Taiwan’s increasingly political ‘Drag Race’ queen wows fans on home stage

May 26, 2024 - 10:43 AM
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Nymphia Wind poses for a photo at Taipei International Drag Show in Taipei, Taiwan May 25, 2024. (Reuters/Ann Wang)

 Taiwan’s Nymphia Wind, the first East Asian to take the crown in RuPaul’s Drag Race and an increasingly political figure, wowed hundreds of fans at a big homecoming performance in Taipei.

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Wearing her signature yellow outfit, Nymphia took to the stage to wild applause on Saturday night with 50 other drag queens, including fellow RuPaul’s contestants Mirage and Plane Jane.

Her win last month has electrified Taiwan, giving a boost to the proudly democratic island, which China claims as its territory and which has limited international recognition a boost to its already firmly established liberal credentials.

Nymphia has become an unabashed unofficial ambassador for Taiwan on the world stage and champion of its democratic, freewheeling way of life. Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage in 2019, a first for Asia.

This month Nymphia put on a riotous, emotional performance for outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office, and last week she took part in massed protests against contentious parliament reforms.

“My stance is the same: that we need to safeguard the democracy that we have fought so hard to gain,” she told reporters before headlining the International Drag Festival in Taipei. “I think we should stand up to defend what we care about.”

She added: “I’m still adjusting to everything I’ve experienced. It happened so fast. I’m proud to take on the responsibility of queen.”

Nymphia was already a well-established artist on Taiwan’s thriving drag scene, often wearing over-the-top outfits inspired by bananas, and has done shows at Taiwanese temples and photo shoots at wet markets dressed as a banana.

Her win has inspired others, including her best friend.

“What we need to do is be ourselves, let everyone knows that everything we are doing is for art,” said Chiang Wei, 26.

While Taipei hosts East Asia’s largest Pride march every October, the community has occasionally faced hostility from conservative groups.

Vera Yang, 27, who watched Nymphia and the other drag queens at the show on Saturday, said she had become more courageous to express herself after watching her journey on the show.

“I feel like I see myself in there. I am not a person who is good at expressing myself due to the environment I’m in, but after seeing what she’s done, I feel that I can give it a try regardless of whether it will succeed,” she said.

—Reporting by Angie Teo and Minh Nguyen; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard