On this season of RuPaul's Drag Race, the winner of the very first challenge was Nina Bo'Nina Brown, a spunky standout from Atlanta whose unique, prosthetic makeup looks were unlike any other queen's. (To honor her hometown, her first episode runway look was of a stunning Georgia peach, and she's only gotten more inventive from there.) In most seasons, winning the first challenge is a direct ticket to making the final three queens—but throughout this season, Nina's been criticized for having a bad attitude and being impossibly negative. By tonight's episode it seemed like her fellow queens—and RuPaul herself—had grown absolutely exasperated with her.
The final blow came during the annual makeover challenge, where queens are tasked with taking a crew member from the show and turning them into a drag sister. Nina's crew member initially seemed like a match for her artistic spirit, but the simple bunny makeup and outfit she put him in weren't enough to impress the judges. In the end, she faced off in the final lip sync battle (her third) against Shea Coulee, who had been her biggest supporter but with whom she had also had several clashes. And after failing to put her back into it, RuPaul told Brown to sashay away.
It's sad that her unique approach to drag got sent packing, but even during our post-elimination interview this week it seemed like Nina couldn't get out of her own head. We discussed the behind-the-scenes factors that led to her elimination and what's next for one of our favorite queens.
VICE: How did you feel after your elimination?
Nina Bo'Nina Brown: Well, I knew it was coming, so I wasn't really bothered. I just regret that I didn't try as hard in the lip sync.
You mentioned on tonight's episode that you thought you would do what Charlie Hides did earlier this season and just give up. What made you change your mind?
Was I really that petty? [laughs] Well, I hope it wasn't in a bad way.
I'm a fan of the show, and having watched it, I've come up with my own conclusions about girls that end up lip syncing for their lives three times—they're automatically out. My mind said, "Three times, here it is, and Shea has never been in the bottom." And here's the thing—I'm not bragging or anything, but I could have easily gone in harder.
Shea had been very supportive of you this season, but you two also had altercations. How did it feel to be lip syncing against her in the final?
It was, like, perfect. It was a battle of the girls. But I wasn't mad at her. I told her, I think, the gold is yours. I kind of bowed out. I thought she was only in the bottom because of her partner in the makeover challenge. It wasn't really her. So it was what it was.
One of the big storylines this season has been about your negativity, and what people have called your "bad attitude." Do you think that was portrayed accurately?
Well, I guess I don't understand "bad attitude." When I think of someone with attitude, I think of someone who's snapping their fingers, rolling their eyes, doing all that. That's what I think of with attitude. For me, as someone who's suffered with depression their whole life, that's not attitude. That's just somebody that maybe has a negative energy. But I don't understand the attitude part. I think that I have had a lot of good moments where I was happy, but they didn't make it onto TV, unfortunately.
Do you suffer from depression?
Yeah, I do. I think I said that on the air, I'm not sure.
Do you think that's a big part of where you were coming from when you were on the show?
Yeah, that was there. I also tried to smile past it. But there were things that did happen that people don't know—people are gonna say things about me that put me in a place. It's a mixture of a lot of things.
You mentioned on the show that you weren't really embraced by the Atlanta drag scene. Why do you think that is?
Because Atlanta is very cliquish, very shady, very "too hip for that." And I don't do that. Even now I'll go to the club and I'll say, hit me up on Facebook if you want a booking. Then no reply. But they all love a girl that is up their ass. It's not me. So I don't have a good history with Atlanta queens like that. I think I also took some of that with me to the show.
Has that attitude changed at all since your elimination? This show was a big platform for you.
I feel really in my head. I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to be seen worldwide, and I thank them for that. But unfortunately, I'm still the kind of person who's in their head.
How are we going to get you out of your head, Nina? You're one of my favorites and I want you to do well!
Oh, you tell all the interviewees that they're your favorite.
No! I swear to god.
I don't know. It's going to take some time. I'm middle-aged now, and I'm still there.
Have you tried therapy?
I did a long time ago, but—well, maybe I just didn't allow it to work. And even when RuPaul would give me all the love and things, it still wasn't enough. I don't know.
Girl, I'm telling you, get a good therapist. I want you to be an international superstar!
I think I'm weird about getting a therapist because it also makes you feel like you're weak or maybe you're crazy. I know that's not the case. But I feel like, "Am I kookoo?" And maybe I am! I don't know.
I don't think you're kookoo! But I do think that for a lot of us, growing up gay isn't always an easy experience. Sometimes you just need somebody to help you get through all those negative thoughts that you said are keeping you back!
Let's talk about something more fun—I've loved your looks all season, I think they're very inventive. Where does your inspiration come from?
Cartoons, video games, movies, out of my head, being outside and seeing certain things. Certain things just catch my eye.
You went pretty far in the competition. Who do you think has what it takes to win the crown?
Well I'm not personally rooting for any of the remaining queens. Trinity, probably, though. She's proving that she's not just a pageant queen. She's more than that. People thought she might go home first, but she's still here. So I think her.
Who do you think doesn't deserve to still be there?
Oh, don't say that. You are a messy queen who deserves to be on season ten. I don't think anyone doesn't deserve to be there. Looking at what the fans are saying—they've said things like, "Alexa needs to go." Now, I'd be lying if I haven't said, "How did I go home before Peppermint and Alexa?" But that's not saying they don't deserve to be there.
You're obviously a huge fan of the show. What was it like to finally be on Drag Race?
I wish that I could have gone on when I was younger, but I wasn't ready. When they called me, I was like, "Oh, about time!" I still don't believe it happened. It was never like, "Oh wow!" It was like, "I'm here." It was kind of surreal.
Has any good come out of being on the show?
Yeah, as far as true fans having emerged, and bookings, and having a little money in my pocket now. I'm hoping for other doors to open as well.
What's next for Nina Bo'Nina Brown?
I don't know what's next! For now, I'm just going with the flow. I have a little opening now with the door that Drag Race has given me. And just hoping that something comes from that that will keep me financially stable and happy.
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