Andrew Levitt has a booming voice and a big heart to match. From volunteer opportunities and service projects in high school and college, to becoming involved in the community during his adult life, helping others was, and is, an important part of what makes him who he is today.
A native of North Canton and graduate of Denison University’s theater program, Andrew has called Columbus home since 2001. Looking for an opportunity to be onstage, his friend, drag queen Virginia West, suggested he try drag.
“I think I saw an opportunity to use my platform to provide a voice for those who needed it,” Andrew said. “When I started, I didn’t see myself in the current culture of drag. I wanted to allow people who were like me to know they also had a place in it as well.”
Nina West, Andrew’s drag persona, is truly just an extension of himself.
“I think it’s really important that everyone understands they do have a seat at the table and, regardless of identity or difference, they do belong.”
“Nina is a funny, witty, sassy, larger than life, big kid at heart,” Andrew said. “She’s not different than I am. She’s a part of me. She’s just louder and larger. It’s just me on a different scale.”
Nina West has grown into a legendary figure, allowing Andrew to use his platform to support LGBTQ organizations. He’s done thousands of shows, participates in hundreds of appearances each year, and has given generously in time, talent, and treasure to the community. The charity performance he does at the end of each big show averages about $1,500—an incredible testament to his passion, and the generosity of his audience.
“It’s mind-blowing to know how giving people are. It’s just amazing to me,” he said. “Columbus is a really giving community and it speaks to how close-knit and tight our LGBTQ community is.”
In 2015, Andrew established The Nina West Fund at The Columbus Foundation to support local nonprofits that provide services for the LGBTQ community, including Kaleidoscope Youth Center, which has a special place in Andrew’s heart.
“I think part of the reason why an organization like Kaleidoscope has resonated with me is because that kind of resource wasn’t available when I was struggling with coming out and telling people who I was,” Andrew said.
“I keep my giving located in central Ohio so I can see the dollars that people give go to work firsthand,” he said. “That’s important for me.”
While he loves his life onstage, Andrew also appreciates the role he plays in the broader community.
“One of my favorite things about what I do, now more than ever, is making a connection with families, kids, and LGBTQ families and their children,” Andrew said. “I did a library reading at Westerville Public Library. Giving families access to the art of drag is pretty powerful and awesome.”