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‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ crowns first Taiwanese American queen, Nymphia Wind

Nymphia Wind, known for her obsession with the color yellow and her couture-like design talent, was crowned winner of the 16th season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Nymphia Wind
Nymphia Wind on Oct. 21, 2023, in Taipei, Taiwan.An Rong Xu for The Washington Post via Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” crowned its first Taiwanese American drag queen Friday, breaking what the winner recently called the competition series’ “Asian curse.”

Nymphia Wind — known for her obsession with the color yellow and bananas, and for her couture-like design talent — snatched the crown from fellow finalists Plane Jane and Sapphira Cristál, becoming the winner of the Emmy-winning series’ 16th season.

Native Hawaiian Sasha Colby won last season’s competition, while “Drag Race” fan favorite Raja Gemini, who is of Indonesian and Dutch heritage, won the show’s third season in 2011.

In an interview this week on “Whatcha Packin’,” an exit-interview series of “Drag Race” contestants hosted by the show’s longtime judge and former girl group star Michelle Visage, Wind said she felt a responsibility to do well in the competition series for the Asian American community.

“All I said to myself was, I’m here to break the Asian curse,” Wind, 28, said. “I am not going to be out early on.”

Wind added, “So I just wanted to come here and show a rich, rich Asian culture in my drag.”

Born in Los Angeles, Wind, whose real name is Leo Tsao, grew up mostly between Taipei, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. She parted ways with a robust local following in Taipei in 2022, moving to Brooklyn, New York, to grow her career in drag.

Yet, her art never lost its influence from her Asian heritage.

On her first episode of season 16, which aired on MTV, Wind performed a traditional Asian sleeve dance for the episode’s talent show. Throughout the season she brought several self-made designs to the main stage, including a piece sewn with dried flowers that celebrated Butoh, a form of Japanese dance theater, and a showstopping red dress in honor of Lunar New Year.

In an episode that aired earlier this month, Wind revealed that she struggled growing up in Taiwan and being inundated with images of the West’s beauty standards, which she said were all features common among white people. She said she commonly worried that no one would ever find her attractive because of her Asian heritage, prompting her to turn to using makeup and drag.

“I always played with makeup and cross-dressing,” Wind said. “I felt like I could really change up how I look and I can escape my face in a sense.”

“I really hated to look in the mirror in general, growing up,” Wind added. “Even until now, I don’t have the habit of staring at myself in the mirror unless I have to do makeup.”

Now that an enormous, bejeweled crown has been placed upon her head, Wind may have more incentive to stare at her reflection.

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