Take your broken heart and turn it into art. This week, I sat down with Andrew Levitt, AKA Nina West, Columbus’s predominant drag queen and champion. It’s been 20 years since Andrew became Nina; high time to take stock in his career and what’s next. We discussed how he got started, the cultural phenomena of drag, the importance of being resourceful and scrappy, what’s it’s like being on Drag Race, and how he manages his career.
- Nina West
- Virginia West
- Union Cafe
- Axis Nightclub
- National Entertainer of the Year
- The Moving Dress
- Rupaul’s Drag Race
- Greater Columbus Arts Council
- Columbus Zoo
This Confluence Cast episode is sponsored by Art Makes Columbus, Columbus Makes Art, featuring stories about our city’s incredible artists — stories full of inspiration, challenge, passion, and success. For videos, articles, an up-to-the-minute calendar of events and an artist directory visit ColumbusMakesArt.com, the resource for all things arts and culture in the capital city.
Tim Fulton 00:12
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus-centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host Tim Fulton. This week, I sat down with Andrew Lovett, aka Nina West Columbus is predominant drag queen and champion. It’s been 20 years since Andrew became Nina high time to take stock in his career. And what’s next? We discussed how we got started. The cultural phenomena of drag and how it relates to the black and queer experience, the importance of being resourceful and scrappy. What it’s like getting on and being on drag race, how he manages his career, and why you should take your broken heart and turn it into art. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast calm. Also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website the confluence cast calm [email protected] slash Confluence. The Confluence cast is sponsored this week by art makes Columbus Columbus makes art featuring stories about our city’s incredible artists. Stories full of inspiration, challenge, passion and success. For videos, articles, and up to the minute calendar of events and an artists directory visit Columbus makes art calm. The resource for all things arts and culture in the capital city. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Andrew Lovett, also known as Nita West. Andrew, how
Andrew Levitt 01:57
are you? I’m well, Tim, how are you?
Tim Fulton 01:59
I’m good. It’s good to see you. It’s been at least since the before times, probably a little bit longer than that.
Andrew Levitt 02:07
Tim Fulton 02:08
So you are best known as Nina West and you’ve been on drag race. You’ve been sort of a Columbus icon for years now. How did you get into drag?
Andrew Levitt 02:20
Well, first, thanks for having me today. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to see you again. It’s been way too long. We haven’t Good to see you. It’s been really long. So it’s really nice. Virtually it’s really nice to be here with you. How can I get started is back. Um, I was I was going to Denison University. I was a theater major. I was also the president of our LGBT q student organization, which is still called outlook and and so I think what happened was we had the organ of the university and this organization specifically had brought drag queens in from Columbus for years. And so it’s one of the law, it’s probably one of the longest drunk like running drag shows at a university in the country, maybe overlay overlay, maybe the longest. Denison’s right up there, which both, incidentally, are Ohio schools, which just kind of crazy, right? So, so when I was a freshman, I remember going to my first major drag show at Denison in the Student Union and it was drag queens from Columbus. And it was like Marianne Brandt, and Janet garrison and Dominique LaRue. And Maria garrison, were the first drag queens that I saw. And then I ran for a brand new organization, which meant in my sophomore year, it meant that I would bring drag queens in to the university, I’d have to book the show at the end of the year for for the, for the organization. So I started to meet drag queens, and I was like, wow, you know, this is, you know, it’s not anything like I thought it was. And these people are really actually really wonderful and incredible. And so then by the time my senior year came around, the senior show our last my last time running the Dennison drag show, my friend Justin garrison, and I thought we should do drag and so just kind of as a joke, I was gonna do drag that one time, and leave it there. And that was like in March of 2001. And then here we are, all these years later, I moved to Columbus after I graduated college for a short interim period, I was gonna move to New York City, which is part of my story, and then 911 happened and I stayed in Columbus. And by that point, I’d tried drag once with Virginia, Virginia West who’s my drag mother. And, like, again, I thought it was gonna like I entered this drag contest that I thought was just gonna be a one off like it was called who wants to be a drag queen and it was like, competing. Like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was a really big game show at the time. In 2001, right?
