able to talk about these things."

Nina, who's raising money for The Trevor Project while competing on All Stars 9, thinks that this entire journey circles back to the mission at hand. "I am doing this because I want queer kids to know that they matter," she explains. "I want them to know that they have value and worth. If someone doesn't say it, is it going to get said?"

"If you're a queer person and you've escaped this feeling, that's a miracle… because I think we all feel very under attack right now," Nina says. "'Scared' is not the right word for me anymore, Bernardo. It's not 'scared.' I am anxious, but I'm also motivated to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are protected, and that we go into this next cycle being well aware of what we're fighting for."

New episodes of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 9 are streaming every Friday on Paramount+.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.