Geopolitics and the winner of this season's “RuPaul's Drag Race.”

TAIPEI, Taiwan – For tons of of 1000’s of fans around the globe watching the season finale of the hit reality show “RuPaul's Drag Race,” one in every of the contestants' final plea for victory wasn't particularly memorable.

“It would mean a lot to me to be the first East Asian queen to win the crown and represent my country,” said Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind, who got her wish just a few minutes later.

It was a single word in that sentence – “country” – that caused joy in Taiwan.

Out of deference to China, which claims Taiwan as a part of its territory, all but a handful of nations refuse to acknowledge the island democracy as a sovereign nation. But for a lot of who live thereIt was a proud moment to listen to one in every of them describe Taiwan as a separate country in front of a world audience.

Ko Ting-Hsun, who watched the ultimate at home last month, began to cry as Nymphia Wind celebrated her victory.

“Many people can understand that their own identity as Taiwanese could be weakened by stronger, larger powers,” said 29-year-old Ko. “This is one of the few times Taiwan can be so unabashedly represented on the international stage.”

Ko also happens to perform as a drag queen, under the name Beauxba Tea.

Drag is a thriving art form in Taiwan that has helped boost its fame as an open and tolerant society – one which differs markedly from mainland China, where the federal government has shut down LGBTQ+ support groups.

“The contrast with Taiwan has become greater and greater,” said John Givens, an associate professor within the department of international studies at Spelman College in Atlanta. “They're increasingly saying, 'Hey, we're this place where LGBTQ rights are respected.' China has turned the knob the other way.”

The final season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” featured Taiwan a huge stage to showcase its values ​​and culture.

Throughout the season, Nymphia Wind honored her Taiwanese heritage with costumes that included an elaborate headdress of a magpie – the national bird – and a balloon-filled tribute to the iconic Taiwanese drink boba tea.

The actor's real name is Leo Tsao. The 28-year-old fashion designer was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and joined the drag scene there in 2018 before moving to New York four years later.

Never directly mentioned China during her time on the reality show. She didn't have to.

Their victory was “a feat of nation-building, soft power and cultural diplomacy,” wrote Kazimier Lim, a public policy consultant with an interest in LGBTQ+ issues, in a commentary for the Lowy Institute, a Sydney think tank.

Lim suggested that her fame could suddenly endear Taiwan to younger generations of Americans if the island 23 million people are turning to the United States for more support as China has threatened to take it over by force if necessary.

“This empathy is not trivial,” he wrote. “It represents a powerful form of soft power that Taiwan will use in the run-up to war.”

The problem is so sensitive that Paramount, which distributes the show, initially said it would make Nymphia Wind available for an interview with the Times only if the reporter agreed not to ask her about geopolitics. After the Times refused to make such a deal, the company relented.

The performer suggested that she was just stating the obvious when discussing Taiwan on the show and had little to add to the geopolitical implications of her comments.

“Taiwan is just a country to me,” she said. “If people think differently or don't know that Taiwan is a country, then it's really because of their level of education. While there’s not much you can do, you can always try to raise awareness of the situation.”

Younger generations in particular are increasingly thinking about themselves exclusively Taiwanese – even if they understand that they live in the shadow of it Mainland China.

“Taiwan is a small country and doesn’t have a lot of electricity per se,” said Nymphia Wind. “It’s kind of sad, but that’s the situation. You have to play cleverly with the cards you’re dealt.”

She said she hopes to produce more drag performances in Taiwan that highlight the island's idiosyncrasies unique characteristicslike temple fairs, Night markets and betel nut girls who dress up to sell the chewing fruit stimulant at street stalls.

“She is the global phenomenon right now and she represents Taiwan,” said Benson Hu, 31, who has been doing drag in Taiwan as Sandra Hoe for three years. “This is the kind of international presence this country needs.”

After the season finale from RuPaul's Drag Race, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took to social media to congratulate the winner: “Taiwan thanks you on your fearless life.”

President-elect William Lai, who takes office later this month, also publicly congratulated her.

There was little reaction to her victory in China. The reality show is not readily available to watch there.

Chinese officials are often quick to condemn any description of Taiwan as a rustic – remained silent, selecting not to attract attention to a show that few had seen. There has also been little discussion on Chinese social media, where open discussions of LGBTQ issues can result in accounts being flagged or blocked.

Some users of the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo, without naming the drag queen, criticized Nymphia Wind as a Taiwanese separatist. But the newly crowned queen also attracted admirers, although access to the series from the mainland was limited.

“The first full-blooded Asian champion!” said one user. “I recommend everyone watch the entire show.”

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