Tim Fulton 05:02
Andrew Levitt 05:03
Yeah. So, so they did, he wants to be a drag queen. And so like, it was like a contest, you could win $150 cash prize, which to me being like, I was trying, I was trying to get work in Columbus, I like went to work for catco. They told me no. So I want a creative outlet. And so it’s like, well, I’ll try drag, um, again, like, and I won the contest. And then I kind of was like, Oh, that’s 150 bucks. That’s awesome. And I kind of left it there again. And then Virginia came back in July, and was like, hey, I’ve got this show, you should do the show. And so that’s really where it started. And I started to, like, surround myself with a circle of friends that were primarily all drag queens and, or drag entertainers or boyfriends or partners of drag queens, like my world became deeply immersed in Columbus drag. Okay, how it started.
Tim Fulton 05:52
And so from the outset, there are so many sort of cultural touchstones within that, let’s call it a world, like having a drag family, for those that have not watched drag race, what are sort of what’s a drag family,
Andrew Levitt 06:07
so a drag family. So it’s really, it’s really interesting, like the way this all kind of works, right? For many people, and like, drag family, I think really, this concept of family and ball culture like these, and this idea of belonging to a house or a group of people. Blood is really deeply kind of related to like a black queer experience. And so we like it’s, you know, week, as it kind of has evolved in its like growth, as queer communities have evolved and grown and drag communities have evolved and grown. And so, you know, drag family is kind of, it’s like, the are the people that when you it’s just like a blood family. But these, this is your chosen family, the people that watch out for you, they, they, if you don’t have food, they feed you, they clothe you, they teach you the ropes, they provide opportunity and access where when doors are being shut in your face. I mean, it’s like, it is like, it is a kind of a mother hen, and her Chang is very protective of those. And she, you know, is, you know, teaches teaches sometimes with love. It’s sometimes with like, Hard Knocks, like, you know, it’s just like it’s just like a family or relationship, but it’s with a chosen family. And so, when I became Virginia’s drag daughter, Virginia had taken me under her wing, I think I was like her first, her first kid. And okay, Wragge daughter, in a sense, but you know, she gave me her last name. So I was Nina West. Nina Nina comes from Nina Simone. Because I was deeply in love with Nina Simone when I was in college. So I’m still am but that’s where the name comes from. And then West Virginia’s last name. So a long story short, basically, Virginia, really took me under her wing, she gave me a lot of opportunities. She put me in shows. And she really watched out for me, and she advocated for me and protected me from a lot of different things. And that relationship to this day is very invaluable to me, even though we’ve like grown and things of you know, like, we’ve gone to COVID and things have changed. And she’s still very dear to me. And like, I would not be where I’m at without her.
Tim Fulton 08:21
Yeah. And so when did you You know, I’ve worked with you on your podcasts and stuff. And so I before drag race, you sort of had you basically had two jobs, right? It was Yang sort of bar, social media event management kind of stuff. And then being Nino West, that was your other job.
Andrew Levitt 08:40
Yeah. So what happened? So the kind of the, the my history is that Yeah, I was working at Union cafe and access nightclub while I was doing drugs simultaneously when I first started so I was a server. And I would you know, in that, like, really benefited me and like I was always on the present and around when opportunities were there and coming from I would be in Virginia would be bartending, I’d be serving, she’d get a call from the owner, and he’d be like, Hey, we’re gonna we would like we want to get a show. She called him from the office, down to the barn back, hey, we’re gonna do a show. Can you book a show? And I’d be running around on the floor serving food, and she’s like, hey, do I do the show with me tomorrow night? I’m like, sure. Like, so that’s really kind of how it started. And then for years drag pageantry is a big part of the queer drag experience or pageantry was a big deal and still is a big deal. And you know, it was, and those were before drag race drag. pageant title holders were the celebrities of the frake. Like, oh, that’s Miss gay Ohio America, or that’s Miss gay, Ohio, USA Bay, which, you know, Virginia was a former Miss Gail, how America and a former scare. Oh, hell yes. I mean, like they were.
Tim Fulton 10:22
So when you and when you win those pageants that’s, again before drag race, that was your ticket to like, book a tour. And
Andrew Levitt 10:31
yeah, you had this idea of like, Oh, I can like so if you win an Ohio pageant, you have the ability to go around to different Ohio cities into their gay bars and perform and entertain, which was a way to get out there. If you couldn’t get it if you didn’t want to have an opportunity, say in your city. And then. So there was a lot of pressure for me to do pageantry. And I didn’t see myself as a pageant Queen, necessarily, because it’s like a it’s like a really clean, proper, really straightforward about illusion, for the most part, right. I didn’t write it and I was really defining myself as a comedy Queen and the camp Queen and like how, like, I’m a big linebacker, so like, let’s, let’s dress it up, rather than try to hide it. So okay, um, so I really was trying to, like shy away from drag pageantry.
