Skip to content

“After this interview comes out, you will be inundated – flooded, even – with dick,” Joel Kim Booster tells/promises Nymphia Wind. Earlier this year, the banana activist (bananactivist?) and trailblazing Jane Goodall impersonator ‘Padam Padam’-ed her way to glory on RuPaul’s Drag Race, making history as the first East Asian champion of the OG franchise.

Nymphia’s triumph was widely celebrated by various alumni and stars such as – you might need to Google the following names, as they’re not very popular – Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue, particularly those within her community who have been “hungry” to see an “Asian success story” on-screen.

Here, she reunites with season 16 guest judge Joel Kim Booster, Emmy-nominated comedian and mastermind behind Fire Island, to reflect on life post-Drag Race, how she’s observed a “drift between Nymphia and Leo” and their shared experiences as East Asian celebrities. And, as the opening quote to this paragraph suggests, there’s some saucy chitter-chatter about DMs of the… phallic variety. ‘Banana Believers’, rise!

Joel: Hi babe.

Nymphia: Hi!

Joel: Where are you Zoom-ing from?

Nymphia: I’m in LA.

Joel: Oh my god, I’m in New York right now. I can’t believe I’m missing you.

Nymphia: We swapped.

Joel: I fucking hate that. I wanted to start the conversation by congratulating you on being the first East Asian winner of a main season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Nymphia: Thank you.

Joel: I’m sure they will clock me if I’m incorrect on this fact, but I think you are the first winner since Bebe Zahara Benet to be a winner whose English is not their first language. You obviously have a better grasp of English than other English-speaking winners, certainly, but was that a huge worry for you with some of the challenges?

Nymphia: For sure, especially Snatch Game or writing or anything specific to the English language, because my grammar or the words that I can think of is very limited. Talking to RuPaul also [was a worry]. Speaking in general is not my strongest suit and I’m pretty shy, but I could always go the Jessica Wild route where I just confidently speak English or, even if it’s not good, be confident in myself. I’m shy in nature, so speaking is hard for me in general.

Joel: It’s a double obstacle for you. I have to say, people were so hard on you when it came to some of the writing challenges. People kept saying, ‘She clearly speaks English so well, she’s fluid’ and I was like, ‘Bitch, try writing poetry in a language that you did not grow up speaking. Try doing witty wordplay in a language that is not your own.’ It’s a completely different thing to just speaking conversationally. Props to you for doing what you did…

Nymphia: For surviving!

Joel: For surviving and doing it. I struggle to speak a little bit of Spanish, and it’s bad. To try and think about doing a pun in Spanish that would make RuPaul laugh… It’s crazy. It’s insane.

Nymphia: Very crazy. You have to find ways to survive.

Joel: What challenge was the biggest surprise for you, and what was the biggest surprise, as in easy?

Nymphia: Three design challenges was such a gag. As much as I love sewing, three was a bit much. There was no sleeping, it was constantly sewing. I’m a perfectionist and I love things to be made to a certain level, so having to produce in such a short amount of time was really stressful. The one that was pretty easy – not easy easy, but fun to do – was the last challenge about the book. At that point in the competition, it was the time to show who you are and be comfortable in the fact that you are you. I made this revelation, realising that there’s no point being something you’re not because Plane [Jane] and Sapphira [Cristál] are so naturally funny and they make Ru laugh so effortlessly. In my brain I was like, ‘Say something funny! Make Ru laugh!’ At that point I was like, ‘Nymphia… Leo, you are not gonna make Ru laugh by trying to say something funny, you might as well give up. Even if you’re not funny, be yourself and maybe Ru will find something funny in that.’

Joel: Tea! As a viewer watching from home, watching you excel in that moment and go for vulnerability was the moment where I was like, ‘She’s peaking at the right time.’ It built so much momentum for you going into the finale. Again, as a viewer knowing the formula of this show and what RuPaul likes, I don’t think anyone expected you to go into that challenge and be genuine, bring some heart and transparency. You were able to play both sides, be funny and tell a story that was obviously deeply personal for you. Do you think that you knew at the end of that challenge that you were gonna win?

