ENTERTAINMENT

Rhys Nicholson: “Drag Race is my dream gig!”

The Aussie comedian pulls the curtain behind the first Aussie Drag Race season.
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Rhys Nicholson has spent just over a decade carving out a successful career as a stand-up comedian and actor.

But, it’s not performing to a sold-out crowd at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre and scoring his own Netflix special that’s left him “completely blown away,” it’s receiving the golden ticket offer to join his idol as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.

WATCH: RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Cast Ruveal

In the lead up to the show’s first season featuring Australian and New Zealand queens, WHO caught up with the 31-year-old comic to pull the curtain behind working with RuPaul, his views on drag, drag names, and the one completely unique thing local queens bring to the table at the viewing parties around the country.

“On my first day I was sitting there on stage next to RuPaul and I couldn’t believe it! I think I was more nervous than the queens,” the new judge of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under explains to us with a laugh.

While Nicholson admits he didn’t think the icon could live up to his public persona, working with RuPaul exceeded his expectations.

“He was so hands-on and very warm, funny and present. The first thing RuPaul said to me was, ‘Welcome to the family,’ and that is exactly how it felt,” he adds.

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“On my first day I was sitting there on stage next to RuPaul and I couldn’t believe it! I think I was more nervous than the queens.” (Credit: Stan)

How did you land this dream gig?

It is my dream gig! I found out from my agent that I was on a shortlist of people who were being considered, and I was very flattered but tried not to get too excited. It was a surreal moment when I got told I’d been picked, but I don’t think I believed it until I was filming on the set.

I don’t think I’m the most obvious choice, people with bigger profiles were considered for the role. But I’m such a fan of the show and the art of drag in general; I think they hoped that it would come across on screen and make a better show.

Have you ever considered trying drag?

Yes, definitely. I was tossing up between trying to pursue a career in drag or comedy when I was 18. Back then, I could see a clearer path to becoming a comic. Never say never though!

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“The first thing RuPaul said to me was, ‘Welcome to the family,’ and that is exactly how it felt,” Nicholson says (Credit: Stan)

What would you choose for your name?

I love camp names so something like Minnie Van Driver or Dinah Hunger.

If you were competing on Drag Race, who would you play in the Snatch Game?

I think the best thing you can do is to play an ethereal character like Katharine Hepburn because you can run with a really good caricature of her. I think vague impressions where you go a bit bonkers are better than an outright impersonation since the object of the game is to make RuPaul laugh.

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“RuPaul was very impressed (with the Aussie drag queen’s)” Nicholson tells us (Credit: Stan)

What would be your go-to song if you had to Lip Sync For Your Life?

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this. It would have to be Don’t Rain On My Parade by Barbra Streisand, as I have a lot of experience lip-syncing to it and know it back to front. For this competition, it’s really important to choose a song that has a big moment and this one has a couple of those.

What do you think Australian and New Zealand queens will bring to Drag Race that is different from other seasons?

We have a very specific type of drag Down Under, which is less about doing straight impersonations and more about creating a character. It’s a bit more silly and joyful than in other countries. It wasn’t easy to pull this program together during the pandemic, and every single queen brought it every day and showed they really deserved their place.

For more, grab the latest issue of WHO. On sale now!

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