Why Winning “Drag Race Down Under” Left Kita Mean “Shell Shocked”

The Kiwi queen "couldn't be more proud" to bring the crown home for New Zealand.

After years of waiting, Aussie and Kiwi queens finally had their moment in the spotlight in the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.

The inaugural season saw drag legends like Maxi Shield, baby queens like Etcetera Etcetera, and internationally known queens like Karen From Finance and Art Simone all compete to be Down Under’s first drag superstar. In the end, it wasn’t fan-favorite Art Simone or Karen From Finance who emerged victorious, but instead Kita Mean. With only one maxi challenge win under her belt, Kita ultimately brought the crown home to her native New Zealand.

Kita spoke with NewNowNext about being the dark horse among the final four, what she took away from her conversation with RuPaul and Michelle Visage, and if her final runway look was an homage to Courtney Act.
 

Hi, Kita! Condragulations on being crowned Down Under’s first drag superstar! Did you have a party when you watched the finale?

Yeah, I did. So, I’m from New Zealand, obviously, but I was supposed to go to Sydney in Australia to watch it and they were putting on the big party with all the girls, but COVID got in the way of that last minute. I had 24 hours to randomly throw together a little bit of a watch party at my house. So yeah, I did that, and I was able to watch it with some of my family, my sisters, some of my drag family, and my drag mother. It was really special actually, in hindsight. I’m actually kind of glad that I wasn’t able to go because I got to have a bit more heartfelt, maybe more selfish moment at home, as opposed to being on display for everyone else. I was just with some of the people that mean a lot to me, so it was amazing.

Were you surprised you won? Did they film each of the queens winning?

Yeah, for sure — multiple alternative endings, so I had zero idea. I was convinced that it [the crown] wasn’t going to be mine. I was always a pessimist. But in the lead-up to the last week, it was absolutely crazy, the amount of support I had and love that I was getting thrown at me from every which way I looked. I started to think, Hey, maybe I do have a shot of taking this out. And ultimately, I knew that it came down to whoever RuPaul thought was the best… whoever was the winner in RuPaul’s eyes. But I started to feel a little bit more hopeful, and then it was currently shell shocking when those words came out of Ru’s mouth through the TV screen. It was just like it still hadn’t truly sunk in. It slapped me in the face, but it just hasn’t, I think… Yeah, I’m still stunned.

I asked if you knew ahead of time because your reaction in the episode is so genuine. What was going through your mind when you were on stage holding that scepter?

It’s funny because people have asked that. Well, not so much people ask that, they ask… They say, “Oh, that’s a shame that it’s filmed multiple times because it means you don’t get genuine reactions.” But the fact of the matter is that’s not the case, because what happens is you’re still on that stage and you’re going through the formalities and everyone’s doing their turn. And when it’s your turn to stand there and then RuPaul says, “The winner is Kita Mean, you’re a winner, baby,” it hits you like a ton of bricks on that stage. … I realized like, Oh my gosh, if I am fortunate enough to win this, to go all the way, this is that moment where RuPaul is in front of me telling me that I just won RuPaul’s Drag Race. And so the emotion that overcame me at that moment just was… I feel teary just thinking about it now. It was so intense, thoughts just bombarding my brain nonstop. It almost knocks you down and knocks you over. So yeah, it is so authentic in that moment, and it feels real.

How does it feel to bring the crown home to New Zealand?

The best part of the whole experience. I am so proud. I feel like New Zealand always feels like the little kids, the youngest family member of the world, and they’re always trying to play with the big kids and trying to put their hand up to them like, “Hey, I’m here, notice me.” And we just came into that competition and we’ve brought the crown home. All these really strong Australian personalities that I’m sure probably thought they had it in the bag — I’m sure probably so many of those girls that went through that competition thought they were going to walk out with that crown. So it’s really, I don’t know what the right word is, but the pride that I have, that I have managed to bring it home for New Zealand, is just monumental. I couldn’t be more proud.
 

The conversation you had with Ru and Michelle looked like it made an impression on you. What was your big takeaway?

It was crazy when I had that conversation with them. I never thought in a million years that Ru and Michelle would be able to see me like that. I don’t think anybody has. I’ve even tried going to counseling before and therapy and stuff, but I’ve always had this thing where I’ve struggled with, I didn’t think people got me, understood me. And no matter how much I tried to explain my head and my heart, I found it was always hard for me to put into words how I work, how I tick and it’s outrageously uncanny how Ru and Michelle were — and especially Ru — able to just look me in the eye, feel who I was, understand who I was, put it into words, and then encourage me to articulate it as well. So, I’ve taken away from that experience an ability to understand myself more and be more chill with it. I’m less hard on myself. I have flaws, I have things that aren’t ideal, but at the same time in the same breath, those things also make up who I am. You have to take the good with the bad, and it all works out in the end for positive.

Rhys Nicholson said that it seems like you came out of your shell over the course of the season. Did you feel yourself getting more confident as the weeks went on?

I would say potentially in the last two weeks, I started feeling a little bit more confident, but confidence was definitely something I was lacking the entire time. I definitely got a little bit more confident near the end, but it was something I was struggling with. And that was such a mental game for me because when I’m in drag, I’m super confident. When I’m in drag in the club or on stage or meeting people and mingling around the room, I’m so confident. And then all of a sudden on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I didn’t have that. It was almost like I lost the superpower that was drag and I had to find it. The way I’ve described it is, I felt like… usually I’m my boy self and that has its own mentality, and then when I’m in drag, it almost has this brand new mentality. But on RuPaul’s Drag Race, even though I had my drag makeup on and my drag costuming on and my superhero costume on, I still felt like I had my boy mentality. It was like living the two sides of my life, but it was mixed up and it was super confusing to me. And it was frustrating that I couldn’t channel my drag superpowers. So, yeah. That was a frustration in that moment. But the cool thing is now being able to kind of connect those two things, and see that they are actually all there at the same time.

Going into the last episode, who did you think was going to take home the crown?

I thought Scarlet [Adams] was a worthy winner. She had won so many challenges, and she’s got talent, talent. Being able to sew costumes and the way she’s learned to move her body and do that kind of stuff. She’s got that young drag talent I could never have. So I thought she was a real contender. And then you’ve got people like Art [Simone] and Karen [From Finance], who just have created massive names for themselves. So I really felt like Scarlet was my biggest competition, but I honestly thought I was at the bottom of that pecking order of all four of us. I was totally, totally surprised when I started seeing the world sounding off in my favor. I could not have seen that coming at all.

In your last look, which was so stunning, were those wings an homage to Courtney Act?

They actually weren’t. But I made the connection afterward, which is so crazy because I’m such a Drag Race fan, but I never made the connection. They were actually made by a guy in New Zealand, and he had made them for me in the past. So when I got onto Drag Race, I had to do a big look for the finale. I knew that I wanted to bring the wings. And then when I was working on the concept, I really wanted to do this sort of fresh, angelic look of almost feeling like I’ve been reborn. In hindsight, I love that it does reference Courtney. I love that.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 1 is available now on WOW Presents Plus.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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