Taiwanese Drag Queen’s Victory Sparks Quiet Joy Among Fans in China

Nymphia Wind, a Taiwanese drag queen, has won the 16th season of the American reality TV competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her victory has been cause for quiet celebration in China, where drag is in the ascendant despite increased state repression of the LGBTQ+ community. Nymphia Wind is the drag persona of Leo Tsao, a 28-year-old Taiwanese American fashion designer. Wind’s outspoken pride in both her Asian and Taiwanese heritage has made her a complex figure in China. At The Washington Post, Vic Chiang interviewed Nymphia Wind and wrote that Chinese netizens are keeping quiet on her victory

“Yellow represents the color of my skin,” she said in an interview ahead of the finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Friday, preferring to let her outfits rather than her words remind viewers that she’s the only Asian contestant in the season. “By wearing yellow, I hope to raise more Asian awareness and appreciation.”

[…] “Even politicians who work hard abroad may not gain this kind of exposure for Taiwan,” said Lawrence Jheng, 32, part of a cheerful crowd gathered at a Taipei club for the airing of the episode in which Nymphia Wind declared she was “very proud to call myself Taiwanese.”

[…] In fact, Chinese fans of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” seem to be going out of their way to avoid talking about Nymphia Wind’s success, apparently afraid of being caught up in the escalating tensions across the Taiwan Strait. “Drag Race” fan accounts on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo said they would minimize discussions about Nymphia to “protect their nascent drag scene.” [Source]

CDT found limited but lively conversation about Nymphia Wind’s victory on Weibo. A number of accounts posted photo collages of her outfits, many of which received hundreds of likes. The conversations focused on pride in seeing a person of Chinese descent win RuPaul’s Drag Race, admiration for Leo Tsao’s supportive mother, and discussions of Wind’s loudly pro-Taiwan independence stance: 

Bokuso:The first full-blooded Asian champion. Everyone should go watch the full show. This season has the best outfits. Every runway was incredibly creative and tasteful. 

草莓菠萝艾瑞克 :Omg, the first champion of Chinese descent!

愉快的李姓園丁_小飛fairy:After watching the interview and the documentary, I really admire Nymphia’s mom. It can’t have been easy for her… 

YihaoY:My parents only accepted that I had a professional future in drag after my drag persona was showcased on a billboard on Nanjing Road [a major Shanghai shopping street]. By the way, drag isn’t simply performing in women’s clothes. It’s also closely tied to art, identity, cultural literacy, physical fitness, and more.

气4小红:Within the Asian gay community, this is just as important as when Michelle Yeoh won an Oscar!! I feel seen. 

我的外卖到没到:The pride of Taiwan. 

Caojiyin: Most normal young Taiwanese are pro-independence. Most people around the world are for Taiwan’s independence, too.

Hvxghkyg: You’re not embarrassed they’re pro-Taiwan independence?

ShushuFontanna: Very beautiful, but 100% pro-Taiwan independence

A number of users referenced the 2022 documentary “Leo & Nymphia,” which profiled Leo and his drag persona. The documentary is available in full on Bilibili, a Chinese video streaming site. The top comment underneath the video reads: “Congratulations, ‘Banana’ on winning the show!” Nymphia’s fans call her “Banana Buddha” and themselves “Banana Believers” in reference to her first appearance on RuPaul’s drag show, which incorporated bananas and which have since become her trademark. 

Upon winning the show, Nymphia dedicated her victory to Taiwan. At one point on the show, Wind costumed herself as “boba tea,” the national drink of Taiwan. She told Entertainment Weekly: “I obviously came here to represent my country, and I’m not going to do it by putting a flag on my dress […] That was my way of being camp and still representing my country.” In turn, President Tsai Ying-wen commended her for “living fearlessly,” adding: “Congratulations to you, Nymphia Wind, for being so accomplished in the difficult art form of drag, and for being the first Taiwanese to take the stage and win on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” 

In China, drag is also popular but often underground—due to fears of state suppression or social ostracization. A 2021 Vice documentary chronicled China’s drag scene: 

Chinese people looking to enjoy drag have increasingly turned to visits to Thailand, which has attracted a growing community of mainland Chinese visitors seeking increased freedom. At The Associated Press, Yucheng Tang reported on Thailand’s open embrace of the Chinese LGBTQ+ community

But at the Bangkok Pride parade in June, Wen noticed people confidently wore what they wanted. She was excited to be able to express herself publicly and finally drop her guard. More than that, she said she was also impressed by the protest element to the event, in which people carried signs written in traditional Chinese with slogans like “China has no LGBTQ” and “Freedom is what we deserve.”

[…] Owen Zhu, a gay real estate agent in Bangkok who sells houses to Chinese clients, said many are also coming to stay. He estimated some 2/3 of his clients are LGBTQ+, many of whom buy apartments to live in part- or full-time.

[…] At the Silver Sand gay bar in Bangkok, owner Adisak Wongwaikankha said about 30% of his customers are LGBTQ+ people from China, and that number has been growing. [Source]


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.