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

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

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And just like that, the queen of queens from Drag Race Philippines has been crowned. Staying true to herself until the very end, this is what makes Precious Paula Nicole the rightful heir to the throne.

It is hard to believe that at some point, Precious Paula Nicole did not have any plans of even auditioning for Drag Race Philippines. This revelation elicits a laugh now, but just as she has firmly established herself as the heart of the inaugural season, it also comes with it an aching on the what if. “Nung una, ayoko talaga. ‘Di ako prepared. Nung lumabas ‘yung announcement ni RuPaul, nasa Bicol ako at maraming pa akong dapat unahin,” she says. Now, make no mistake about it, because this matter of fact doesn’t mean a lack of ambition on her end. In fact, all things considered, there is a lot of drive that pushes Precious Paula Nicole on the daily, but in this particular circumstance, all she needed was a little nudge from her chosen family.

Dumating kasi sa punto na nag-audition na ‘yung dalawa kong kaibigang Divine Divas, si Viñas Deluxe at Brigiding. ‘Di ako na-peer pressure. Actually, nainggit ako. Minsan pangit ‘yung feeling na na-inggit ka, pero na-inspire ako. Ah, dapat kasama niyo din ako, ‘di pwedeng kayo lang. Mas maganda if sama-sama tayo. We’re all in this together.”

Before you break into the chorus that seared into your consciousness from the seminal classic that is High School Musical, Precious Paula Nicole cuts through the earnest moment with another punch line. “Sabi ko nga, pag dumating ‘yung punto na nagte-taping sila, naisip ko: anong gagawin ko sa bahay? ‘Di pwede, kailangan sama-sama kami.” And so she joined. “Wala akong pinagsisihan talaga. And I’m really proud na nainggit ako at sumama ako sa kanila,” she shares. “Sama-sama tayong nangangarap tapos ‘di ako kasama? No! Dedma na kahit ‘di ako prepared, dedma na kung wala kang pambili ng ganito, ganyan. ‘Yun ‘yung totoong bahala na si Batman.”

Now, here she is, sitting in a lush white cotton robe with her face painted halfway, mere hours away from the dream. “Sabak lang. You’ll never know,” asserts Precious Paula Nicole. “Wala na akong what if. Kumbaga, sobrang blessed ako na nakapasok ako. Sabi ko lang, ‘wag ako maunang matanggal.”

And look how far she has come. But that is getting ahead of the story.

Precious Heart

Precious Paula Nicole admits that just like her sisters, Drag Race Philippines was a punch to the moon. “Akala ko sapat na ‘yung 12 years ko ‘pag pasok ko sa competition. ‘Pag dating ko dun, nga-nga. Wala siyang sinabi. Para kaming nag-enroll ulit sa school and kailangan pagdaanan ulit from basic,” she says, humility coloring her words. “May mga bagay na hindi tinuro sa akin nung una kong pag discover sa drag ko. At the same time, iba ‘yung pag andun ka na eh, ‘yung pressure. ‘Yun ‘yung totoong pressure na ‘di mo alam ang gagawin mo sa araw hangga’t ‘di na-announce. Minsan may tao na kailangan iisipin muna ang gagawin. Dun kasi hindi eh. ‘Pag sinabi ganito, gawin mo na. Hindi ka na mag-iisip. ‘Yun ‘yung difference sa reality na nagsho-show kami at sa competition.”

Of the entire experience, she underscores what was a major learning curve for her, despite an irrefutable tenure in the Filipino drag scene, the stuff that is made of legends, really. “Ay grabe, nagne-nails na ako ngayon. Patay na nga kuko ko eh. Nakaka-kumpleto ng fantasy eh. Pero dati talaga kahit kyutiks ayoko talaga, pero nung nakita ko ‘yung ibang girls, kailangan mo talaga makipagsabayan,” says Precious Paula Nicole who flashed a mix of black and gold embellished talons for the viewing party of the final episode of the much talked about season.

