“From the middle of nowhere in Virginia all the way up, I’ve created everything,” Nikita Dragun, the self-described “unbothered kween” and CEO of Dragun Beauty rightfully boasts over the phone after her photoshoot at Hubble Studio in LA, which is met with the gayest finger-wagg and “yas honey!” from this strict professional.
“Yeah, my body’s fake, everything about me is fake, but I’ve created it all my motherfucking self, so hi!” Self-made is a term that is overused – often incorrectly, we should add – but make no mistake honey, Nikita is self-fucking-made. The model, makeup artist and influencer initially launched her career on YouTube back in 2013 and became an A-list star on the social media platform, racking up hundreds of thousands of views for her beauty tutorials, relatable life advice and transformative videos. Nikita was assigned male at birth, however, she – in her words – lived a “Hannah Montana life”, presenting herself as a woman to her loyal subscribers. But it wasn’t, like pop pioneer Hannah once said, the “best of both worlds” for Nikita, because she was keeping her authentic self in the closet.
“People didn’t know that at the time, I was a boy,” she admits. One year after she became a certified YouTube celeb, she posted the video that would ultimately catapult her into superstar level and the queer icon she is today. Titled ‘I am TRANSGENDER’, the inspiring clip – which racked up over two million views – saw Nikita come forth and live her truth as a proud trans woman. “That was my first big viral video, I had never even spoken aloud that I was trans before,” she reminisces. “I never really admitted it to myself, but I felt like if I said it to the world, I’d have to deal with it. It’s the equivalent of someone writing a letter to themselves nowadays, and burning it or whatever.”Although she was out as gay at the time to her friends and family and presented as “super-feminine”, wearing extravagant lashes and heels, those close to Nikita were unaware about her identity struggles until they saw the video.
“That was how my parents found out, my cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone was texting me, people back home in Virginia were posting it everywhere,” she says, before adding: “If I didn’t have that moment, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten the courage to come out.” Nikita was shocked at the amount of traction the video received, and was inundated with messages from struggling queer youth on how to come to terms with their identity, which she says provided her with the strength to pursue her journey as a trans activist and makeup artist. Earlier this year, Nikita made herstory when she launched her own company, Dragun Beauty, a cosmetics brand to empower “beauty lovers of all shapes, skin tones and sexualities” and to “unleash the fantasy within”. While there are plenty of companies that cater to all sexualities and identities, Dragun Beauty is particularly revolutionary because it’s fronted by a trans woman and has a specific emphasis on assisting trans individuals on their journey of self-discovery.
Daddy’s Angel crop top; trousers with angel wings, both NAMALIA. Assortment of jewellery, STYLIST’S OWN.
“I’ve always wanted a brand but I never thought I’d be able to do it this early in my career, be a little business owner and have my Forever 21 moment,” laughs Nikita. “It’s crazy to be a CEO, I feel like a real boss bitch.” Dragun Beauty was formed after years of unsuccessful collaborations with other organisations that exploited the star’s creative vision for their own personal gain. Nikita called bullshit, decided to put on her “big girl panties” and invested her own money, time and effort into a new creation. But despite a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing for cosmetics, Nikita was continuously underestimated by those around her. “A lot of people don’t realise that I have brains,” she passionately states. “Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck? You’re crazy. What are you thinking?’ I was like, ‘Well, that’s what I want.’ So I made it happen.” Nikita made all her cynics look dumb as shit when the brand launched to enormous success, selling out overnight and making history as the first trans owned brand for trans people.
One product that proved immensely popular to consumers was Nikita’s iconic, vegan and cruelty-free ‘DRAGUNEGG’, a makeup kit encased in an exclusive crystal-coated collectible. Daenerys Targaryen could nevah. Emilia Clarke found dead in a ditch, etc. “It was so extra, like everything about me. For me, I understand trends and fascinations and what’s going to work. At the same time, I love to experiment. I feel like I’m taking over the world with this fucking Dragun egg.” For Nikita, makeup has always been a tool to transform herself into whoever – or whatever – she wants to be. When she was young, she would practice under the covers with a flashlight, use canvases (her mother and siblings) to achieve her vision, and play with the art of contouring to appear more feminine. “I’ve always looked at makeup as a tool that I was able to play God with,” she opens up. “My face is a blank canvas and I’m able to create and harness it like a chameleon. Makeup is like armour. I was going to battle every single day.”