Tim Fulton 11:17
And, and but Virginia was sort of a pageantry that was her background.
Andrew Levitt 11:22
She had her she had a strong foot and pageantry, she had a strong foot with a theatrical background, and she was show director, and the bar that I was running through that, I mean, so she was, so she was able to influence me in a lot of different areas, you know, pagiging, he never pushed me to do drag pageantry shoot, it’s cabinetry is right for it is not right for everyone. And I think she recognized that me and then, in 2008, I went, I decided, I was like, Alright, I’m gonna, I’m gonna try it once and get it done. And it was a really successful run. And I went and competed for national Entertainer of the Year in 2008. And I won, which change why I bring that up is because it changed my entire trajectory of my drag career. So I Okay, oh, I thought it was like, I’m not gonna be a serious drag queen. Like, I’m gonna just do it as a hobby. I’d love to do it. I’d love to perform. Eventually, I’ll go audition for something. Eventually, I’ll
Tim Fulton 12:18
go do theater or something. Go do more traditional theater, I still hadn’t,
Andrew Levitt 12:21
like I still hadn’t reconciled in my mind that this was a legitimate form of entertainment. I still like I was, like, 24 years old. Okay. And then by the time I was 30, which was entertainment. 2008. I was like, I got this like, this is what I do. I’m really good. Okay, we do this very well. I love my city. My city means the world to me. They’re giving me this platform. And so I was really sad. And then drag pageantry entered my life. And I was it changed everything. I wouldn’t did Entertainer of the Year, I won national Entertainer of the Year, I did this very epic evening gown. That is, it’s called the moving dress. And it’s it’s on my YouTube channel. If anyone wants to stand up at the moving dresses, see us copy the moving dress Elvira has copied the moving dress. It has it’s rooted in many people want to say, Oh, you got that from where you got that? From my inspiration from it when I created obviously all art is like it. I mean, they’ve not derived from something else. Yeah, hard to create something original. So in my mind, I thought I was but it comes like I my inspiration for it was though, I was like these, I think it’s like French operetta where the dress would lift up in a small smaller version of the of the singer would come out from underneath the dress and being exact same thing. Because that was like my initial idea for the gown. And so it kind of came from this and the dresses, actually people and it moves and it peels away and reveals an evening gown. And then the dancers come behind it creates a train like very epic, very like mum and chance if you’re receiving mountain chance on like the mother. Yeah. So that began to solidify my name and a national.
Tim Fulton 14:03
So you did that. Sorry. I’ve seen it. But you did that at the Entertainer of the Year competition. That was that’s when you sort of debuted that.
Andrew Levitt 14:11
That’s right. Yeah, that’s where I wore it was it was for that contest and got it. I won that pageant and it changed everything legitimize me in a much bigger way I toured the country promoting the pageantry system. I met a made contacts that lasted forever, including many people that went on to do drag race long before I did. And so like I began to form these relationships that were would absolutely come back to me on my journey. And so that changed everything. And I remember coming home from winning Entertainer of the Year and calling my boss and saying hey, I need to I think I’m going to need to work part time. And so I can focus on drag. Right? Well that chain that also was like a nail that for me. It was that decision haunted me for many years because They never would bring me back full time. And I was like struggling
Tim Fulton 15:04
to be you’re worried about that.
Andrew Levitt 15:05
Oh my god, I was really okay. I was financially struggling to pull together my personal life to do the drag, be able to work and I was had time to work. And I was like, please bring me back full time. Like, Oh, yeah. And it’s, of course, it was like a thriving business, right. It’s like, still a huge business. And so that was like one of those things that but in the long term of the story benefited me because I learned how to really focus on being resourceful, being scrappy, really like, figuring out how to make my ends meet without that income, and really pouring myself into drag. Okay, drag became everything. So by the time I would say, I drag I went off to film drag race in 2018, I would say by 2014. So 2008 I went Entertainer of the Year, I gave it up in 2009. I toured around through 2010. So I toured for a good solid two years, came back to the gig was always working in Columbus, in the meantime, you know, doing my business goes and doing bar appearances, but like, I was really trying to schedule in these moments to get out of Columbus to meet make connections to to be seen. And I’m very similar to what an actor does. Yeah. I
Tim Fulton 16:26
mean, it’s, it’s, it’s exactly the same thing. Like saying, Hey, I got to go out and do pilot season, or, hey, it’s really important for me to be around for this event. Like it, you can think people are familiar with that. It’s very similar.
