NUBIA, is an all-new show celebrating opulence, regality, and pure, unadulterated Black excellence and is the brainchild of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 1 winner and All Stars 3 favorite, BeBe Zahara Benet. NUBIA is the first-ever drag tour with an all-Black cast. The world premiere presentation launched last night, March 5th, and is set to run twice again tonight at 8 PM and 11 PM at Brooklyn’s Roulette. NUBIA features six of the most celebrated queens in drag herstory: BeBe Zahara Benet, Bob the Drag Queen, Monique Heart, Peppermint, Shea Couleé and The Vixen. The show celebrates performers of color within the drag art form and gives fans of all backgrounds a chance to get in touch with their inner queen and escape their lives for an evening.
When I first seen the imagery of NUBIA on Peppermint’s Instagram page I was beyond excited to learn more about the production, the cast, and what it took to finally make a tour, of this magnitude, featuring an all-Black drag queen lineup. I got a chance to chat with BeBe Zahara Benet about NUBIA’s premier and couldn’t have been more thrilled to see it come to life during opening night.
DaShawn Usher (DU): How have you been? What have you been up to lately?
BeBe Zahara Benet (BeBe): I’ve been pretty well. Super busy with preparing for the show and getting everything together. I’m currently in Chicago getting ready to host a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing. But things are coming along. The dancers have been rehearsing for over a month and I’ll get to rehearse with all of my girls starting this weekend.
DU: What inspired NUBIA? What can we expect?
BeBe: NUBIA was inspired by the lack of diversity in fandom, entertainment, and production for Black drag queens. Traditionally, we’ve seen that there has not been a lot of girls of color represented in the national and global tours. Yet, we know that fans are also demanding girls of color. So originally, NUBIA grew out us not always seeing the level of representation. NUBIA, is for people who love Black entertainment and glamour. This show is completely produced by the drag queens, which is something we also don’t always see.
DU: I’ve noticed the lack in representation in tours, shows, and media often surrounding Black drag queens compared to their white counterparts. How do we hold the media and the people that create those opportunities accountable?
BeBe: Yes, media is not the only place we need to hold people accountable. It’s the show creators, promoters, and people that support it. Regardless of what you do, we are born with gifts. Our gifts are OUR gifts and come to us from birth. Yet, often times we have to entrust these gifts in control of promoters. So we, basically are taking back our gifts and owning it. People come to these shows to see us and how we do it. While that’s what they expect, we don’t always get the opportunity to showcase our full selves on some tours. It also goes beyond promoters and the media. When we think about the diversity that’s needed in the drag world, we also need to discuss the quality work and how folks want to see themselves in the work. NUBIA, however, is for everybody! Ain’t nothing wrong with adding some seasoning salt in the burger! It’s the flavor that we are missing. For us, this show is such a melting pot of people: the audience, behind the scenes, and within production. It’s a true rainbow, but it takes a village and our village is diverse!
DU: That’s so powerful and needed, especially right now. If there was ever a time to own your voice and your art it’s definitely now. How did you go about selecting and choosing the cast?
BeBe: The whole idea of NUBIA wasn’t only about the lack of entertainment, but something I always wanted to do which was showcase Black entertainers. I had this idea a long time ago but didn’t get a chance to do it since other things were going on. NUBIA started again with a conversation with Peppermint and Monique Heart as we discussed how amazing it would be to see a show like this. We wanted to see Black entertainment and not just from drag race. There’s so much talent to see and we wanted to include more drag queens but some people’s schedule didn’t allow for it this go round. In future shows we will have different lineups. But we wanted to create something where everyone would have a chance to see that everyone has gifts. Often, you’re conditioned to see one part of drag and we want to really showcase so much more and be invested in the tribe beyond the girls you know.
Photo Credit: James Michael Avance
DU: What makes this show different than the others?
BeBe: First, it’s being produced by us. Girls of color coming together to make it happen with their own money. All of the creative is our creative. You will see what we want to put out. Not the other way around. It will be a true reflection of who we are. When you come to NUBIA, is what we want you to see and what we choose for you to see. You’re going to see these girls of color that are very different but live in the same house. You are going to witness such a diversity of Black art. We are inviting you all to come to our world and bask in our glory. We are bold, super proud, and will celebrate. While this is one of it’s kind, there needs to be plenty of shows that display our talents.
DU: I complete agree. Speaking of shows, what’s next for NUBIA? Are any other cities planned?
BeBe: Absolutely, NUBIA has a tour in Los Angeles in May. Following the LA tour, we are planning to do additional runs in key markets. Ideally, after the New York and LA shows, we’d like to take some time to plan the remaining tour. These first two cities are very important because they gauge level of interest and we get to work out the kinks.
DU: Will you be watching the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race?
BeBe: Yes, definitely. It’s amazing to see how the show has kept evolving over the years. I feel like a proud big sister. There’s a reason why the show has garnered so much interest, support, and success. I love seeing it happen when it’s happening.
DU: Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss NUBIA. Do you have anything else to say that we haven’t hit on yet?
BeBe: I’m just really excited to get back to the place to respect the craft and love the artist that creates it. As NUBIA continues, it can just get bigger and better. It’s so great to work with amazing sisters and it’s been like a family. Additionally, we come in as producers and that’s worth celebrating as well. So anyone that will be entering NUBIA, keep your eyes, ears, spirits and energy open. You will belong to the our village of NUBIA by the time you leave.
Photo Credit: James Michael Avance
Nubia continues tonight Friday, March 6th at 8pm and 11pm. Tickets for all performances are available here: http://nubiatour.com/. Roulette is located at 509 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York a few blocks away from the Barclays Center. NUBIA will continue its journey throughout the year with a rotating cast of inspiring queens. NUBIA is headed to California on May 1. Get ready for an EPIC display of Black excellence. For updates, visit nubiatour.com and follow @NUBIATour on Instagram. #BlackQueensMatter