This is true for many trans women in the United States, especially trans women of colour. As of right now, 11 people have been brutally murdered because of intolerance and bigotry this year. Of course, these are only the murders that have been officially documented, and have taken place in the United States – it’s likely that there are many more undocumented murders of trans individuals elsewhere in the world. While we’re often outraged at stories in regards to those in the “LGB” acronym who have been victim to anti-gay crimes (the lesbian couple attacked on a London bus, for example), there’s still a lack of awareness at the amount of violence and discrimination aimed at our trans brothers and sisters.
PVC studded jacket; PVC studded trousers; latex bra with star print; latex shorts, all BUSTED BRAND. Latex gilet vest, SHAY KAWAII. Choker, POSERS. Shoes, SIMMI.
“There’s a facade that trans is still so taboo,” Nikita says of the lack of news coverage. “The media isn’t touching upon it because it’s like, ‘Whatever, it’s just another trans girl.’ No, it’s another sister.” While Nikita’s YouTube channel has gained popularity for her unique makeup tips, it’s also become notable for providing education on the trans experience, which was important for her because of the lack of trans visibility in mainstream media. After Nikita came out as transgender, she posted videos about her surgeries, hormone therapies, and even kept her followers updated on her sugar daddies. Her YouTube channel has undeniably provided better visibility for trans individuals than school, PERIODT. Do we even have a page about Stonewall in our history textbooks? A paragraph on Marsha P. Johnson or Stormé DeLarverie? Nothing. Zilch.
“When I was at school, I don’t think they even talked about gays, gay marriage or gay sex, really important issues. I also felt angry at the media because I wasn’t exposed to that when I was younger. I wasn’t exposed to what trans even meant, or a trans woman who wasn’t some caricature. If I had seen someone like myself, I would’ve been more like, ‘Oh, there’s Nikita.'” She claims this is why she’s so “predominant, crazy, wild and unapologetic” with her online persona. “Even the people who don’t like me or don’t agree with my trans lifestyle, I feel like at least I’m exposing them to what trans is. I’m starting a conversation. I’m provoking change in some way.” Nikita’s not just saying that to make herself sound good either. She’s legit. Last year, the star had (perhaps) her most viral moment to date when she called out Victoria’s Secret. In an interview with Vogue, chief marketing officer for the lingerie brand, Ed Razek, said he wouldn’t cast plus-size or “transexual” models in a runway show because it would ruin the “fantasy”. In response, Nikita clapped back in the best way possible – by filming her own sickening Fantasy Bra commercial, bedecked in lingerie whilst donning wings reminiscent of Victoria Secret’s signature ‘angels’ look.
“I really wanted to show people that trans women are the fucking fantasy. If anything, we’re too much fantasy. Within five minutes of it being posted, I felt, in my blood, that it was going to change the world in some way.” On Twitter, the visual was watched over 11 million times, more than the actual fashion show (yep, this was another finger-wag moment). “I guess every company has the right to hire whoever the fuck they want, but in this modern day, you can’t be a big ass company like Victoria’s Secret and say that trans women can’t sell the fantasy,” Nikita continues. “You can’t shut the door on my community; a community that’s been hidden and kept in the back door.” This wasn’t the first time Nikita made headlines for calling out homophobic men of privilege. Also in 2018, the 23-year-old was booted out of an A-List rapper’s Halloween party in Beverly Hills for being trans. Even though she wasn’t specifically told outright that she was being discriminated against, Nikita says she knew in her gut this was the reason.
Bralette; vinyl cut-out trousers; angel wings, all NAMILIA. Boots, MOSCHINO.