“Mas conscious na ako sa looks ko ngayon at mas meaningful na ako pumili ng performance. I’ll make sure may meaning and story siya.

PRECIOUS Paula Nicole

“Or minsan, kasi sala sa init, sala sa lamig ako…minsan gusto ko mag-inspire, minsan gusto ko manggago. ‘Yun ‘yung kapangyarihan ng drag. Mas buo na ako mag-perform, mas sure ako sa sarili ko na kaya ko magpasaya at kung ano ‘yung reason kung bakit ko ginagawa ‘yung ginagawa ko.”

Life is a Celebration

There is an inherent joy to the drag of Precious Paula Nicole, which doesn’t steer far from the person behind the self-described all around queen. Even in the heat of the competition over at Drag Race Philippines, there was never a heaviness to her. Sure, she was almost always emotional, shedding tears at any given moment, but that is testament to the her earnest and pure heart. “Siguro ganun talaga akong tao. Pinalaki ako ni Mama ng ganon,” she ponders. It is this persistent of kindness that guided her not only in the competition, but in real life as well. In fact, it is consistent among the other queens that if compassion were manifested in a person, it would be in the form of Precious Paula Nicole. Just ask Lady Morgana who pops in the room to ask if his sister had lash glue she could use. Naturally, Precious politely excused herself for a moment to help a queen in need, as she will always do. Beyond drag, her kindness has extended to her advocacies, NGOs such as the Golden Gays and most recently, the Angat Buhay Foundation, and even the kids on the street who marvels at the wonder of drag.

“Hangga’t  may kaya kang i-share, share mo lang. Lagi kong tinatandaan ‘yun. Ganun din kami sa bahay, walang damutan. Kahit ano man ang ma-achieve mo sa buhay mo, dapat ganun ka pa din kasi nag-start ka pa din sa wala. Kailangan kung anong meron ka, i-celebrate mo and ‘wag mong ipagyayabang.

Celebration is a word thrown around a lot in the conversation, and cannot stress it enough. Overwhelmed by the pace of life is now, Precious Paula Nicole is nothing but grateful for everything. “Sobrang life-changing siya kasi artista na din kami kung ituturing. Alam mo yun, nai-inspire din namin ang mga tao, hindi lang sa bars kung san kami umiikot. But now, nakikita na kami sa television, commercials, and music videos. Kumbaga, ibig sabihin meron talaga kaming say sa industry na ito,” she details. “I’m so happy sine-celebrate ng tao ang drag dito sa Philippines. Kaya I’m so proud sa success ng show.” From sold out viewing parties, the opening up of the drag economy, to shows all over the country, Precious Paula Nicole is basking in the moment, because just as the trailblazing Filipino queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ongina, immortalized, “Life is a celebration.”

Sabi ko nga, nakikita ko lang ang ganyan ng tao kapag kay Ate Reg, BTS, or nakikita lang sa TV. May time din na nandun din ako sa audience na ‘yun, tumitili, sumisigaw. Alam ko ‘yung feeling. Nakakataba ng puso,” she says. “Actually, sabi namin gusto lang namin ma-appreciate kami. ‘Di namin in-expect na ganito ang darating, solid from south to north.” Despite all the triumphs, the privilege to perform and persist in passion isn’t lost on Precious Paula Nicole. “Reality check na may mga tao pa rin na hindi katulad namin na ‘di masaya sa ginagawa nila. Kaya kami, sobrang swerte namin na gusto naming ‘yung gusto namin and kumikita kami,” she explains. “Of course, na-enjoy kasi maswerte nga ako kasi ‘yun ‘yung passion ko. Love na love ko ang magpasikat. Love na love ko ang palakpakan ng tao. ‘Yan ‘yung isa sa mga swerte ako kasi I get to work and I get to earn.”

