Drag Race Down Under winner Kita Mean tells: ‘Drag saved my life!’

Our Kiwi champion reveals the secrets to her success

By Sebastian van der Zwan
After being named the very first winner of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under, Auckland queen Kita Mean, 35, talks to Woman's Day about her love life, weight-loss surgery and her dreams of musical superstardom.
Congratulations! It really felt like the best queen won on the night and we're so excited to have a Kiwi champion. How does it feel snatching that tiara for New Zealand?
That's the coolest part of it! I was convinced it was going to be a really hard slog trying to bring the crown home and it's still sinking in that I've done it. But the fact I have is overwhelmingly awesome. I love this country so much. I genuinely think we're the coolest, most loving, most progressive country in the entire world, and to be a small country and have all those cool attributes about us is so special. I'm so proud that I got to make New Zealand proud!
What was it that RuPaul liked about Kiwi drag?
I'm not 100% sure, but I think Ru really vibed with the Kiwis. It felt like Ru had a real love for Elektra [Shock] and Anita [Wigl'it], and it felt like Ru was very loving and caring towards me as well. Maybe I noticed that because they're my sisters, but I do think the Aussies tend to be a bit more brash, while the Kiwis tend to be a bit more sensitive. Maybe Ru appreciated it. It's hard to know! You don't get a lot of time with Ru off camera.
Kita's learning to love every bit of herself – good and bad.
What did happen with Ru when you weren't filming?
There were moments when camera were resetting and Ru was in front of us, and she would address us directly and talk to us very honestly. The warmth that comes from Ru radiates like crazy. She'd give us really cool advice about things she's seen in regards to the Drag Race fandom and career advice. She'd also crack jokes – she was actually really camp. That was one of the coolest things. She'd crack these jokes and have a good old laugh. That was really cool to see because that's what it's like as a working drag queen – you get to have a lot of giddy fun. It's cool to see that's her experience of it too. Even though you see her as a put-together professional drag queen, which she is the epitome of, she's also totally human underneath.
Kita with Aussie finalists (from left) Karen From Finance, Art Simone and Scarlet Adams.
In the finale, you talked about desperately wanting to find love. Have you been on any dates since filming ending or is it more about finding yourself first?
I've been on a couple of dates, but honestly, it's been such a whirlwind, it's hard to find time to do anything, which is sad. I have to work on the balance. It definitely was about finding myself as well. That was something Ru switched me on to, which was life-changing. I realised I need to really embrace loving every little thing about myself and the rest will fall into place. It is something I've slowly been working out over the course of my life. There's so much power in owning every little thing about yourself, even the thigs that seem negative – they all come together to form you. It's powerful because there's no-one else in the world who is you.
You also talked a lot on Drag Race about your weight loss. Can you tell us more about that?
I had gastric-sleeve surgery, where they basically cut your stomach out and just leave you with a little bit. But mine's well and truly stretched now! I had it in November 2019, so I can eat significantly more food now, but when you've just had the surgery, you have a sip of water and you're like, "Gosh, I'm so full!" The first thing they feed you in the hospital is what they call "broth" and it's just warm water. Then after two days, they give you "broth with vegetables" and it's just warm water with two bits of carrot floating around. I still couldn't eat the carrots, so I just had the warm water with the flavour of the carrot.
What made you decide to have the surgery?
My life was always deeply affected by my weight. I discovered drag and it made me so happy, but it was very hard to do drag when I was that size. You have to dance and skip around on stage in high heels, wearing ridiculously hot clothing. I was wearing three synthetic wigs stacked on each other, corsets and 12 pairs of pantyhose. It was so constrictive and dangerous for my health. I wasn't healthy in general, let alone putting my body through drag, but I was starting to love life again. Drag saved my life in a lot of ways and I wanted to continue living! I knew that if I didn't do something about it, I wouldn't continue to be here. That was the catalyst. I lost just under 80 kilos. I started at 160kg and now I'm at 82kg.
Do you think you would've made it on Drag Race without the surgery?
I was very lucky that I've been able to forge this drag career in New Zealand. I've had the most amazing mentor in my life. Her name is Tess Tickle – great name, eh? – and she's taught me everything I know about drag. She taught me to be professional but also humble, kind and supportive to my upcoming drag sisters who are learning. I'm very lucky that I got to a point in my drag career where I had proven myself and people in the community were starting to see me as one of the drag elders. I was the young one when Tess taught me and then she passed the torch on to me to teach others. I feel I was at a point in my career where I would've gotten on to Drag Race without the surgery, but it definitely made it easier to be on the show because it makes everything about me healthier, including my mind. It makes it easier to perform. You also don't have to buy as much fabric when you're building your costumes, so it's cheaper too!
What do you want to do next in your career?
My biggest dream is just doing drag for the rest of my life and making others happy. It feels like this win is really going to help with that. I really want to get into music too. I've always had a love for singing and doing musical theatre, so I want to continue doing that. I've just released my first single [called Kita Mean], which is exciting. People are really loving it, which is cool. When the girls from RuPaul's Drag Race release new music, it's often a generic dance track, but people have been messaging really beautiful things about this being authentic new music you could hear on the radio and enjoy. I'm really proud of it and I just want to continue doing everything drag-related.
Our fabulous Kiwi queen
Thank you so much for the chat. It's been such a joy watching you over the past couple of months. You've brought so much happiness to our Saturday nights!
Oh, good. Yes! Thank you. That's all I could ever dream of doing. Happiness is contagious. I've been so grateful to people in my life who have been happy and encouraged me to be happy. It seems so cheesy, but there's so much truth in the fact that if we can all think like that, the world will literally be saved. If we can all try to make other people happy and project kindness, it is a catalyst for change. It actually is that simple.

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