I am officially a Busty Superstar. Its weird. I have cleavage. I have tits. And, at long last, I feel good about it. I kind of thought that this would happen, that my ambivalence would go away once I actually had the surgery and made my ascension to Busty Superstardom. But what really helped was getting a sign from my ancestors and the universe, that I was actually doing the right thing. This sign took the form of Nina Simone’s classic song, “I’m feeling good”.
This is what I was hearing as I went into the operation room, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.”. Which um… as far as I’m concerned could not have been a clearer message. But also later in the song: “freedom is mine, and I know how I feel”. I just… this was literally the perfect song at the perfect time.
There are a few more personal reasons why this was even more special to me than just the lyrics.
First…. Nina Simone is probably my favourite musician. She’s been a part of my life for maybe… fifteen or so years? Ever since a high school friend recommended her (sidenote: me and this friend were actually born on the same day in the same year). And it was her activist songs in particular that meant the most to me. She sang about freedom and it was everything I need at that time in my life. Not to say the rest of her music isn’t fantastic, because it is. But songs like, “Mississippi goddam” got me right in the feels.
Strangely, she is probably the first memorable instance I can really remember dealing with cis, white ppl’s cis-gender-normativity. I’d be listening to her (while working in a cafe) and people would ask, “who is this man?”. And I’d have to say, “its Nina Simone… a woman”. There would be shock and disbelief. And it always struck me as strange because her voice, to me, is and always has been so feminine. Sure she has a powerful voice, but the delicacy of her voice in songs like “Black is the color of my true love’s hair” just screamed ‘woman’ to me.
Second… In a very roundabout way I think (but its really a guess) that she is also my namesake. I don’t often discuss where I got the name ‘nina’ from but it was actually a name given to me. A name given to me by my most favourite drag queen in the world: Voodoo. She was a Black drag queen whose stage presence was captivating and unparalled. To this day, I still have yet to see a drag performer rival her. And it isn’t because she had the best costumes (she didn’t). But when she lip synced, esp. to one of her two trademark singers (Nina Simone and Janet Jackson), she made you believe. Believe that it was her singing. Her performances were technically flawless but BUT she embodied the music in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else do.
Of course because this was the early 00s, I don’t think anyone has any cellphone footage or anything. Few people even had cellphones, much more digital cameras and the like.
Now. I mentioned that Nina Simone was one of Voodoo’s signature artists (you know in the way that a lot of drag queens become known for specializing in certain artists). I remember the first time I saw Voodoo and she did a Nina Simone song (‘Love me or leave me’ I think). It was the first time at a drag show that I could actually sing along with the music. I fell in love.
So a while later I was doing drag with a friend (not something I did often) and we were out at Detours. We ran into Voodoo (I think just as we were actually leaving) and she stopped us, complimented our looks, and gave us each a drag name. Mine was ‘Nina Binge’. And so I became Nina (Binge). I didn’t actually ever do drag before, but whenever anyone asked me if I did have a drag name, that’s what I gave them. Because I respected Voodoo and the culture of drag naming where you are given your name by a drag mother. And she was mine because she named me.
As it happens, I remember when Nina Simone died. It was devastating. But I also remember that Voodoo did a tribute show which also happened to be her last time doing drag. Not sure if she ever went back, since I moved cities a short while afeter. That she was so… impacted by Nina Simone’s death that she either quit drag or took a really long break. The song she performed that night was, “I want a little sugar in my bowl” while passing around a tip jar to help her through the next little while.
Anyway. So when I was trying to decide what my new name should be, I kept circling back to ‘nina’. I know, I know. As an ideologically pure radical trans woman, I should be marking this kind of continuity between drag and trans womanhood. Except that drag is a big part of bakla culture. Crossdressing too. I just don’t have those hangups about drag that some do (and while I do get why, it isn’t me).
And so I became nina and yesterday, accompanied by the voice of Nina Simone, I also became a Busty Superstar. And I’m feeling good.