Nymphia: I knew what I was presenting, and I knew that what I presented had a very big chance to win. I also didn’t see what the other people had put out there. We slightly talked about what we wrote about in our stories off camera, so I got a sense of what the others were writing. You never know in this competition setting, there’s only so much we can see and are allowed to see.

Joel: I want to actually take a second and apologise to you a little bit.

Nymphia: Really?

Joel: Yeah, I do. Going back to the challenge that I judged, the famous powerpoint challenge of 2024. I can’t actually remember, because it was so long ago and those judging periods take – I don’t think people understand this – like a full hour on the main stage. I was so scared going into that because I was like, ‘I don’t remember what the fuck I said to these people’ and I didn’t know you guys yet. I hadn’t really experienced the full season. This is such a divisive moment, but people were really upset that RuPaul and the judging panel had given you some shit for this accent that you used in your comedy challenge. I wanna apologise because I don’t remember being super negative or aggressive towards you…

Nymphia: No, no.

Joel: It was weird and strange to be the only other Asian person in that room, and to have to be the deciding factor if it was okay or wasn’t okay. I was like, ‘I thought she was being funny?’ This is the other thing, we hadn’t gotten to know each other yet. I had no idea that you were from Taiwan, and this character you were doing on stage was not just some random impression you were pulling out as a general Asian person. You probably knew that woman you were portraying on stage. It’s so strange that the show sometimes encourages queens to lean into a caricature, and then sometimes penalises a queen for leaning into a caricature, and there’s not always a through line to when they’re happy or mad about it. I wish, looking back, that I had defended you a little bit more. So, I wanted to apologise to you.

Nymphia: I also wanted to point out that, going into the next week, [Carson Kressley] was doing a European accent…

Joel: There’s a lot of examples of it. The fact is, it wasn’t that far off from your speaking voice. Was it scary for you when you walked into the werkroom, looked around and realised you were the only Asian person?

Nymphia: Mama… I accepted [there would be] at least another Asian person, and then when we all met together I looked around, left to right, ‘Oh, I’m the diversity hire of the season.’ Growing up at university in England, I’m used to that kind of scenario, where I’m the only Asian. So, it was really great to see a fellow Asian on the judging panel when you were there!

Joel: I was so relieved to see you when I walked in. There is this unspoken Asian curse on this show, of queens not making it past a certain point in the competition. You are the first [East Asian] queen since Kim Chi to make it to the finale, and that’s crazy. That was season eight, and so it is wild to me. When you realised you were the only one, did you feel an added layer of pressure to do well?

Nymphia: For sure. It was an added pressure, but I also thought I had a good chance. Being the only Asian on the show, I feel like there was an advantage but, at the same time, you’re representing an underrepresented community and they’re hungry for representation. We need to see ourselves on screen, and to see an Asian success story.

Joel: I completely understand that, on so many levels. It’s this weird double-edged sword where Asian people are so relieved to see you, and so grateful, especially when you’re excelling and representing us as competent, fierce, multilayered and all these things. Then, if you’re the only representation and they don’t see themselves in you or relate to you specifically, they respond like, ‘Oh my god, that’s our representative?’ What was the response, for the most part, from the Asian community?

Nymphia: It has been so great, so fulfilling. All sorts of Asians come up to me, every Asian skin tone saying, ‘Thank you for representing us.’ Us, you know? It’s so heartwarming to see that I, as Nymphia, was able to provide this representation for them. The response from the Latinx community was interesting because they say, ‘Thank you for representing the immigrants.’ It has extended to this area of representation because I never grew up here, so I’m culturally a different way. My way of thinking or speaking is different. I feel like they see some sort of connection with me because they moved to this country to find better opportunities or live their dream. Nymphia represents so much! After winning, Nymphia is flying higher and higher, but Leo is still here [positions hand low]. You see this distance between Nymphia and Leo. Leo is the manual labour, trying to get Nymphia to places and to stay alive. It’s about trying to find a balance between comfortably being me and being able to provide for Nymphia.