She was hesitant at first to tell people about the incident because it was “embarrassing”, but did so because she felt like she had “a voice and an audience” and it reportedly “happens a lot in Hollywood”. Nikita tells us: “Some people live in a little bubble, fantasy land, but this is the reality. Yes, I have millions of followers, but I’m still faced with these true adversities just because of who I am as a person. It’s not always going to be smooth sailing.” But like we said earlier, Nikita is the unbothered kween and refuses to pay these shitbags any mind. “You best fucking believe I looked better than all those hoes!” she hilariously adds. Later that night, when Nikita’s friend Janet Guzman confronted the anti-LGBTQ individual, he confirmed she was being kicked out because of her gender identity. As Nikita was leaving the premises, the rapper – who she has refused to identify – reportedly asked the security guard to retrieve her number. This wasn’t new to Nikita. As a trans woman, she is fetishised “on the daily” by t-chasers. You know, the guys on Grindr who have “trans only” as their display name and “discreet” as their tribe because they’re ashamed to publicly be into trans people. We’ve all seen them on our feed (she says some of these were celebrities, but wouldn’t spill who).
“The fetish fantasy means you’re some guy’s little toy that they can bring out and put away when they want to, the little side-chick or side-hoe,” she hits out. “It’s being someone’s fantasy, but not for entirety. It’s dehumanising. When I think of a fetish I think of something secret, like feet or armpits or whatever. To each their own! But being in this fetish category is homophobic. I’m all about someone being about it proudly.” When Nikita moved to LA, she would often locate trans bars, and it was the “Glamazons”, the “working girls” who taught her everything she knows, but even there, she would be violated by t-chasers. “One time this guy grabbed me so fucking hard and said, ‘How much?’ I was like, ‘The fuck? Baby, you ain’t got fucking enough money in this goddamn world!'” However, Nikita uses these bad experiences as a way to express herself through her art. “That’s when you’ll see me fucking with the rainbow wig, ass chaps and a lime green sombrero.”
Despite all the adversities Nikita’s faced, she says: “I feel the most empowered I’ve ever felt as a trans woman of colour. There’s a lot of pressure because of governmental policies, but because of this pressure, it’s forming something beautiful. I see such powerful leaders wanting to make a difference and I feel like there is a fire within us all to understand that now, more than ever, key decisions are being made for us and that’s why we’re becoming so active, loud, visible, crazy, rampant and unapologetic about our community. It counts now, because the decisions that are being made will affect us for years to come. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but there’s so much positivity and greatness that’s going on. It’s a counterbalance, like a slingshot, if it gets pulled one way, it’s gonna be shot the other way bitch. A lot of people think they have a voice now and think they can try and oppress my community, but I’m waving the flag loud and proud.”
PVC overalls, MOSCHINO. Layered jacket with badge and ruffle detailing, WINDOWSEN. Harness necklace, INFINITE BY VICTORIA. Hair clips and studs, STYLIST’S OWN.
Nikita is currently working on her next drop, which will be even more lavish – if that’s possible – than her debut collection. So far, she’s conquered the world of beauty and social media, but what area of the entertainment industry will she dominate with her Moschino boots next? Music? Is she about to provide that much-needed representation for the Asian and trans communities in the mainstream world of pop? It’s a possibility! “I want to continue breaking down the door for trans people, for my brothers and sisters, whether that’s acting or in music,” she says with excitement. “By the end of the year, who knows? I might have a Dragun tampon.”Don’t underestimate the future queen of pop honey. She’s a multi-millionaire with – we’ve said this before, but it’s worth reiterating – the first trans owned business for trans people. History has been made, and history will continue to be made as long as Nikita is around.
She leaves the interview with the following line: “I’m Nikita, I can do whatever the fuck I want to. I’m going to continue to live this pop star lifestyle, taking over one kingdom at a time. If no one else is gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. I know Khaleesi didn’t win the Game of Thrones but this Khaleesi isn’t motherfucking dying, I’m a dragon that can’t be slayed.” We would tell Daenerys Targaryen to step aside, but she’s already dead.
See all the sickening photos from Nikita Dragun’s spread in the brand new issue of GAY TIMES – buy here.
Photography and Illustration Randy D. Rosario
Fashion Joey Thao
Hair Ariana Blean