This queen rules both the stage itself with her theatrical, comic and campy performances, and backstage as well with her makeup and GLAM-nominated hair design skills. One of the newest wonders to emerge from The West End, it’s the sensational Selma Nilla!
Thotyssey: Selma, hello! Thanks for chatting! So wow, you just performed in rural Maryland with Marti Gould Cummings for her homecoming show, the first drag show in that town ever! How on Earth did that go?
Selma Nilla: Oh, it was a dream! I respect Marti so much, so when she approached me about this opportunity, I couldn’t say no! Getting to perform alongside my sisters for the people of Church Hill, Maryland was so fulfilling! Some of them had never been to a drag show, and hearing how much they truly enjoyed it meant the world to us!
Isn’t it such a great feeling… to occasionally perform in a room that isn’t full of jaded judge queens who have seen it all?
Bahaha, yes! They honestly just accepted what we were serving and LIVED for it. No judgement, all love!
Speaking of being a jaded judge queen, did you catch the Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular!?
Oh yes I did. Woof. A little disappointed there wasn’t an actual Christmas Queen crowned! But Mayhem stole my heart with the Krampus look!
That was stunning, yes!
So, where are you from originally, and were you always in the performing arts in some fashion?
I was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida! Very artistic and theatrical town, home of the Ringling Brothers Circus! I played all types of sports until about 8 when I discovered dance, so I turned in my knee pads for tap shoes!
Eventually I got into musical theatre, and followed that path through high school and a bit of college before deciding to learn a bit more about makeup, costumes and hair. I got a job working at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota in the costume / wig department, where I was trained in wig and costume construction. From there I went to a 6 month Special Effects Makeup program in New York called Make-Up Designory, where I became a certified Makeup Artist.
After that, I did some wig designing around Florida and eventually found myself as the Wig Supervisor for Priscilla Queen of the Desert with Norwegian Cruise Lines. We toured Europe and the Caribbean, and this opportunity ultimately led me back to New York City! I am now a Makeup and Wig Swing for multiple Broadway shows, along with spreading Selma Nilla across the city!
Amazing! Is it, like, a very high pressure situation to be backstage with makeup and wigs during productions?
It really depends on the show! If it’s heavy with quick changes, it’s a bit intense. But with anything, once you get accustomed to the processes, it tends to lighten up a bit. But it’s so relaxing to work a show with just one or two wigs! Plop it on and go!
So when exactly did you start performing as Selma?
I believe 2 ½-3 years ago! I originally was Eleanor Plump of the Plump Sisters, who specialize more in theatrical drag, but Selma Nilla is my true persona at heart! She came about shortly after my first persona
The Plump Sisters just had some sort of reunion, didn’t they?
We did! I recently visited Sarasota and we did a one night only concert! We sold out, the audience loved it, and it was a great time had by all! But usually we write our own musicals and perform them dinner theatre style. We’ve written Vaudeville’s Dead, Christmas Belles of ‘45: An Offensive Radio Play, and Vaudeville’s Back is in the works! I’d love to bring one to the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
That would be everything! What is a Selma Nilla performance like these days?
I’ve become a Mix FIEND. I love a clever mix! And I just recently brought live singing back to my sets! I try to bring quality, classic drag to my shows, which is what I think people appreciate about me. I’m a juxtaposition of classic and pop culture references with a hint of camp!
You won a recent season of The Ultimate Drag Pageant at The West End… how did you enjoy that experience?
The Pageant was an incredible NYC drag Introduction for me. It really got my foot in the door, and got my name out there. I appreciated the challenge to create new numbers weekly, and bring new looks to coincide with each number. If I wasn’t at work, I was either editing a mix, memorizing my song, styling a wig, or rhinestoning a costume! It gave me a purpose in my early months back in New York, and it was something to look forward to every week! I would definitely recommend it to any queens wanting to get into drag. And I thank Marti greatly for the opportunity and experience!
You currently host a weekly show there at The West End on Thursday nights! How would you describe it to the uninitiated?
Well especially during December, I’m focusing on some holiday classics! I’m turning out Christmas looks all season, and I’m bringing new mixes and songs every week!
Think Mrs. Claus meets Melissa McCarthy. So expect to laugh, eat, and drink ‘til I look pretty!
I’m so there for that! And congratulations on your GLAM nomination this year for your wig styling.
Oh, thank you so much! It really was unexpected.
How long have you been styling for other New York queens?
For about 7 months now. Lagoona Bloo was the first queen to let me style for her, so I really owe her for all of the connections and opportunities I’ve gotten since!
Good luck at the GLAMs! Is there anything else we should mention?
Well, I’m currently looking for someone who plays piano and who can speak and sing in a Kermit the Frog voice! I do Miss Piggy cosplay, and I have a few ideas!
Calling all frog pianists! Okay, last question: is e-coli stealing the thunder of salmonella, or does poultry bacteria still reign supreme?
I’ve always considered e-coli a close cousin to salmonella. And while e-coli may have made a valiant effort, unfortunately the ruckus revolved around the salmonella in Thanksgiving turkeys overshadowed the romaine incident. I actually have a brand new Salmonella mix I’m doing THIS Thursday!
Yasss, I live (hopefully, lol)! Thank you, Selma!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Selma Nilla’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.