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Exclusive: Drag Race Down Under's Rhys Nicholson reveals what RuPaul is really like behind the scenes

Drag Race Down Under judge Rhys Nicholson will be headlining to final night of the LGBTQ Stand Up Comedy Fesitval before starting his own UK tour

Rhys Nicholson in blue suit sat on armchair© Jonathan Kemp
Matthew Moore
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
June 8, 2023
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Rhys Nicholson is not slowing down as the Australian comedian is due to headline at the LGBTQ Stand Up Comedy Festival's closing night on Sunday, before heading out on their own debut UK comedy tour on 13 June.

Sitting down with HELLO! ahead of their shows, Rhys explained how they couldn't be more different and revealed that appearing at the Fesitval was their "dream" gig. "I get that breezy opportunity to go and hang out with a bunch of people that I really love, and have a great time with them and do a nice show with a bunch of great people," they said, before joking: "I do not have to spend a long time on stage and that is every comedian's dream, to hang out and have a good time and be a part of a good show, but not have to bang on for too long. Just be like, 'Hi, I'm funny. And we're all gay. That's good, bye'."

The sell-out performances have been going down well with audiences, with Rhys quipping: "It shouldn't be crazy and it shouldn't be like a hard sell. I personally think the funniest people I know are queer people and that's not even speaking as a queer person."

Rhys Nicholson clapping© Jonathan Kemp
Rhys will be headlining the closing night

As for their own tour, Rhys shared their excitement about travelling all around the UK, teasing: "I'm never not fascinated by just how many bloody people you have packed into that tiny island and surrounding other islands. In Australia, we have one accent and it gets a little nasally at the top and then you pretend to push down the bottom. But it genuinely fascinates me to have different accents in a city is bonkers to me, I'm excited to see the different cultures around the UK, because it's not something that we really get to experience in Australia. I toured around the States last year, if it went well in Indianapolis, surely it can do well in Leeds."

Outside of comedy, Rhys is well-known as a permanent judge on the Australian version of Drag Race and speaking about the show's upcoming third series, they revealed it was "haunting" knowing the cast list and top three, as well as the guest judges that would be joining the panel, with this series being the first to have all of them there in-person, as opposed to over Zoom.

Rhys Nicholson in a striped suit holding a microphone© Brittany Long
Rhys will be heading out on their own UK tour

They also lifted the lid on their relationship with the show's host RuPaul, saying: "The first thing RuPaul ever said to me was 'welcome to the family' and I took that with a handful of salt. Then as we started making the show, I was like: 'It genuinely is'. He's my boss, so it's not like we're texting each other every night about our favourite things that are happening in the world."

Rhys added: "It took me almost four years to be comfortable with the fact that I'm sitting next to RuPaul for four hours a day. He teases me as sometimes he'll just catch me staring because he looks so beaut, we've got filters on and everything, but Ru looks incredible in real life, and he just always says: 'Stop staring'."

Art Simone standing with Rhys Nicholson© Sam Tabone
Rhys is a popular judge on Drag Race Down Under

It's not just their professional life that is keeping them busy as on top of planning a wedding to long-time partner Kyran Wheatley, Rhys also came out as non-binary last year. Reflecting on their journey of discovery, Rhys explained: "With COVID, we spent a lot of time indoors looking inside of ourselves, some of us finding more questions than answers. It was always going to happen, I've never been uncomfortable and it hasn't changed my life in any particular way. I was talking to friends about how we were feeling about gender and I was describing my thoughts on it and literally a friend of mine was like: 'I mean that sounds like non binary.' As I've gotten more comfortable with it, realising how there's a lot of people, I think we're in a moment where it's becoming really quite a strong community."

They added: "It feels good and it feels lighter, it feels nice to be able to talk about and while it wasn't eating me up, it also feels nice that I can talk about it pretty comfortably because I'm lucky. I'm sure there are plenty of people that aren't as comfortable and hopefully, I can be something nice for someone to look at and gain inspiration."

Kyran Wheatley standing with Rhys Nicholson© Sam Tabone
Rhys and Kyran became engaged in 2019

As for the wedding, that has undergone a lot of rejigging with the initial ceremony having been planned before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Speaking about the issues with rescheduling, Rhys shared: "There's certain weird little nightmares about rescheduling a wedding three years later, do we have to invite the same people? Because a lot of those people are not part of our lives anymore. There's some interesting politics in replanning a wedding, but now we're very excited about it.

"We have a whole bunch of new friends that we're inviting. We made the mistake of buying our suits, pre COVID and then we put on 10 kilos each. There's a lovely suit in my apartment and there's a lovely Yves Saint Laurent suit in my partner's closet, but a bit of running has to be done to get into that."

But on a set full of drag queens, Rhys joked about creating his own "secret challenges" where they could easily get their suits refitted. "That's not a bad idea," he smiled. "Starting my own drag competition within Drag Race."

To find out more about the LGBTQ Stand Up Comedy Festival, visit here and for Rhys' comedy tour, see here.

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