At The Heart Of It All, What Does The Crown Really Mean To Precious Paula Nicole

At The Heart Of It All, What Does The Crown Really Mean To Precious Paula Nicole


The coronation and success of Precious Paula Nicole, our first Drag Race Philippines queen of queens is a lesson in humility, tenacity, and a joyful heart

Fresh from a flight from Cebu, emphasis on fresh because Rodolfo (her name out of drag), doesn’t look even a bit worn out despite his action-packed schedule. “Ang daming trabaho. Ang daming opportunities. Pero happy ako, of course,” he says. There is a moment to collect perhaps the recent flurry of days, but coalescing with the larger-than-life persona of Precious Paula Nicole, a name that is now at the heart of many a conversation, flashes a smile that lights up the room. “Overwhelmed pa rin—hindi pa masyado nagsi-sink in.”

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White sequin and ruffle bustier gown by CARL ARCUSA, Earrings by FARAH ABU, and Head piece from LE DORÉ by LOUIE GALLEGO

Since winning Drag Race Philippines a month ago, its full impact hasn’t hit home yet. Sure, it is because of the show that unlocked and opened many doors of opportunities, as well as a calendar filled with shows, shoots, and interviews, but there’s seldom a chance to pause and reflect. Sometimes we need a fair amount of quiet to flood the exterior and feed the interior to you know, as the kids would say, feel our feelings. It is always immeasurably meaningful when life allows us to catch that fleeting moment. “Actually, nagkaroon ng isang araw na, parang last week lang yata, bago ako pumunta ng Cebu, ‘yung umiyak lang ako with my Divine sisters kasi nanghihinayang ako na hindi siya inabutan ng Mama ko at ang swerte nila na nakikita ng mga magulang nila ‘yung success nila,” recalls Precious Paula Nicole. “Kaunting nag-sink in pa lang that time, tumigil na ulit.”

Follow Your Bliss

There are no words to fully describe losing someone you love dearly, especially your parents. For Precious Paula Nicole, grief knows no bounds. It is a memory or a thought of her mother that often escapes her lips, and sometimes, total emptiness. Over the years, however, she has learned to fully embrace that, find some sense of comfort. Here, she recounts one thing her mother taught that shaped her life, “‘Nung 15 or 16 ako, umalis ako ng bahay. Sinunod ko kung saan ako magiging masaya. Kung saan sa tingin ko ako magaling—naging dancer ako. Sobrang thankful ako na never niya ako inobliga sa kahit ano, basta kung saan lang ako magiging masaya,” she details. “Hindi niya ako inobligang magtapos ng college. Hindi niya ako inobligang magka-girlfriend, magkaroon ng asawa’t anak. Alam niya na alam ko kung saan ako magiging masaya at kung saan ako masaya, ‘yun ang nagpapasaya sa kanya.”

Black crystal pinstripe bustier and oversized puffer coat by KAYE MORALES and Earrings by FARAH ABU

She learned early on that to find her way, she needed to identify the things that made her heart flutter. There is a lesson in here that she likes to impart: doing what we love leads to happiness. It’s always been in our hands. But doing so also means getting her hands dirty and putting in the effort. Following her bliss gave her a sense of purpose and self-awareness. “Before entering Drag Race, ano lang naman eh, dreamer lang din naman ako eh,” she says. “Totoo talaga ang manifestation. Ginamit ko lang ‘yung heart ko at madaming tao ang na-inspire at naka-relate.” Luck may be part of it, but Precious Paula Nicole steered herself in this stellar direction by pairing it with perseverance and hard work.

A Master Storyteller

What makes us so drawn to a drag performance? The costumes that blind our eyes when hit by stage lights? That jaw-dropping dip that came out of nowhere? The flawless exit of words from their perfectly overdrawn lips? An effective reveal that elevates rather than distracts? Is it the outrageous and chaotic absurdity of it all? Indeed, it is all of the above and a lot more, but Precious Paula Nicole summarizes it in four words: “Drag queens are storytellers.” Today, drag venues have become sanctuaries for LGBTQIA+ people where we feel a sense of community; we feel connected to them on a deeper level because we share the same joys and struggles. There’s power in knowing we’re not alone, even if only for one song.

