This newer queen utilizes color and cartoonish quirk to make a unique impression all her own–on stages both live and virtual. There are big things in store for Little Nella… starting with an upcoming tribute to an animation icon! [Cover photo by Novaczar]
Thotyssey: Hello Nella, thanks for chatting with us today!
Little Nella: Of course! Thank you so much for having me!
How is March treating you so far?
Oh man… this March has been such a whirlwind, it’s amazing I even survived it. But all things considered, I’m doing pretty well!
It’s certainly been a bitch of a year. Did Miss Rona come for you hard?
Oof… you can say that again! Yeah, she really did, honestly. When the city closed in March of 2020, I had Covid–and so did all of the other people I lived with. It was a rough start to the closure (as it was for so many people). I was also working for a non-profit organization called Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries (RMM) where at that time, we were primarily giving the community groceries and other emergency services. It was fulfilling work, but so hard because the community’s need really skyrocketed.
I can imagine! Sounds like a rough go, indeed. Well, things are looking up!
Yes they are! And thank goodness for that.
What are you most looking forward to getting back to once we’re fully past this?
Getting back out in the clubs, and showing the city what I’ve been working on while quarantined. Before Covid I was just starting to get out there, performing, and getting a little noticed… but now I’m just ready to get out there and have some fun! I miss that community connection.
How long have you been a queen here in NYC?
I moved here in 2018 from St. Louis, and started performing in July of 2019 in NYC.
What was your life like in St Louis, and what sort of things were you into that ultimately put you on the path of drag?
Life in St. Louis was honestly pretty good and comfortable. There were obviously the typical cis-straight-white-male-Missourian insults yelled at me on the streets and casual harassment, but it ultimately gave me a tougher skin to be able to thrive in the ways that I have been when I moved to NYC. And it’s been far from comfortable, but in the best ways.
When I lived in St. Louis, it never really crossed my mind to start my drag journey there. But I was always so intrigued by it when I discovered drag by accident, and came across Season 4 of Drag Race on TV. I’ve always loved makeup and theater, and those two things go hand-in-hand; that was, like, the perfect gateway drug to drag. Once I moved out and graduated college, I started buying and doing my makeup a few times a week and found that I was a pretty woman… and that I wasn’t too shabby at makeup!
What’s the origin of your drag name?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always held such a special place in my heart, for so many reasons. But one of the main reasons is that it’s really a celebration of owning yourself, your body, and your sexuality… so I knew that I wanted to pay homage in some way to Rocky Horror. My favorite character has always been Columbia, because of her sparkly outfit and her outrageous voice–like, her voice is everything. The actress that plays Columbia is Little Nell Campbell, and what she has done with her career is so cool and kind of kooky… and is so inspiring to me, because I have so many out-there ideas. So “Little Nella” is a direct tie to Little Nell Campbell and Rocky Horror. With an added bonus that “Nella” is the inverse of my government name!
I love that! And I see that Novaczar is your drag mom… how did that come about?
Novaczar is a super fab drag mom! I met Novaczar at [the Stonewall weekly drag competition] Polish the Queen sometime in 2019 when she was filling in as one of the hosts, and was so struck and enamored by how she looked. I had never met or seen her before, but just from looking at her I could tell we had some of the same artistic influences. I started following her on the social medias, she followed me back, and I just kept getting inspired by her with her looks and how she performed. So in July of 2020, while I was locked in quarantine, I got a little brave and messaged her, and asked if she would be my drag mom… and the rest is herstory. Now we live together in such a loving drag home!
How might you describe your own drag style at this time?
At this juncture of my life, my drag is very inspired by color, cartoons and whimsy, with a dash of punk lesbian aesthetic. I’ve always had a hard time explaining what I’m thinking in words because I kind of think in colors, so drag is perfect because I can slap those colors all over me, and let people get to know me that way–if that makes sense. My performance style is a bit more punk-influenced, and a bit raw and edgy. Which is so funny, because that’s not how I am in “real life.” But I really love to let loose, and let my angsty self run wild.
We need more of that on the scene! What’s been your experience and thoughts regarding digital drag?
It’s both challenging and really cool. Challenging, because us drag artists have had to learn so much about editing, production, DJing, technology, etc. And cool, to see everyone’s individual style come through the screen and how they utilize what they had to make it work. I think it’ll be interesting to see how more technology and things will be more incorporated into people’s numbers once things start to open up more and more.
I had my own show that I hosted from April to October called “Abducted,” and it was a lot of fun to see my drag siblings every other week–but it was also so much work for what seems like pennies (which again is understandable, because we were / are still struggling so much monetarily as a community and country). So it was draining at times, but I also had such a good time doing it and having that outlet.
You’re gonna be producing a big digital showcase on Saturday called “My Leg,” which pays tribute to the animated, aquatic world of Spongebob Squarepants!
Yes! I am so, so, SO excited to be putting this show together. When I was a kid, I would always get up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I wanted to create some kind of cartoon show, and would love to eventually bring it to the city and call the show Saturday Night Cartoons.
I’ve always been such a Spongebob super fan, so I knew I needed to put my two loves of drag and cartoons together. I met the wonderful Amanda Massacre over Twitter during the pandemic, and discovered that we both have a deep love for Spongebob. When I came to her with the idea for the show, she was so on board– and we knew that we needed to get other drag artists that shared this kind of nostalgic love. It’ll be live via a private YouTube link on March 27th at 9pm, and will be available after the 27th as well. It’s just $7 to either my Venmo or CashApp @/$littlenella.
And keep your eyes peeled for more Saturday Night Cartoon shows! I’m planning to produce some others sprinkled throughout the year!
We look forward to it! So, this has been an interesting week for Drag Race… the UK edition ended it’s second season somewhat controversially, and in the US version the first NYC hometown girl of this cast was eliminated: the legendary Tina Burner! Any thoughts?
Ohmigawd, yes! It’s been such a crazy time in the world of Drag Race.
As far as UK2 goes, it was most interesting because the edit of the final episode made us as the viewers believe that Bimini would snatch the crown! Especially since they were showing Lawrence in a little bit more of a harsher light once they came back from the Covid break. Overall, I think that Lawrence Chaney is an excellent example of what drag has been, is, and is going to be–and is inspiring for so many. And her speaking voice? Incredible.
And ugh, Tina Burner! I was so sad to see her go, because she really did so well in the challenges. It did seem like it was her time though, unfortunately. It’s kind of sad that Drag Race has been more focused on branding than how the artists do in the challenges. I’m definitely going to miss seeing Tina on my TV.
Truly! Well, at least Tina’s back in town, for now.
Exactly! Tina Burner’s back in town to shut it down!
Anything else coming up for you?
As far as shows go, I don’t have anything lined up at the moment since drag shows are still a bit sparse. But I’m going to be hitting up the competition scene again, and am working on some stunning looks that I’m excited about. So definitely, keep your eyes peeled for those on the Instagrams!
Last question: what’s a song that came out this year that you’re dying to do live?
Oh gosh! There are so many excellent songs that were born in 2020. But Miley Cyrus’s album Plastic Hearts is everythinggggg! I’m waiting to tear the stage up with “Edge of Midnight!”
Amazing, Nella! Thank you!