“I was thinking. I want you to sell me as the human Barbie. I believe it will work well and I want to go viral”, says the 21-year-old sitting opposite me with short pink hair and thick black glasses, before bursting into laughter. They are wearing a black and yellow long-sleeved zebra print shirt and faux leather black overalls with straps that they play with as we speak. It’s a Saturday afternoon which means last night, like every Friday, they performed in drag at Fiesta Whip, as pink-haired girl from the future Lady Nada together with a crew of other queens including Rita La Salvaje, Shampein and Mina.
Out of drag, Damián Nada doesn’t mind being called “he” or “she.” We decide to go with gender neutral pronoun “they” for this interview, since the English language, fortunately, allows it. Contrary to what many may think, the moniker was not inspired by Lady Gaga. Nada is actually their last name, which is ideal since it refers to both the character and the person off stage. Besides, 20-somethings in Argentina are well known for saying “nada” a lot, like anglophones of the same age say “whatever” or “anyway,” so it works on many levels, as good monikers should.
First things first: Nada is everything. With nearly 16,000 followers on Instagram, the Buenos Aires native stands out in the local drag scene for being the most kawaii queen of them all. With her head-to-toe colorful aesthetic, she would be right at home on a page in the Japanese street fashion mag FRUiTS. But there’s more to her than meets the eye. “Even though it may appear to be just a look and a performance, there’s a concept behind Lady Nada’s hair color and her existence in the future,” they explain.
“However, in the context of nightlife, clubs and shows, there isn’t much room for the concepts to be developed or the story to be told. I think other artists probably feel the same. Then again, it’s not like I’m dying to tell the story to everyone. It’s something more personal, maybe.”
The scenography student shares a loft near Avenida Corrientes with an army of wigs. I count around 60 when they flip open the floor-to-ceiling closet doors. Some are theirs, some belong to their wig store, Naimad. Get it? “Damián” spelled backwards. While chatting over a few beers we start pinpointing some of their influences and points of view, a bit of their herstory and a quick glimpse into a very determined and creative mind.
Where did the inspiration for Lady Nada come from?
A great deal of it came from Asia. Harajuku, obviously. Colors inspire me a lot. Spanish drag pop singer La Prohibida. 2NE1, a girl group from South Korea. What I love about K-pop is that the groups aren’t kids who decided to form a band. They’re products that have been conceived by record companies. In truth, everything is a product whether we like it or not. We ourselves are products. So I like to present Lady Nada as a visual product. I could also say Jeremy Scott, although it feels like more than inspiring me, we seem to have similar ideas. For example, once I decided to wear burned clothes and then he did a collection with scorched garments. I don’t know, I think we could be friends. Once he watched my Instagram stories, I was shook.
Before doing drag, you did cosplay, right?
Yes, I started at age 12 or 13. Cosplay does in fact mean “costume play” but to me, the word “costume” discredits and underestimates the whole thing. It may seem like just a game but there’s a whole artistic context. Same with drag. You need to know hair and makeup, sewing, styling, how to pose for photos. I’m very detail-oriented and I strive for everything to be on point. So that’s my qualm with the word “costume.”
I always did it with an artistic perspective. And honestly, I became quite successful. I gained so much recognition that Asian brands would mail me things just so that I would wear them and send photos. It was amazing. Back then, nobody used the term “influencer,” but I saw that something like that existed and I wanted to become one. I worked really hard and I reached it.
And how did you start doing drag?
I used to go to Fiesta Whip and they were having a drag contest. A friend was going to enter and it was a huge deal in our group. He was going all out, investigating where to get hair and makeup done and, stuff like that. The kids at Fiesta Whip approached me and were like “Why don’t you participate?” and I thought “Ok, why not?” I had been doing cosplay for ages and I knew how to sew, so I made an outfit in a few days. It was no sweat.
My look was based on a live performance by 2NE1. The night of the contest I arrived and my friend was all “Who is SHE?!” and I went “It’s me!” He was shook. A top three was chosen and he didn’t even make it, whereas I ended up winning first place. I felt a little bad.
So…you said it was personal, but…can I ask Lady Nada’s backstory? I really want to know.
You can ask. Basically in the future, the world has been destroyed by pollution. Only some isolated, small green areas remain. Lady Nada lives a calm life in one of these areas located in Córdoba, the only part of Argentina that survived massive floods. It has also been invaded by Korea (laughs). You know, I think the stuff I dreamt up will probably actually happen, given everything that’s currently going down. And then Lady Nada comes to the present – it’s uncertain why.
So Lady Nada is in the present now.
Yeah. The story is divided into episodes or chapters. “Dirty Psycho” is the first one. We left off on the second, “Are you ready for the best?” where she’s in the present, working nights and being a superstar. Nothing major. Then she’s summoned back to the future because someone is trying to fight the…government? State? Whatever order they have going on in the future. The battle is represented by two colors: pink and blue. Pink was supposed to be the good. Nada was on the pink side, fighting against the blues who wanted to destroy everything.