Andrew Levitt 16:39
Yeah, you there is, um, there is something about the world of performance art that requires you to have a deeper understanding of other things. It’s you have to leave to come back. Like you can’t, it’s really hard to do that. Right. So, um, so I was just really at this point in my life. By 2014 15. I was comfortable enough that I could have quit my job, but I didn’t for fear of the other shoe falling, right. So I was like, right, okay. Like, I know, that was ingrained in me by my parents, like, hey, like, you can’t, just like theater might not work out. You have a backup plan. And that’s something I’m really envious of, like my younger, like, young, the, this next generation, like, they’re like, I don’t need a backup plan. This is what I’m doing. If this doesn’t work, I’ll figure it out. Like, wait, but it’s gonna but they’re very resilient. And that this, like, they’re just like, it’s just gonna work. And like, I wasn’t raised like that.
Tim Fulton 17:37
So yeah, but is that I am very much of that philosophy is, at least financially, you can’t have all your eggs in one basket, you need a little bit of whether that’s money in the bank, or just another skill you have of, hey, if this passion doesn’t work out, I can always go and do copywriting or I can always go and spin up a website for somebody.
Andrew Levitt 18:01
Yeah, yeah. I would agree with that. I think the lesson I learned that I am grateful for and that maybe you have as well, is that I am a very again, like I said resourceful. I know how to do a lot of things. Some of them I do really well. Some of them I do okay,
Tim Fulton 18:18
right. I still
Andrew Levitt 18:18
can do it. And so like if it didn’t, if this didn’t work out, I would have the ability and talent to segue to something else.
Tim Fulton 18:27
And so what changed in 2014 15, that you just, you had enough,
Andrew Levitt 18:33
I was 10 I was I was I’m a workhorse I was working nonstop. So from the time of really 20 I would say 2012, I was doing shows five or six nights, six nights a week up until really basically, I left for drag race. I mean, I was like, event if there was something to do I want it to do it. Because I can Yeah, I had this very innate fear that I wasn’t like, I wasn’t going to be able to do it. Like, I can’t like I got it. And I was really feeling like I had to figure it out.
Tim Fulton 19:06
Were you concerned that, hey, I don’t want to waste this opportunity. Because I might be past my prime or, oh, you weren’t gonna literally going to physically be able to perform? What was the worry?
Andrew Levitt 19:19
I think there’s a lot of that. I mean, like we are, there’s a lot of ageism, especially in drag. I mean, I’m 42 now, which is not old, but in the world of drag. It is like I’m on the older side of the scale. Okay, so like there’s a lot of ages of drag, but that, you know, there’s a lot of, I mean, it’s also to be quite honest with you. It’s also super it’s not a very consistent industry. I was lucky enough to be in a position of consistency because I was I privileged I was as a show director, I was like I had the ability to for like, first pick at gigs, like I recognize
Tim Fulton 19:58
and are you saying they’re like You would book a touring drag queen axis. And
Andrew Levitt 20:05
like, I mean, yeah, but there was like, there was a schedule. So like we would have
Tim Fulton 20:09
a you could put yourself on to a show with a touring person. Yeah. Which hence, it’s a Columbus audience. And then you were able to When did you start doing like heels for like the stuff where you produce the whole gang, and it’s actually just Columbus people.
Andrew Levitt 20:25
So the big show’s started for me in 2003, I think or 2004. So like it was, those were always been very early on very early on. Yeah, Virginia lasted me with my first mainstage show in 2003. I did Nino s network news. And then on 1004 it was a Yeah, it was like it was like a cabaret review. And then in 2004 was the first kill support. And we came back to like, it was something I laughed. I was like, Oh, no one likes Halloween. It was actually a really terrible show. No one like the show. Okay. It wasn’t really mad show. We did stuff like it was the show was broken up in three sections. And like one section was called misery loves Three’s Company. And go with me on the idea. A bunch of people go to a Three’s Company, fantasy camp where they have to dress up as the characters of Three’s Company. And it falls into the pot of misery. So it was like, like a Christmas now and a jack chipper me it’s like an agenda. It was like real. and Mrs. Roper, it was super dense. It made sense to me. It made sense to nobody else.
Tim Fulton 21:36
Okay, so how when you? I was gonna ask about this a little bit later, but since we’re here, how do you put together a show like that?