Joel: Because you’re living this sort of Hannah Montana life as Leo and Nymphia, how do you hold onto a part of yourself and keep it safe from public consumption? How do you protect yourself in this scenario, trying to balance servicing both Nymphia and Leo?

Nymphia: I’m currently learning the process of setting boundaries. Leo is a more private person, very shy and stresses out. Leo is currently very neglected! My goal this year is to get all the gigs I can and be as tired as I can, because this year is all about the gigs. Because of that goal, Leo has to be sacrificed. I’m also observing this drift between Nymphia and Leo, and I’m still exploring what that is and being more aware of how to be more graceful to myself. It relates to the last challenge, where I was talking about drag as escapism and escaping into another identity. Just because I said that on national TV doesn’t mean it’s all resolved, so I’m still going through that learning. But, there are conscious efforts and realisations that Leo needs to be taken care of!

Joel: I have to imagine that a big part of taking care of Leo is staying connected to your family, and I mean both your blood family and drag family. How important has that been as a stabilising force in your life, especially now?

Nymphia: Being able to stay grounded amongst all of this is [because of my] friends. When I went back to Taiwan in May, I felt so comfortable. I was back in my city, my friends and drag family were there, and it felt so right. I felt so… reconnected. It’s important to have these friends and the space to feel comfortable, and not have those friends who are going to use you or have some sort of gain from you.

Joel: I’m sure you’re experiencing this on a much larger level, but there are people in LA, for instance, who, before my movie came out, could not have cared if I lived or died. Like, did not pay attention to me. I was not invited to the afters. I had to send people my Instagram to prove that I deserved an invite. Typical, crazy, LA bullshit. Now they’re suddenly like, ‘Oh my god, you have to be there!’ you know? Have you experienced a taste of that yet, that change in people’s attitudes toward you?

Nymphia: Very subtly, because the friends that are close with me are… good people. We vibrate on a similar frequency. It’s chill and, I would say, earthy? Down to earth. There have been some [people] that have jumped out of nowhere and have more attention towards me, but I’m kind of oblivious to that. If you feel the need to… what’s that word when you rub against someone? If you feel the need to put all your energy onto me, then that’s fine, I don’t necessarily have to receive it.

Joel: I get nervous when I meet someone new because you never know what their intentions are. When they want to grab a picture with you and you’re like, ‘What? Is there a hidden motive, or are you just a friendly person?’ Speaking of friends post-Drag Race though, I wanted to get into this close relationship with Plane Jane. There’s been hints here and there and it does seem like it’s sometimes trolling, and sometimes it seems genuine. Put it all on the line right now: how do you really feel about Plane Jane?

Nymphia: Plane Jane either needs an assistant or to get her life together. Plane Jane’s fun to be around because we Asians like to talk shit. We’re not necessarily the most gracious, we’re very direct and straightforward. Nice is not our priority. She’s just fun to be around and we get along really well.

Joel: It’s funny, I think I even tweeted this at some point during the season, Plane got a lot of shit for being the shady queen of the season. But I was like, ‘Nymphia’s over here with some comments herself, both in the confessionals and werkroom. There is some major shit coming from Nymphia’s workspace right now, and no one is addressing it!’ Plane Jane did you a favour by taking the heat.

Nymphia: She did!

Joel: If she wasn’t there they’d all be saying, ‘Nymphia, the bully’.

Nymphia: Well, Q always likes to scream my name, ‘The Bully!’. If I had the chance to do any sort of All Stars, I feel like I would go in and be more of an absolute C-U-N-T. The first time around, I was getting used to what was happening. I was stressed out and forgot to throw shade because I was in the confessional like, ‘I don’t know what to say, help me!’ Now I know the format, I’ll be more comfortable to talk shit.

Joel: It’s so weird coming in as a judge and fan of the show at the top seven, going into the top six, because they don’t tell you, ‘This person’s a frontrunner, this person’s…’ They don’t give you context. Watching the season back and seeing the edit, how they portrayed everybody, was there anything that surprised you? Anything that felt off about the way someone was portrayed? Or the narrative that was being spun by the show?

