Local drag superstar and winner of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under Kita Mean is savouring the experience of being interviewed for Woman magazine.
Donning fabulous wigs, long lashes and beautiful gowns and performing as a woman on stage has been Kita’s passion and job for the last 13 years. Now she’s written a book about her life, Life in Lashes: The Story of a Drag Superstar, and she says it’s “really cool” that she can chat about it and appear in a publication that celebrates and empowers women.
“I’ve always felt my spirit and my wairua aligns to what we would consider female. I’ve always felt more nurturing and sensitive, all the traits you would typically associate with women. I feel it in my heart and my soul.”
Kita, whose “boy name” is Nick Nash, says it was cathartic to write her story. She says her aim and purpose is to inspire fans around the world to live their life as their authentic selves. “The LGBTQI+ community were laughed at and there was little worth placed on us,” she says. “The reason queer people are so fabulous is that we look outside the box and we’re not afraid to be our own person. I was hiding a lot of myself to confirm to the rest of the world, to try and not stand out. So many queer people are so successful and celebrated. It’s a new era. Queer people are allowed to express themselves.”
Kita has become one of the most celebrated drag queens in Aotearoa. Winning the first season of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under catapulted her into the big leagues of drag, touring the world and earning enough to be able to afford costumes that can cost at least $4000 each. She’s also a businesswoman, owning the iconic Caluzzi Cabaret with her best friend and fellow Drag Race alumni, Anita Wigl’it.
Kita initially became a drag queen “as a laugh” and was a closeted and insecure gay man who weighed 160kg when she first put on a gown and a wig. She named her drag persona after her beloved cat.
“She’s still around. There’s two Kita Means in the house, but she is more of a diva than I am!”
She says she felt a true sense of liberation when she created Kita Mean. “My whole life I felt I couldn’t truly be myself. I was extremely overweight. I was in the closet until my early 20s. I was hiding every single part of me.
“When you’re hiding yourself, you can’t open yourself up to love. There’s so much of yourself that you are ashamed of. Drag for me was unleashing parts of myself. I started to feel love for myself. It made me feel like I had worth, especially when I was making other people happy.
“Drag is the most elaborate mask imaginable. Every part of your body is covered, with corsets, hip pads, oversized hair and extreme lashes. The most interesting thing is that although I’m wearing a mask, drag enabled me to unmask myself.”
In the book, Kita is raw and honest about her challenges and successes in her rise in the world of drag, including issues around self-worth, body image, and dealing with anxiety and depression. She says before she started drag, she used to eat junk food in bed until she fell asleep and when she woke up in the morning, would continue to binge eat. She lost 65kg through a massive lifestyle change and weight loss surgery.
“When I decided to be healthier it made me appreciate my life and made me realise that life is for living. I’m happy and loving life much more.”
Kita says finishing the book has allowed her to focus on the next exciting chapter in her life.
“A lot of my memories and a lot of my thoughts just live in my head. This is the first time I had to remember key moments in my life and get them out. There’s something very calming about that process. By doing this book, I can be at peace with my life. It’s documented and I can now move forward with Kita 2.0.”
Life in Lashes: The Story of a Drag Superstar
by Kita Mean (HarperCollins, RRP $40).
This is public interest journalism funded by NZ on Air.