Andrew Levitt 21:44
For me, it’s a lot of time with. I’m very referential, I think in the big shows, like, it’s a bit important to me, I think I’m referential, my drag kind of overall, with the show, like, let’s say, I did a show called ohana. That was a response to President Trump winning his election. And I remember feeling so defeated in that November 2016. And then I was like, we just wrapped heels before the election happened. He wins. I felt like so dejected. So I took that time period. My next shift, my next mainstage show was coming up in April. So from November to January, I was like, I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do. I don’t feel like I want to produce anything. I don’t know how to do this. And then Carrie Fisher died in December. And that was and then Meryl Streep gets up at the Golden Globes. And she talks about she does, she does a kind of a tribute to Carrie Fisher. And at the end, she says she says that one of Carrie Fisher’s things that she said, and I think she put it in her book, wishful drinking, I don’t know where the quote comes from. But Carrie said, Take your broken heart and make it into art. And I was like, really prevent me moved by that. So for that show, that was the impetus for the rest of what I created. So that I spend time with music, I spend time with visuals. I just kind of poring over things, listening to a lot of things, going back to things that are important to me. Specifically in that show was a lot of political issue and commentary. Like how I could work with it. So I worked from anything with from the Muppets to Disney to political discourse. And Rachel Maddow to classical Brahms, you know, music and it’s trying to whittle down and siphon out and comb through things that are going to tell the story that I want to tell. And it’s okay, we’ll take aeolus. And it’s really, really hard because in the shows that I was producing, it’s all almost pre pre existing content like so. We’re lip synching to, right, and we’re until you’re trying to weave I like in the big shows to tell a story. Even as late or subtle as it may be to have a through line that connects it. That is that resonates with my message and has a desert, a deep understanding of that is hopefully celebratory, or even a moment in the show that might make people take pause and think about what they’re experiencing in their own life, and how it might interact with what they’re witnessing on stage. You know, we’ve done numbers like Handmaid’s Tale numbers, and that’s and that shows specifically that we’re like, if we’re not careful. This is though this could be a reality and here we are now, in 2021. Yeah, we’re looking at things that are big that the very dangerous rhetoric that you would I still say to myself, this I mean, this isn’t real. And it is yeah, reality of it is and so anyway, but the art of it all is I that’s the it’s the most challenging part. It’s the most fun part is the most rewarding part. To lay everything out and vomit it all out on paper or in a Pinterest board or not like on my walls. I mean, like I take note cards and I read every idea to And it’ll be all around the room, and then I’ll try to organize them by what they might mean. Is that a song idea? Is that a production? And then who would be good for that production, I start to think about cast members that I would work with, or I have worked with in the past and the talents that they bring in, where are they? Where can they best be suited to show off the best of themselves in the show, and it’s really a painful and incredible process. Like, you know, it’s like, every a take, and I, it was, every drag was, and is every ounce of my breath every day. Like, I’m thinking, I’m thinking about it, I was thinking about it, like, how do I? How do I conveyed this or that and it’s right is, to me, music is like a script. You know, like in a, in a stage per show, like, so, I’m trying to find the best song that tells me that it gives the character the best ability to express an idea or an emotion or a thought, and it’s proven very successful, you know, and yeah. And that’s how the shows come about. But I tell you, it’s a really, it’s a long process,
Tim Fulton 26:08
it doesn’t have How do you because of this is partially the market we’re in? Because you book it a couple months ahead of time, you know, okay, I’ve got two or three weeks, you’re not going to extend it? Do you have any sense of mourning at all about like, you create this thing? And then it’s just done?
Andrew Levitt 26:27
Gambit? You know, that’s Yes. 100%. That is the beauty though of, I think, a live experience in life, theater and life. Is that it? It is it lives on with the audience who is there to witness it that day. And of course, it is painful to let it go, because you spend all of this time in this energy in this effort on it. And of course, after it’s all done, I am always like, well, nothing’s guaranteed. So I don’t know, if I’m gonna get to do that again. You know, I want to do that, again, will I get the chance to do that again, and I have always had that kind of in the back of my head saying, you know, like, if this is the last time I get to do this, I better fucking knock it out of the park. You know, I better make, I better make sure that people know where I stand. I better make sure people know where like, we’re, like, what I what my art is about to me. And I think that, that has been the most important part of the big shows, I don’t think I ever once found it, you know, like I don’t, I really, my goal was to let the audience have a night to let their hair down to forget about things to be real. But then to like, kick him in the ass and say, but remember this, this is really important. Like, right, this is something you should care about. make them think for a minute, okay. It’s still we stopped, we still are together, we still get to celebrate.
