RuPaul's Drag Race star Nina West pays tribute to her friend, the "Queen of Kindness" Dolly Parton, in her new children's book. Ahead of the Oct. 25 release of The You Kind of Kind, the Miss Congeniality of Drag Race Season 11 opened up to PopCulture.com about how the country icon inspired not only the idea behind the children's book but also some of its art.
West's literary debut is all about "allowing young readers and a young audience to discover that kindness is not only cool, but there's a variety of ways you can find kindness," the drag performer, whose real name is Andrew Levitt, told PopCulture. "And in fact, you yourself have your very own special kind of kind, which is how you show kindness to others, how you show respect to others, and how you show a kindness and respect to yourself."
Parton, who has been a friend of West's for years, was an obvious inspiration behind the message of The You Kind of Kind, and even provided a quote for the book. "Dolly's such a great example of how to give the best of yourself in the world, right?" West explained. "Truthfully, as an inspiration for this book, I wanted to look at how Dolly herself walks in space and takes up space and provides space for others. ... She has a whole career that we can point to and shows how she herself has been walking the walk and not just talking the talk. She is someone who lives by example and her own special brand of kindness."
Even more subtle a nod to the "Jolene" singer is an Easter egg added by illustrator, Hayden Evans, who added an animated tribute to Parton as one of the "heroes of kindness" within the story. "[Parton] was just so receptive to this project and just was cheering me on, and here I am," West gushed. "So I'm really grateful to who I call the Queen of Kindness for blessing me with her love and her kindness in this world."
Publishing The You Kind of Kind now feels particularly important as the Hairspray star sees "a lot of different divisive or hateful commentary regarding people who might be different. And I'm one of those people who's different." West continued, "I think our queer families and families of queer kids come to a place of comfort and a place of safety and express how they themselves share kindness with the world."
"And it's exciting to, I think, be a part of this movement," West shared with PopCulture. "It is a movement where you can make some choices here. You can make a choice to be divisive and spew dangerous, hateful things, or you can make a choice to try to put your best foot forward and inspire conversation and inspire the best out of yourself to give to others and build community. And I think that's really what the root of this whole book is about." The You Kind of Kind is out Oct. 25 – visit ninawest.com for where to purchase.