Drag queen Nymphia Wind performs at Taiwan’s presidential office

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind gave a riotous performance at Taiwan’s presidential office on Wednesday, celebrating her win on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” last month.

Dressed as a yellow water lily she twirled, sashayed and even did the splits in front of outgoing president Tsai Ing-wen, all while lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Marry the Night” and Taiwanese singer Huang Fei’s “Chase, Chase, Chase.”

“This is probably the first presidential office in the world to host a drag show,” Nymphia told Tsai after her performance and thanked Tsai for her service.

“Thank you for your contributions to this country, so that I could grow up to be like this today,” Nymphia added with tears in her eyes. “Thank you for your eight years of dedication, becoming our Taiwan mother.”

Taiwan is a vibrant democracy of 24 million people that Beijing’s ruling Communist Party claims as its territory – despite never having controlled it. But it is not recognized as an independent country by most governments in the world and has lost a string of diplomatic allies to Beijing in recent years.

Wang Yu Ching/Office of the President

Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind shakes hands with Taiwan’s outgoing leader Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have championed LGBTQ+ rights, making it a more liberal bastion in conservative Asia. The self-ruled island is one of the most progressive societies for sexual minorities. In a first for the region, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in 2019. Across the strait, China has been fast moving the opposite direction under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with crackdowns on LGBTQ groups and content.

Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, hosts East Asia’s largest Pride march every October. Last year, Vice President Lai Ching-te, who will take office on Monday as Taiwan’s next president, became the most senior government leader ever to attend the celebration.

Wang Yu Ching/Office of the President

Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind performs on May 15, 2024.

Reactions to the spectacle on social media were largely positive. “Thank you for allowing us to be at the forefront so that we can proudly show the world how free we are,” said one user commenting on Nymphia’s performance on Tsai’s official Facebook account, which concluded with her singing to popstar Jolin Tsai’s gender equality hit “Womxnly” and joined by five of her fellow drag queens.

“I wanted to cry at the end; Taiwan has come such a long way from a time where we were called feminine, to having same sex marriage legalized and drag queens performing at the presidential palace today,” wrote another.

Not everyone was fan. One user wrote, “I don’t know what drag queens are, but I don’t want my kids to be like this.” While on China’s Weibo, some took issue of the performance taking place in front of the bust of Sun Yat Sen, who is often called the father of modern China and whose legacy is claimed by the governments of both China and Taiwan.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Nymphia Wind attends “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16 finale screening at The Edge at Hudson Yards.

Nymphia, the alter-ego of Taiwanese American dressmaker Leo Tsao, was the first East Asian to win “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and she made it a point during her time on the show to raise awareness and appreciation of her cultural background.

On the show’s finale she wore a dramatic outfit inspired by bubble tea, one of Taiwan’s biggest cultural exports, and many of her outfits referenced Asian heritage.

Nymphia is a well-established artist on Taiwan’s thriving drag scene, known for over-the-top outfits that she creates herself. She has performed in Taiwanese temples and undertook a photoshoot at wet markets dressed as bananas in various stages of ripeness.

The tropical fruit is a common motif in Nymphia’s creations that’s become a trademark of sorts. It’s a cheeky reclamation of the sometimes derogatory term used to describe Asians growing up in the West, being yellow on the outside but white on the inside.

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Nymphia Wind and Jimbo onstage at the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 16 finale screening event on April 19, 2024 in New York City.

As she accepted her crown and sceptre on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” she said: “To those who feel like they don’t belong, just remember to live fearlessly and have courage to live your truth – and Taiwan this is for you!”

Tsai told Nymphia after her performance: “I want to thank you for demonstrating your fearless beauty, standing up and breaking down barriers,” adding that her story “will bring courage to many young people in Taiwan, so they stay fearless and stay true to their hearts.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.


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