Tim Fulton 27:50
And so you’re writing and you’re performing what other hats are and you’re directing? Right, right. What other hats are you wearing? they’re
Andrew Levitt 28:00
producing a finding finding money to do the show. So it’s like it is a it is an all hats kind of situation. The only thing I write like I don’t I don’t choreograph.
Tim Fulton 28:12
Andrew Levitt 28:13
I have in the past. It’s not I know, I know my, my strengths. And maybe
Tim Fulton 28:18
it’s not your skill set. So you might have somebody else does.
Andrew Levitt 28:21
Does that. You know, in the past, it’s been crystal something something. Aaron Kent, who I think is a brilliant, brilliant performer and choreographer. It’s been Emily Karn, who is just so incredibly smart. And her body just moves in ways that I wish my blood. But it’s Um, so yeah, so it’s a it also should be said, it’s a truly collaborative effort. I work a lot with my best friend Patricia Taylor on everything that I do as Nina and how, you know, like, she’s a really excellent sounding board for me. We went to college together. And so she was there at the kind of the inception of Bina. She knows, she knows what Nina is, and isn’t as well as I do. She is a really a part of the fabric of the character so, and she’s been a part of every mainstage show that I’ve ever done. She’s been up, she was a part of my DIY package, she was a part of everything it took to drag race. So like, she reflected in my work in Virginia, Virginia has been very impactful on like, how like, how things work initially, like I wouldn’t, I didn’t know how to how to make anything happen. And then you grow and you learn and you’re like, Okay, I gotta see if I want to make this bigger. I’ve got to secure some sponsorships. And you know, like, I was
Tim Fulton 29:32
going to ask, Is that how you would finance most shows?
Andrew Levitt 29:36
No, we know, I should say like, I mean, I should, I think I can say this. I should say that. The drag shows really those big production shows that I was producing. Were costing a considerable amount of money and you would try to negotiate with business partners, liquor brands, like iraps specifically, is you could get them in the spring. There was more required you know, you had to what was you’d have to fill out you know kind of some paperwork and shoot you doing a couple snatch game characters became you have when I auditioned for the season that I got on it was all of the paperwork. Plus you basically many challenges. And okay Connie runway locks, they want to make sure you’ve got a wardrobe to bring to the show. Okay.
Tim Fulton 35:27
I’m sorry, one thing I was going to ask about the hat, you do all your own costume creation?
Andrew Levitt 35:34
No, I don’t. That’s a good guy. So I might have an idea that I might sketch up. Or I might draw up, but I do not sell my own costume.
Tim Fulton 35:43
Andrew Levitt 35:44
Yeah. So I usually work with Patrick howl at the Lexington, Lexington, Kentucky. Or I write I work with a couple designers in New York and some in Dallas and two in Los Angeles. So it just depends on who’s available and who can. Who can one what specifically,
Tim Fulton 36:00
I imagine some of them are better at certain things than others. Yeah.
Andrew Levitt 36:04
Who’s more costumey? Who’s more evening like gown fashion? Yeah.
Tim Fulton 36:09
Andrew Levitt 36:10
I actually work with a couple designers here in Columbus, um, that are really great. really talented. And so
Tim Fulton 36:17
you finally got it? Mm hmm. Tell me about the process of because I remember you had already started drag cast the podcast. And I think you just said to me, Hey, we’re gonna put this on hold for a little bit.
Andrew Levitt 36:32
Yeah, we I started drag cast. And I don’t know if you remember this. I started dry cast in 20 1526. sounds right. Yeah. 2015. I know our first episode, my like the first episode, we were gonna record my dog was very, do you remember this? My dog was already sick. And it was July 3 July. On the fourth of July. I woke up and I had to take her to the vet. And yeah, either put her down. And we were going to record our first episode on July 6. Yeah, I’ll do. And so then that we did record it, but it was. So we’ve started drag cast at that point. And we were doing it really religiously. And yeah. 2018 came around and said, Hey, we’ll take a break for a little bit. And you’re like, Okay, whatever. And I was going to film drag race. Yeah.
Tim Fulton 37:22
Yeah. When you knew you couldn’t tell people? No, I was sort of,
Andrew Levitt 37:27
you sign away your life. You can’t like, okay, yeah, it’s a big NDA. And it’s an you know, I took it so seriously that I only worked with one designer, which I regret. Now, I wish I would have had more influence on my package when I took it. But the guy I work with is the designer I always work with. So he really did an amazing job. It’s just the judges want to see variety. Right?
Tim Fulton 37:51
So right. Well, and so you, they say to you, when they hire you, they’re like, here’s your NDA. And then it’s here’s everything you need to bring notes. You know, okay,
Andrew Levitt 38:02
that I mean, like, so you, you get a call. And then about I don’t remember how much time went by not much time goes by maybe like, five days a week. And then you start doing like paperwork of like, okay, you do like you get your NDA really pretty immediately. And they really stress that if they find out that you’ve talked to anyone ever gets back to them, they’ll remove you from the show. That is a common thing. They have, they have removed contestants from the show for Okay, never get to fit, they never even get to the film. And then once you never make it, they probably will never book you. So I don’t know.
Tim Fulton 38:34
I can’t imagine they would.
Andrew Levitt 38:36
So so people take it very seriously because all the dragons directly the drag community in itself. It’s very small. So everyone talks and so you might hear from somebody in Minneapolis like, Oh, yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah, didn’t get on the show cuz she was running her mouth and you’re like, Oh, I’m not gonna run my mouth like so you already see you’re scared already terrified. And then you get your packet and they kind of give you an outline. I’m not gonna go into too much detail about what’s in that outline, but that’s outline and you have 18 days to prepare. And okay, seven bags at like 50 pounds each to take with you to Los Angeles to film. My friend. My friend Andrew Mason came up from Tampa and helped me pack. Mariah Ward who is a friend of mine and Christiansen Moroni, and Patricia all really helped get me together. Patrick how it was it was like all hands on deck. Still. Yes is making sure the hammer is refinished shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes that match. And all of my bags because I’m a bigger person like this is a true story of my bags of I thought the weight restriction was so serious. It was 50 pounds a bag 77 pounds, seven bags total. So I was trying to figure out how I could get everything there because my garments by my sheer size, way more than right. Someone who’s is five, six and 150 pounds or 120? Yeah, you know, so like. So like the options with what you have to take are go down immensely by sheer size of my body. And so like I was packing my bags like I had, I mean, I can’t even tell you I was getting every bag was over. And so I ended up taking only six pairs of shoes for for a show that has a mini challenge every episode. So that’s 13 Mini challenges 13 main stage challenges. Yeah, it’s pairs of shoes. And for a drag queen. I mean, like, if you go back and you watch my runways, or anyone who’s listening to this, you go back and watch the runways I’m wearing, there was a pair of shoes that I spray painted, probably seven times on the gold, green, white, yellow. I mean, I was because I didn’t. But then there are other contestants who are showing up whose bags weighed like 75 pounds, and they never weighed them. And they were just pulling out all this shit. And I’m like, Well, wait a minute. Just a pack said I’ll take it right. Just say pack some bags. I’ll pack some bags, I’ll get my stuff here. You know, but yeah, so that was like one of those things that was like a little like, kind of like a needle in the side. I was like, you know, I just, it’s not set up for a big girl to bring the things that are gonna allow her to be as successful, which is Yeah, you know, and I registered my complaint. They’ve heard me.
Tim Fulton 41:31
Well, and it’s sort of, like, I imagine they said it, because it’s like, well, that’s the standard amount that you’re not going to get charged more at the airport. But you’re like, I would have paid an extra $25.
Andrew Levitt 41:43
I mean, I have some more shoe point on drag race. It’s like, I just need to get there. Let me pay I’ll pay whatever to rate, you know. And But yeah, I mean, it was, I’ll never I mean, I remember being taken to the airport. And you know, Virginia and Patricia and Andrew and Tao went with me to the airport. They, it’s just like, it’s really kind of amazing and cool. And it was just a very different experience that, that that changed my whole life.
Tim Fulton 42:10
Yeah. And so what fast forwarding, what are you working on now?
Andrew Levitt 42:17
Oh, my gosh, um, well, I just did. I mean, I’m working on a lot to be quite honest. I’m also COVID, though, so it’s really difficult to do what I do very well, because I think I’m definitely an in person kind of experience. You know, like, Okay, um, but you know, I’m doing a lot of virtual shows, I’m hosting a lot of events, virtually for, you know, universities and companies and private shows, which has been really good. I’m also doing some exciting new projects that I can’t talk about. Holy, that’s good. Which is really good. Yeah, it means that there’s more NDA, which is lovely. is a good thing, because it means you
Tim Fulton 43:02
and is that all by virtue? That kind of stuff? Is that by virtue of having an agent?
