For Nina West, this fall has been rather divine.
The drag queen will appear onscreen Nov. 4 in her first movie, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, playing trailblazing drag icon Divine. And this week, she debuted her children’s book, The You Kind of Kind.
The You Kind of Kind centers on Little Nina, who spends her day exploring neighborhoods and highlighting acts of kindness. Though the book is about getting out and about, West wrote it during the height of COVID, when she was stuck at home.
“It was a lot of dreaming about, ‘What’s the landscape going to look like when this book does come out?’” says West, also known as Andrew Levitt.
For the project, West enlisted first-time illustrator Hayden Evans, with their partnership spawning from West’s time as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Evans was a fan of the show, and exchanged some messages on social media with West, and sharing fan art. They bonded over their mutual love of Disney, where Evans is a castmember.
“His art has this energy to it and this whimsy and this fanciful kind of imagination and texture” West says. “On all the different manuscripts and the versions of the book before it became what it is now, Hayden really tapped into story that this character, little Nina, was going on.”
West was on the road with a production of Hairspray when she got a surprise call: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story wanted to offer her a part in his upcoming movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe. She would play Divine, which was fitting casting. West has made a name for playing Edna Turnblad, the character originated by Divine in John Waters’ 1988 film, Hairspray. And she grew up a Weird Al fan.
She flew in from Hairspray, which was traveling to Maddison, Wisc., for a day of shooting. She recalls being surprised by both who was on set and the headshots she saw of people coming in at some point in the production for the cameo-heavy film.
Audiences who have seen the movie’s trailer know the film centers on a heightened version of Weird Al (played by Daniel Radcliffe). West was quickly brought up to speed once she arrived on set.
“They handed me some things to read through to understand the context of the world we were building,” West says. “It’s really ridiculously fun.”
In addition to having Drag Race to thank for connecting her with her book’s illustrator, West also has the series to thank for bonding her with Dolly Parton, who appeared on the show and agreed to write a blurb for the book. Within 20 minutes of receiving the book, Parton had sent back a quote. Says West of Parton’s no-nonsense efficiency, “She does not play around.”
This story originally appeared on HollywoodReporter