Nina West Is Feeling Her Disney Princess Fantasy in 'Quarantine Dream' Music Video (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Levitt & Lund
Drag queen Nina West wasn't going to let a little old pandemic rain on her parade. "I'm used to being on the road. I'm used to traveling. I'm used to being in packed theaters, meeting fans and doing my art that way," she tells ET over the phone from her home in Ohio.
Like the rest of us, the RuPaul's Drag Race alum (and Miss Congeniality winner) had to discover her own way to survive being trapped inside. A lifelong Disney fan, Nina (aka Andrew Levitt) got a little help from friend and animator Dan Lund (who worked on everything from Beauty and the Beast to Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan and more).
The result is "Quarantine Dream," a charming music video about creating your own silver lining. Completed in April in the early days of the pandemic, the mini-musical (debuting exclusively on ET) arrives now as COVID-19 cases spike across the country, a timely reminder of the power of optimism -- and the importance of washing your hands.
"I've learned a lot of really wonderful skills [in isolation]. I've also learned that I have a lot more patience than I thought I did," Nina laughs. "And I learned that I'm incredibly grateful for the chance to be able to do what I do. I miss it terribly."
Watch "Quarantine Dream" below and read on for ET's chat with Nina about channeling her love of Mary Poppins, wishing upon a Disney star and her thoughts on returning to the Werk Room for All Stars.
Tell me the story of how "Quarantine Dream" came to be.
Nina West: So, I got home on March 13, and I was talking to my friend, Dan, and no joke, I think within the week Dan said -- as Dan will lovingly and endearingly say -- "Let's write a musical." I was like, "Umm, I don't know. We're not going to be here that long." [Laughs] Oddly enough, he was a huge fan of my Christmas song, "Jingle Juice." He was like, "I love that! I want to do something with that." But it wasn't the holiday season yet, so he goes, "Let's just do something around the pandemic." And I was like, "Oh, that seems so tired. Everyone's going to be doing content about the pandemic." And… here we are!
This is your Nina West spin on quarantine content, though.
Yeah, it required us to do something different, and I think it is endearing and adorable and very much in the guise of the thing that brought Dan and I together in the first place, which is a love for Mary Poppins. Dan is supremely beloved in his world of what he does -- I mean, you name the film from Hunchback on, and Dan has probably worked on it -- and the fact that he even wanted to do this with me was, like, this weird, odd, beautiful, crazy moment. [And] as you see in the video, I kind of get my own Disney princess treatment. I mean, obviously not officially-- [Laughs] Put that in the interview: Not official.
I'll say it then: You're a Disney princess now. It's canon. And I love that the look is very Belle's fashion meets Ariel's wig meets Elsa's gown reveal.
Listen, you're not just dropping little hints. You're dropping bombs, baby. You are right. There is so much in this that is rooted in Disney canon. That's where the inspiration came from, it's a world that I'm well-versed in and that Dan is prolific in, and it was a chance for us to celebrate it. I went away and I worked with a songwriter named Markaholic -- who has done a lot of my music and has done stuff with RuPaul and with other entertainers -- then Dan and my friend, Patricia, came in and helped write some of it, and I think the music with Dan's artwork in my beautiful home [Laughs] all came together to create this thing that's pretty exciting.
What was it like the first time you saw your footage paired with Dan's animation?
It was crazy. As a Disney nerd, for me, it was this moment of, I get to be Dick Van Dyke and dance with a penguin. Poppins is my favorite movie and Dick Van Dyke, to me, is a comedy legend. I filmed it in my kitchen on my iPhone and Dan was in Burbank directing, and now I have my own penguin. And it's a bubble! I'm telling you, little Andrew would be overjoyed.
[Dan] is so perfect. And the thing is, I would take the nuances for granted. Those illustrated stills with the text design are done by a retired Disney artist, and that is the Columbus skyline with "Nina West from Columbus, Ohio" and that is Burbank. Those are all hand-drawn art pieces to help feel like this tribute to Poppins. And it's the "Quarantine Dream" song, but it's done in the style of the Mary Poppins overture to hint at and celebrate and uplift a true, like, treasure. It really is the best movie in their catalog. It's the movie that gave me the inspiration to do what I do now. If a woman can walk around with a carpet bag and pull out anything and be practically perfect, why couldn't Andrew? Why couldn't I? It might sound trite: This truly is a dream come true.