Black crystal pinstripe bustier by KAYE MORALES and Earrings by FARAH ABU

Enter Sirena, a song told through the lens of queerness by a genius rapper whose target listeners aren’t exactly queer. This isn’t a stretch by any means, because Gloc-9 is known for his songs that carry social relevance, like the political anthem, Upuan. As a carrier single for his album, Mga Kwento ng Makata, Sirena was released in 2012 when gender expression was frowned upon by many, social movements hadn’t gained traction, SOGIE wasn’t even discussed then, and pride marches were attended only by the hundreds. I remember hearing the song in a cab for the first time and claiming it as ours. I knew it would be heard by non-queer people and felt that it would somehow strengthen our plight for equality. Queer stories then weren’t told enough or at all. As an oppressed minority, having someone speak to an audience outside ours with a message of femme empowerment, the strength of our character, and recognizing our battles is a win for all of us.

Fast-forward to a different kind of battle ten years after. The Drag Race Philippines’ final lip-sync song was the perfect last act to a very successful first season. “That’s the very first time that I really let go of myself while performing. Natapos ‘yung performance na hindi ko maalala kung ano ‘yung nangyari at nagawa ko,” Precious Paula Nicole recalls. “Araw-araw ko pinakikinggan ‘yung song tapos sinulat ko paulit-ulit ‘yung lyrics so, alam mo ‘yun? Nakuha ‘yung pinaka deep na ibig sabihin ‘nung kanta kaya siguro hindi ko na pinag-perform ‘yung utak ko. Pinag-perform ko na lang ‘yung heart ko and ‘yung katawan ko na, ‘oh, ‘eto ‘yung bagay sa kahit anong sabihin ‘nung salita nung kanta.’” However the broadcast was consumed, we all saw the same thing: Precious Paula Nicole masterfully conveying the essence and heart of the song through that performance. And by the end, we were all in tears.

Silver corset chain dress by KAYE MORALES and Earrings by FARAH ABU

From Philippines to the World

Before being released into the wild called DragCon UK early next year, Precious Paula Nicole reveals that she’s currently talking with designers to help her create the looks she will be championing on the international stage: a Singkil princess, Banga extravaganza, and Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah—all nods to our rich culture. Veering from the usual Beyoncé or Rihanna songs, she expresses the need to fully represent our flag by performing two OPM songs: Tala and yes, Sirena.

“Kausap ko si Jiggly, sabi ko, ‘Ma, dapat ba ako ma-pressure?’ Sabi niya, ‘hindi, dahil marami naman nagmamahal sa’yo ‘dun. Maraming gusto makita ka.’ So, after niya sabihin ‘yun, okay, walang pressure. Pero siyempre para pa rin siyang pasikatan dahil lahat ng mga queens from all around the world nandoon,” she admits.

“Kasama mo kami kahit saan ka magpunta,” I tell Precious Paula Nicole, if not for anything but to earnestly reassure her.

Welcome to the Stage, Ms. Pressure Paula Nicole

It takes a lot of courage to expose one’s self to a reality competition. Think about it: You’re basically signing up to be scrutinized and dissected by, well, the world. While the rewards are life-changing, one can only imagine how it’s also very mentally jarring for them. “‘Pag pasok ko ng Drag Race, hindi ko siya iti-treat na contest, hindi ko siya iti-treat na competition. Sabi ko gawin ko lang siyang ano, parang workshop, para lagi lang akong open sa mga pwede ko matutunan. Ako naman kahit twelve years na ko sa drag industry hindi naman ibig sabihin alam ko na lahat. Ganoon ko lang in-open ‘yung utak ko saka ‘yung sarili ko na marami akong matututunan doon and kung may mga bagay man akong hindi alam, okay lang ‘yun,” she opens up.