The following episode is “Space Travel.” Nada realizes the blues weren’t trying to destroy everything. In truth, the pink order wasn’t as perfect as she thought. There was stuff going on that people didn’t see. That’s why the blues were fighting. Nada is so affected that she leaves Earth. She goes to Pluto or someplace. She dyes her hair grey. She becomes neutral. Next is “Do It,” which was like an episode zero, way after everything. Lady Nada is living in the countryside, in her green area, with a kind of pet. At first it’s like a very small and furry muppet, but then it grows and evolves.
Like in animes, where the main characters always have these little sidekicks. Luna in Sailor Moon, Calcifer in Howl’s Moving Castle, Mokona in Magic Knight Rayearth.
Yes. This being is always in my mind. It eventually grows to be larger than Nada, but it’s still a pet. And it’s blue. And that’s pretty much the Lady Nada story.
All this is written down somewhere, right?
Everyone asks me the same thing… It’s not. The fight phase was called “A.O.N. (All Or Nothing),” and there was a lot more to it, but I forgot. Anyway, the events and happenings were manifested in what I wore every time I performed. But people weren’t aware, so they couldn’t appreciate it. They just saw the look.
At the very beginning the outfits were more explosive, lots of neon colors. During A.O.N. I only wore pink and blue and the outfits were very military and futuristic. Throughout “Space travel” my hair was grey. During “Do it,” the clothes were more chill, lots of jeans, lots of yellow.
How long is each episode?
Depends on how long each trip lasts for me on an emotional level. Although about a year ago, I kind of set the story aside. I’m not as inspired, I’m not as eager to see what happens next. Maybe I’ve calmed down a bit. Now it’s more about the looks. Hold on, let me just reply to a message.
Nada pauses to interact with their phone for a moment. In a couple of hours they’ll be off to their very first voguing class. A playlist composed exclusively of Korean artists plays softly in the background: CLC, BLACKPINK, Jessi MOMOLAND, and Red Velvet. I mention I’m planning on seeing 30 Seconds to Mars that night. Nada doesn’t know them. “If they’re from this hemisphere, I probably have no idea.”
What is the relation between Damián and Nada?
When it comes down to it, we’re the same person. I love to do so many things: drawing, designing, painting, photos, videos, photo and video editing, you name it. I enjoy production in general. So for everything I create in my mind, I have someone to experiment on: Lady Nada! Me! It’s like a project where I get to experiment on myself.
What does it feel like when you’re in drag? Do you feel different?
Not really, I just feel pretty. But my insecurities are there 24 hours a day and they’re Lady Nada’s insecurities too. It’s not like I feel more empowered when I’m in drag. I already feel pretty empowered as a boy, in spite of my many insecurities. I enjoy that people don’t know if Nada is a man or what, most think she’s a biological woman. I like that because I can go dancing out of drag and nobody knows I’m Lady Nada. I try to keep things separate.
You and Mina do weekly videos on YouTube called The Juzgue Show, can you tell us about that?
I’d been wanting to do YouTube videos for ages but wasn’t sure what to make them about. Then I thought “RuPaul’s Drag Race reviews!” We started during the last All Stars when people were going crazy. I love All Stars and Mina is a huge fan of the show in general. Initially I edited the material, then our friend Ema started filming and editing.
Right now people are more chill about Drag Race because there isn’t a season on the air. So we’re currently featuring local and international guests from the drag world. We’ve also visited parties such as BAGFest and Trabestia to interview queens there.
What’s the drag community like in Buenos Aires?
I think it’s elitist, just like Argentine society. Sometimes I want to bring new girls onstage and my colleagues won’t have it because they worked so hard to get where they are…Whatever! Why make it hard for the new girls? If you ask me how I did something, I’ll explain it. I don’t like to keep secrets. I have many insecurities, but I think people need to relax. You are you. Why be afraid of the new girls? Let them give their all. Mind you, I’m not pointing any fingers here.
Another thing is that each queen exists in a kind of… Niche? And they don’t mix. We’re all kind of separated. Although lately we’re starting to blend a little more. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great feeling among us but these are just some impressions I’ve had. I feel like in Chile the community is more tight-knit. But maybe it just seemed that way because I was visiting.
Is there anything you don’t like about doing drag?
It takes such a long time to get ready. Like I was saying, I want everything to be perfect, so, it does take a while. Usually about three or four hours. That, and when people are disrespectful.
Finally, what’s your favorite part about it?
You get to create something and go anywhere you want with it. I feel like there are no limitations, really, except perhaps money sometimes, and that forces you to be imaginative. Also…The stage. I love being onstage and people cheering. It’s the best when people appreciate what I do.
But yeah, being able to do whatever you want and express yourself however you want is fantastic. That’s why I enjoy it so much more than cosplay. You’re not recreating a character that already exists. This is completely yours.
Where to find Lady Nada
Every Friday at Fiesta Whip at The Sub, Av. Córdoba 543