Are you a Nicki fan? Then you should’ve pulled up at the Cal Academy of Sciences on Thursday night.
Hundreds of Bay Area residents squeezed into the outdoor area Thursday for the all Black drag show “Reparations,” and went absolutely nuts over its host, Nicki. Not Minaj, Lewinski or the ninja, but San Francisco’s own Nicki Jizz.
They threw wadded dollar bills in her direction and drunkenly clambered onto plastic chairs to get a better view. Nicki, the emcee for Thursday’s event loved it. The money simultaneously demonstrated appreciation for the performers and acted as small reparations for Black folk who experience systemic racism. In fact, the drag performer, the persona of Nick Marshall, wanted more “coin … especially if y’all work at Google.”
For as much as “Reparations” can be magical and blissful, Nicki Jizz doesn’t want you to forget the politics driving it. After all, “Reparations” is a celebration of Black excellence, as well as a protest against systemic racism and discrimination, Nicki said, and no one could change that. Not even the mayor.
A week earlier, Nicki tweeted her decision to cancel a separate “Reparations” drag show scheduled at the Juneteenth Black Pride Brunch, in protest of Mayor London Breed’s planned attendance. “The mayor’s actions and continued support for police goes against everything Reparations stands for,” Nicki tweeted, emphasizing the police’s role in the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin. During it, Black transgender women resisted arrest and fought against police officers who routinely harassed them.
In that tweet, Nicki rattled off what she sees as Breed’s misdeeds: Increasing homeless encampment sweeps, cutting Covid-19 hub funding, and padding the police budget.
“If I had known from the beginning about the mayor’s appearance, I would have never taken on this project.”
In fact, “Reparations” was born from Marshall’s desire to act during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. “I was watching so many Black people being murdered on TV by cops and all this stupid fucking white supremacy bullshit,” Nicki said during her Cal Academy performance, as bright lights spelling PRIDE shone behind her.
Though George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests became ubiquitous in 2020, they weren’t exactly Nicki’s thing: “I like to stay thick, I ain’t walkin’ nowhere.”
But what could she do? Drag. “I can yell at people and they give me money for it. I’m out here saying, ‘Fuck you, white people! Give me money.’ And they pay my bills,” she said.
And the crowd on Thursday loved it. Spectators whooped excitedly as vogue-dancing legend Sir JoQ! whipped a braid around, and started frantically jumping up and down when Mahlae Balenciaga one-two-stepped to Ciara. Cheetah Biscotti seductively removed their orange bra in a striptease, a move that hushed the audience.
But, though the performances fostered levity, Nicki wouldn’t let anyone forget why they were there. She condemned the invasion of Proud Boys at the San Leandro drag queen storytime. She mentioned how, after a performance at a high school, she received an onslaught of hate; right-wing trolls called her a “pedophile” and shamed her for “sexualizing children.” She scoffed at the accusation.
“I was like, I was wearing a full length gown, sweating my life away. It was the most clothes I’ve ever worn in my whole damn life,” Nicki said. “And those kids didn’t even fucking tip.”
Other performances appeared like tongue-in-cheek statements. KaiKai Bee Michaels, dressed in a hot pink dress and Marilyn Monroe-esque wig, appeared to mock Kim Kardashian’s controversial statement about women’s distaste for working by incorporating it in the set music. She later bopped to a satirical song that screamed, “STOP BEING POOR! STOP BEING POOR!”
Those statements, combined with artistry and fun, is what it’s all about, though.
“Reparations” is “more than just a drag show, it represents a community of Black queerness and the constant struggle we face as marginalized people,” as Nicki summed up in her earlier tweet.“Being forced to … make space for the Mayor to use our show for a PR moment is unacceptable.”