Silver corset chain dress by KAYE MORALES and Earrings by FARAH ABU

The idea of the crown can be delicious, alluring, and, at the same time, unnerving. The drag goddesses chose her to embody and represent our country on the world stage—a daunting idea for sure. “Malapit na nga ako magpalit ng pangalan: Pressure Paula Nicole,” she laughs. “Actually mas pressured ako before the crowning. Ngayon, mas relaxed ako and mas confident naman ako na mas galingan pa sa trabaho kasi alam ko mas marami nang taong nakatingin, nakabantay, at naghihintay na magkamali ako.”

She asserts that she’s far from perfect and shares why she doesn’t feel the weight of the crown, “Noong nanalo ako, sabi ko nga sa Divine sisters ko, hindi ko naman ‘to aangkinin na akin lang eh. Nanalo na ako dati sa contest sa TV and never ko naman siyang nilagay sa ulo ko—nilagay ko siya sa heart ko. The crown is for my heart, it’s not for my head.”

White sequin and ruffle bustier gown by CARL ARCUSA, Earrings by FARAH ABU, and Head piece from LE DORÉ by LOUIE GALLEGO

Humility is often attached to joy. And Precious Paula Nicole exudes joy. We all saw it on our screens, as it is pretty evident in her live performances. It’s crystal clear—contagiously so—even out of drag. Getting the top spot at the Olympics of drag didn’t get in her head. She believes that having Drag Race Philippines is the real triumph and a massive push forward for all queer creatives in the country, and her crown is just the icing on the cake. “It’s a reward for me for doing drag for twelve years. From starting very simple na dati wala akong TF sa bar; lagi lang akong saling pusa. Kumbaga ‘yung coronation para siyang graduation for me na nalagpasan ko ‘yung twelve years na hard work talaga ‘yung binigay ko,” she says.

Heart of a Champion

The heart is a word tossed around quite often when we talk about Precious Paula Nicole. So much so that it’s become an inescapable symbol attached to her name. You can’t blame a person for speaking about the warmth of summer or the romance of a newly opened rose. It is, after all, the foundation of everything we love about Precious: doing anything with all of her, her love for family and friends, her charitable initiatives (Angat Buhay Foundation), and setting up the Precious Foundation, a non-government organization dedicated to helping and supporting the Golden Gays. “Tinuruan ako ni mamang magbigay kaya binibigay ko ‘yung kaya ko ibigay. Sabi ni mama hangga’t may maitutulong ka, ibigay mo kasi ang blessings naman tuloy-tuloy. Kumbaga, ‘pag nawalan ka ngayon, babalik ‘yan. Tapos dapat ishi-share mo ulit,” she tells me confidently.

White sequin and ruffle bustier gown by CARL ARCUSA, Earrings by FARAH ABU, and Head piece from LE DORÉ by LOUIE GALLEGO

All things considered, Precious Paula Nicole wants to tell you something. Listen up, kids. “Follow your heart lagi. Huwag kayo mape-pressure. Huwag niyo i-akyat sa ulo niyo na competition ‘yun. Always enjoy the moment. Experience every moment. Ayoko sabihing gayahin niyo ‘yung ginawa ko para manalo. Ako kasi ang gusto ko lang talaga maging part ako ng history. And for me, ‘yung naging part lang ako ng twelve queens was a win for me na. Never ko ginoal na manalo kasi gusto ko every challenge at every second ko doon sa loob ng Werk room at sa main stage, ie-enjoy ko siya at maaalala ko siya at kaya ko siya i-kwento kahit ilang taon na ‘yung lumipas—ganoon ko siya in-enjoy. Kaya i-enjoy niyo ‘yung moment and good luck at dapat pakak!”

Photography by RXANDY CAPINPIN
Creative Direction by JUJIIN SAMONTE
Art Direction by BRIE VENTURA
Fashion Direction by RYUJI SHIOMITSU
Beauty Direction by MIA CASTRO
Hair by IAN GARCIA assisted by ALDRIN VIVO

Shoot Coordination by KZ FRANCISCO & MJ ALMERO
Shot on location JAGGER STUDIOS


CONTINUE READING: All Hail the Queen: With Heart, Humor, and Humility, Precious Paula Nicole Proves Why She is a Winner, Baby

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