Puso, Puso, Puso Pa Rin

Despite being beacons of near perfection and confidence, Precious Paula Nicole will be the first one to dispel that myth and misconception, stressing that at the end of the day, drag queens are humans, too. To this day, they get riddled with anxiety, crippled by fear, and consumed by pressure, which is something they constantly work on to keep at bay and of course, use to their advantage.

“Actually, pag gising ko, sabi ko: kailangan ma-enjoy ko ‘yung araw ko ngayon. Kasi for the past days, lagi namin binibigyang time ‘yung mga episode, and this time, hindi ko masyado papagurin ‘yung sarili ko kasi kailangan ko siya i-enjoy para kahit anong mangyari, kumbaga, wala akong pagsisishan kasi ‘di ko binigyan ‘’yung pressure sarili ko. Kasi it’s a yes or no lang naman siya eh. Kailangan ano lang ako, ready lang ako. Kalmado,” she says. “Honestly, mas pressure ‘yung mga shows before. May pressure siya in a way mas sine-celebrate ko ang pagtatapos. ‘Di naman kasi madali ‘yung pinagdaanan namin eh. Kaya imbis na ma-pressure ako, i-celebrate ko na lang siya.”

Despite a gnawing dread to an otherwise cheerful exterior, there is a pervading sense of calm to Precious Paula Nicole. With legs crossed and a tumble of hair tousled when the discussion steers to the more playful, she is fulfilled, in every definition of that destiny-subscribed word. “Para siyang graduation,” she says of what was then the closing in of the crowning moment. As if seeing the entire Drag Race Philippines experience flash before her eyes, she turns serious recalling her revelation of almost not taking the leap to try out for the show. To this, she talks to the rest of the Filipino drag community, especially those like her are veterans in the field. “Wala namang mawawala eh. Kumbaga, maging part ka lang ng show, ‘yan na ‘yung magbabago at mag-upgrade ng drag at pagkatao mo.”

‘Di naman kailangan ang goal mo manalo eh, kailangang lang maipakita mo lang sarili mo sa tao. Lahat naman kami, unique in our own way. And, meron kang story. ‘Di lang yung drag ipapakita mo—‘yung life mo. ‘Di mo kasi alam kung ilang ang taong mai’inspire sa’yo.

PRECIOUS Paula Nicole

“Go mo lang kasi for sure, tataas TF mo, girl. Aarte ka pa ba? Sa tagal mo sa industry, deserve mo ‘yan. Go lang, sabak lang,” she says, that Precious Paula Nicole humor shining through, of course. “You will never know unless gawin mo siya, ngayon na.”

For many a player in the game of reality television, the goal is simple: don’t be the first one out. Not only did Precious Paula Nicole sail through that challenge, but she soared. Staying true to herself and showing the world what her take on Filipino drag excellence is, it is no surprise that with heart, humor, and humility, the crown now rests firmly on her beautifully sculpted hair. It all seems auspicious now looking back, but when asked what she would tell herself if she wins, it was a touching answer that as usual, anchors on puso, puso, and puso pa rin.

Siyempre, congratulations,” begins Precious Paula Nicole. “I’m still preparing myself, pero what I want to tell myself is ang galing mo kasi lumaban ka, hindi ka nagdalawang isip sa lahat. Proud ako sa’yo dahil lumaban ka, hindi mo hinayaan na ‘yung mga kakulangan mo ang magpapatalo sa’yo or mga negative ‘yung manaig sa challenges. I hope na start pa lang ‘yan ng pagbabago sa’yo and I hope na mas marami kang maibigay na saya and ma-inspire. ‘Di lang sa mga queens, but mga tao in general. Gusto ko ma-inspire mo lahat na hindi pa ganon ka-familiar sa kung ano talaga ang meron sa drag. Keep up the good work and here’s to more years of drag, and fabulousness, and glitters, and magic, and everything.”

All hail the queen.


Photography RXANDY CAPINPIN
Art Direction BRIE VENTURA

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