Nymphia: I would say Q’s edit. It’s not like Q isn’t like that, it’s just with reality TV, you don’t see the whole picture. We experienced Q off-camera, on-camera, left, right, everywhere. We experienced Q, the whole package.

Joel: I mean, if you did a supercut of all my worst, terrible moments where I was in my feelings…

Nymphia: Yeah, it’s very that. I was always explaining to people that Q wasn’t just like that.

Joel: Going back a little bit to Leo… Love life, what does that look like? Where is it heading? Is it even possible to service that part of your life right now? I’m sure there are a million people sliding into the DM’s with disgusting photos for you…

Nymphia: I think the vibrations I put out don’t attract that kind of people. I’m a bit cold and distant, so people don’t think they have a chance with me and don’t approach. That’s what I’m gathering! I don’t really get a lot of dick pics.

Joel: Well, we’re putting it out there: get in Nymphia’s DM’s now. I expect after this interview comes out, you will be inundated, flooded even, with dick.

Nymphia: I do have to say, going to the UK… For some reason I went to a rave and there has been, erm… a lot of requests. There’s just an attention of men that I never got before TV. As a boy I would go out and get no attention at all. After I go to this rave, after appearing on TV, everyone wants a piece. It’s sad at the same time because where were all these people before TV? They’re all suddenly appearing.

Joel: It’s weird because people will say, ‘That’s awesome for you, you suddenly have access to these boys that didn’t look at you before you were gay famous.’ I always have to tell people, ‘That doesn’t feel good to me!’ It doesn’t feel good to know that they’re only into me because I’ve been on TV a couple times. It doesn’t make me feel confident or good about myself.

Nymphia: I think being Asian adds another layer to this kind of discourse. Being Asian, you have to realise that you are… a type. Sometimes you look at these men and can tell who are the Asian lovers.

Joel: We can say it: the rice queens.

Nymphia: You can tell which men are the rice queens. I’m not saying every man who approaches us are rice queens, I’m just saying that men who approach an Asian is probably a rice queen and you’d have to look into their previous history to really know.

Joel: Sometimes they’re like, ‘Gotta catch ‘em all!’ I feel like we are the white whales for these rice queens now. They’re like, ‘Gotta get the famous ones too!’ Feeling fetishised doesn’t make me feel powerful or good, and it’s so weird having to navigate that. Dating is hard enough.

Nymphia: Do they like you for being Asian, or because you’re on TV? There’s so many layers to judge.

Joel: This has happened a couple of times to me, where a guy will be talking to me at a party and we’re vibing. He tells me how loves my work or whatever and I’m like, ‘Oh, okay! This is it…’ I go to make out and then realise they aren’t into you like that, they are simply a fan. Now, you’re humiliated because you misread the vibe. So, beware of that scenario! It can and will happen. Nymphia, it will be the darkest moment of your entire life.

Nymphia: Don’t worry, I’m always very passive and I never take the first step.

Joel: Before we close out this lovely conversation, is there something you’re looking forward to after this year? I know you were crowned five seconds ago, but is there something you’re looking forward to when your life calms down a bit?

Nymphia: I’m very much looking forward to artistic collaborations; collaborating with different personalities, artists and brands. There’s so much possibility and excitement for me in that. It’s [entirely possible that], I could collaborate with performance artists like Marina Abramović or singers like FKA Twigs.

Joel: I mean, that would be fucking sick. What would your FKA Twigs collab look like? Where do you even begin?

Nymphia: I don’t know, maybe something related to movement. Through collaboration, you find connection and ways to work together. We can unify, live on this planet and find ways to broaden the conversation of acceptance and unification. How do we spread this outside of our little bubble? For instance, when I’m thinking of collaboration, it’s talking with – I don’t know – a Republican about how they see life, how I see life. That’s a rough example! Through collaboration, you reach out into different sectors of humanity.

Joel: I’m envisioning the Nymphia Wind, Marjorie Taylor Greene Instagram Live happening in the near future. I want to collab with you. I’m going to make you a stand-up comic. I will pull it out of you, if it’s the last thing I do!

This cover story features in the July 2024 edition of GAY TIMES Magazine. To read the full issue, click here