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RuPaul's All-Stars competitor Nina West joins the Seattle Men's Chorus's Pride concert

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Nina West — Courtesy photo
Nina West — Courtesy photo

My association with the Seattle Men's Chorus spans 25 years, initially as a performer and later as an avid watcher and reviewer. Its Pride concerts have consistently delighted fans, featuring guest artists ranging from Harvey Fierstein and Megan Mullally to Prince Poppycock and Thorgy Thor.

One memorable moment was in 2013, when the SMC collaborated with the 5th Avenue Theatre for the 10th anniversary concert of Hairspray. Jinkx Monsoon, fresh from winning Drag Race, graced the stage as the character Velma.

This June 22-23, the SMC returns with a Hairspray-themed extravaganza, blending drag performances with special guest artist Nina West, currently competing on All-Stars, who brings her experience from the Hairspray national tour.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Nina via Zoom. Below are excerpts:

On Seattle:
I've been to Seattle many times and performed there over the years. My last time was for Hairspray, I think at the Paramount Theater.

On the Pride concert:
This marks my second collaboration with the Seattle Men's Chorus, and I'm deeply honored for the opportunity to perform live with them. Previously, we shared a virtual holiday concert during the pandemic. Now, I'm thrilled to join them in person, hosting and performing several songs. It's a chance to highlight the power of drag not just within our LGBTI+ community but in society at large.

[Among] my varied responsibilities this year, I'll be singing live and even staging a tongue-in-cheek lip-sync performance celebrating the diverse artistry of drag. Our show, "You Can't Stop the Drag," is a rallying cry for the protection and celebration of this vital form of Queer expression, pushing back against any attempts to restrict or ban it.

On joining a Gay chorus:
So, I've worked with the Columbus Gay Men's Chorus and hosted one of their shows before. ...I would love to join a chorus. Last week, I just hosted the Cleveland North Coast Men's Chorus...for their Pride show. And, you know, being in that room with those men and women singing songs and raising our voices together collectively, it just felt like something I would love to do.

Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't allow it. I don't have the time in my schedule for rehearsals. But I would love it. I mean, listen, if I weren't Nina West, I would absolutely, wherever I was living, be a part of the chorus in my city. Right now, I do live in Columbus, Ohio, and so I would be so honored and proud to be a part of that chorus.

You know, I love everything it does for people. I love what it brings to communities — the extent of community, friendship, fellowship, friends, and family. It's just all what it provides for people that is so important: a creative outlet, an emotional outlet, a social outlet. It's just fantastic. And I don't know if people really understand the power of these choruses and what they mean to our communities fundamentally.

On Drag Race vs. All-Stars:
On All-Stars, I got to showcase everything I've mastered since my last stint on Drag Race. In the past five years, I've toured with Hairspray, [honed] my acting chops, worked with puppets, penned a kids' book, and even starred in a movie with Weird Al Yankovic. Bringing all that experience back into the workroom, I reminded everyone that Drag Race isn't just a reality show, it's a platform for important community narratives. It's a global brand that gives people, wherever they are, a chance to feel seen and connected.

My time on the show made me realize the profound impact it has on viewers' lives, providing them with visibility, agency, and a sense of identity. As a fan-turned-contestant, I understood this firsthand, hearing countless stories of how seeing people like us on TV can be life-saving. So, I made sure to bring that awareness and authenticity to the program, knowing just how transformative and transcendent Drag Race can be.

On his dream competition:
I would pick Patti LuPone, because I bet she'd be a hoot and a holler. I bet she'd be so much fun. She was the first thing that came to mind. I don't know why I picked Patti LuPone because, God, I want her to sing with that gorgeous, brassy voice, but I picked Patti LuPone.

The Seattle Men's Chorus's Pride concert is June 22-23 at McCaw Hall. For ticket information, go to https://www.seattlechoruses.org