Andrew Levitt 43:08
No, I mean, um, no, yes. And no, I, I think it’s, like, like I said, at the beginning of the episode, I’m a hustler. And I think anyone who knows me knows that I have soul. So I’m constantly trying to figure out how I can get closer to the things that I really want to do. And like write look like and I don’t really, so I pushed my team a lot. And I’m like, but my team isn’t very big. I actually don’t have I actually don’t have management. So I’m doing a lot of it on my own, which is okay. Which is great. Because I’m but it’s also super difficult, you know? Yeah, like, it’s another hat
Tim Fulton 43:42
you have to wear.
Andrew Levitt 43:44
You have to manage your own time manage my own schedule a calendar, I you know, like, yeah, so. But I had a management team, and they were great. It was just, I needed. I am so used to because of all my experience in the past. I needed to do it myself. I, I like relying on I do, it feels very luxurious to rely on other people. But I like I like to do it myself. Because I just it feels more comfortable to me and I have a why that is. I don’t know if that is because they come from this background of I’ve got to do this. I have to hustle I I need to I need to make sure they get the Nina West touch. I want them to know that I am involved in it in some way or another.
Tim Fulton 44:25
Andrew Levitt 44:26
So, but I have a theatrical representation. They have television representation to our agents who kind of shopped me around. Alright, new help, I think put me in front of the right people for the right projects. But that’s been really touching go especially during COVID. So So I mean, I have some exciting things happening this summer. Some stuff that’s going to be announced for this fall and winter, which are big, big dreams come true. And I’m really excited to hopefully make Columbus really proud. That’s the goal.
Tim Fulton 44:57
And I want to wrap up by asking so I Ask this to I think most of my guests. Uh huh. You know, what? What do you think Columbus is doing? Really? Well? Um,
Andrew Levitt 45:09
what do I think Columbus is doing really well.
Tim Fulton 45:12
And that could be even like, this is why I stay or like what’s great about Columbus? And there’s a flip side to this question.
Andrew Levitt 45:20
Yeah. I think that what Columbus does really well, in my experience, for me personally, was it really helped cultivate me. I was able to make mistakes here. And I was able to be corrected and embraced. And I think that the spirit of that the spirit of that is, what, in my mind is the spirit of the city, I think that there are a lot of people here who really care about people in this community. And so I think that that has been, I have benefited from that, of course, I think there’s also a downside to that. And like, you know, I, I don’t know, I can’t speak for everyone’s experience. So like, I’m sure that people people might be listening to this. And they may be going, Well, that’s not my experience. And, you know, I don’t know, you know, and so like, I want to make sure, like, I like my experience has been, it’s not been easy. It has not been, it’s not been handed to me, I have really had to, in many ways, sacrifice a lot of myself. So people would feel comfortable with a drag queen being present at a gcac event and really early, or a drag queen being at the zoo really early on, I mean, these were things like I, I was entering spaces that we hadn’t been in, and they right. And like, I had to sacrifice a lot of my own. Like, I had to bite my tongue a lot, just to ensure that like, okay, we were here, you know, like, we’re stepping in this space. Right now. And, and that I think that’s a credit to the people who believed in what I was doing, what Virginia was doing, what the what this queer community represents. There are people in those positions who made those decisions, who said, No, no, this is right. And so when the open I was very quick to say, okay, like, just slam the door open and slim light up and go, alright, we’re gonna, we’re gonna do this
Tim Fulton 47:18
because someone else might still be still have a little bit of reverence for I am new here. And you may not be completely comfortable, and I’m gonna do my best to make you comfortable. Yeah,
Andrew Levitt 47:31
I don’t think I sacrificed any of my integrity. I don’t think I did that. I think that I think that I was always fully in the moment and very present and knowledgeable about what was occurring, but always, very deferential to this is bigger than me. And I and I am I am lucky enough to step into this. And I have to know what this means. And that I’ve been like, you know, not everything was good. But I think we have progressed up Far, far way from where we were in 2001 when I started.
Tim Fulton 48:13
Absolutely. Andrew, thank you so much for your time today. I love you. Thank
Andrew Levitt 48:17
you so much for having me.
Tim Fulton 48:29
Thank you for listening to the confidence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast comm please rate subscribe, share this episode of the confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite drag queen. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast calm. Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson, our producers Philip Cogley, I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.