Nikita Dragun Does Her Own Slaying
Nikita Dragun has always known she was different. The 24-year-old YouTube star, who calls herself “the most extra bitch you will ever meet,” was born in Belgium but grew up in Virginia, where she says she was the only boy on the cheerleading team and dreamed of becoming a female pop star. “In high school, I would wear booty shorts, combat boots, a purse, lashes, the whole nine yards,” she says. “The guys who bullied me would be like, ‘Oh, he’s so gay,’ but also, ‘He’s going to be so famous.’”
Dragun posted her first video to YouTube in 2014, and quickly gained a following for her elaborate makeup tutorials. Then, while taking business classes at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles—a move that would eventually pay off with the launch of her cosmetics line, Dragun Beauty, in 2019—she had what she calls her “Hannah Montana moment.” While her classmates showed glammed-up photos of her as part of their presentations on influencers and brand deals, Dragun sat quietly with no makeup and her hair in a bun. “I never wanted anyone to know,” she says. “I was sitting there like, ‘Oh, my god. This cannot be happening.’”
These days, she’s no longer hiding. Since completing her transition in 2018—a process she documented on YouTube—Dragun has become a firebrand on the L.A. party scene and on social media, where she regularly posts videos for her fans, whom she calls her “Draguns.” In late 2018, she responded to comments by L Brands’ now-former chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, saying trans women should be excluded from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show by tweeting a video of herself strutting through a glitzy set in full Angel getup. In 2019, she again caused a stir by showing up on the red carpet at the MTV VMAs with three leashed, shirtless men in tow—a stunt that was, of course, captured for her 8.5 million followers on Instagram. In both cases, Dragun says she “wanted to show that a trans person could sell the fantasy.”
That same boundary-pushing spirit has occasionally earned her scorn. This fall, Dragun was accused of “blackfishing” after posting a photo to Instagram in which her skin appeared noticeably darkened. (She further stoked the controversy by tweeting, “what race is nikita going to be today?”) Dragun, who is of Mexican and Vietnamese heritage, blamed the incident on a bad spray tan, but seems to understand the responsibility that comes with her ascending profile. Whether filming a shot-for-shot remake of Britney Spears’s “Toxic” video for Instagram, collaborating with the beauty retailer Morphe on a limited-edition collection of eyeshadow shades and brushes, or gearing up for the second season of her Snapchat series, Nikita Unfiltered, Dragun says it’s all in the name of living authentically and inspiring fans. “I think a lot of people see my ass doing it and they’re like, ‘Okay, if this little T-girl can live her life and walk down the street in a fucking lime green Care Bears bikini, what excuse do I have?’”
This article appears in the Winter 2020 issue of Interview Magazine. Subscribe here.
Hair: Arianna Chaylene Blean
Makeup: Steven Tabimba
Location: Slash Studios
Location Manager: Jake Webb.
Fashion Assistant: Byron Alvarado