I feel like you've become something of a muse to Dan. Before this, I know he was also involved in Coaster, which was so sweet. Have you two started brainstorming your next project together?
We're working on something that I think is really special and continues to push the envelope on what I believe to be -- hopefully -- the inevitable, where Disney will say, "Welcome to the family, Nina West!" [Laughs] It's a perfect fit, and I think the work that he and I continue to do together does continue to knock on that door. And I think it's noticed. I think the higher-ups at Disney do see it. I don't know if it will be me, but I think all of these inroads we're working on laying will open the door for some drag entertainer to be able to knock on that door one day and say, "Hey, you know what, I'd be a really great fit for this type of family entertainment." Of course, I hold out hope that it'll be me, but if not, I know I've done a lot of work to help get that next person there.
I have to talk a little Drag Race while I've got you. We've gotten so much this year, between season 12 and All Stars 5 and Canada and Holland. Give me your Nina West hot takes.
Listen, Drag Race is a juggernaut. You can't slow it down. What we're seeing right now is drag not only become part of the pop culture but drag is the pop culture. And I think it's giving people these touchstones with which to measure their pandemic journey, right? The whole controversy of season 12 happened and then pandemic happened and season 12 goes on to be -- I believe -- the most-viewed season of all Drag Race ever. We saw a new Canadian queen crown, hosted by my season 11 sister Brooke Lynn Hytes, which is remarkable and amazing and congratulations to Priyanka! And here just today or yesterday -- again, days blur together -- the announcement of Drag Race Spain. I really don't remember if it was today or yesterday, if I can be honest with you.
I don't remember if it was this week or last week, so you're at least closer than I am.
And they've confirmed season 13 and All Stars 6, that's going to be happening sooner than later. We're living in RuPaul's world. It's RuPaul's world and we're just lucky to be living in it. I mean, I saw the Old Navy ad, girl. It is her world and we're living in. And I think Drag Race is exciting right now. I'm grateful to be a part of the franchise. I'm grateful to have been given the opportunity to leverage my career and use it as a springboard to put the goofiness and the camp that I love so much into the world and have people respond to it. Drag Race is what it is, girl. I know you know that, and it's exciting to be a part of it.
So, when are you going to do All Stars then?
When are you getting back in that gig, girl? [Laughs] You know, if All Stars calls, I will say yes. It's interesting. I had such a good run on my season that there is the nerves of, "Oh, god, am I going to mess it up?" You know what I mean? Am I going to mess up all this wonderful work I did? Because I don't know if I necessarily feel like I have any unfinished business, but I also know that it is family to me, it's a tremendous opportunity, and I would never say no to that opportunity. Being in that would be amazing.
Throw everyone a curve ball and come back as the villain of the season. Why not?
No, I don't think I can take Phi Phi's crown from her. That would be terrible. [Laughs] I mean, I had to give you something!
You have done so much since your time on the show. What's next? What do you have coming up and what do you want to do still?
I'm really ambitious, and I have some big projects coming up. What I would love to do is an animated film. I would love to be in a feature as voice talent, and I'm constantly auditioning for voiceover roles. I would love to be acting. It's a really wonderful time to be doing TV or film work, and there are people who are actually working on set in COVID-safe ways. So, it's not for lack of trying. It's just, I think, timing.
And I want to continue to collaborate with these wonderful people that I've worked with already. I've worked with some really awesome people in the last year and a half, like Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam and Patricia Clarkson and Dolly Parton. I've had a ridiculous run and I just hope it continues. And I hope people continue to see and feel the Nina West energy and want to include me in their awesome projects. That's the dream. And I'm going to be releasing more music. I'm going to be doing some special pop-up projects. I'm going to do the stuff that you've already seen from me, but there will be some new stuff coming that I haven't done yet, that I'm very excited to share with you very, very soon.