NINA POON IS OVA!

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THE BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED VH1 TRANSform ME STAR, NINA POON, IS MUCH MORE THAN A GORGEOUS FACE (AND SLAMMING BODY): SHE’S AN ACTRESS, AN ILLUSTRATOR, PHOTOGRAPHER, MAKE-UP ARTIST, EVEN A MODEL. IN OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, NINA TALKS TO DIRTY ABOUT GROWING UP, SHOOTING UP (HORMONES!), AND BEING ONE OF THE MOST INSPIRING TRANSGENDER WOMEN IN POP CULTURE.
TEXT Paul Bruno / PHOTOGRAPHY Marco Ovando
STYING Rebecca Daly / HAIR Karmela Lozina / MAKE-UP Nina Poon

Special thanks to 9th st studio

 

 

DIRTY: I READ THAT YOU WERE BORN IN SAIGON – WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING A CHILD THERE?

NINA POON: You read it right honey!  I am chinese and I was born in Saigon towards the end of the war.  Both my parents were born there also.  My grandparents on both sides were very well off in Vietnam but during the war, all their money was stolen from their bank.  We fled Vietnam poor…  I was around 2 years old so I don’t remember nothing at all from Saigon.

 

D: HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU MOVED TO THE STATES & WHERE DID U GROW UP?

NP: We arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio exactly on my 4th birthday.  We were there for around 7 months or so and my mom said, “Oh hell no!” to the snow.  So we decided to move to Florida!  What better place to get sun than the sunshine state?! We eventually found a big 2500 sq ft, two-story house (which by the way my parents still live in), in Orlando.

 

D: HOW DID GROWING UP IN FLORIDA AFFECT WHO NINA POON IS TODAY?

NP: I’m really glad I got to grow up in the suburbs of Orlando.  Lots of outdoor fun!!   In the woods, the pool and especially Disney World!!  Disney was awesome because it just inspired me so much into art, drawing and boosting my creative juices and imagination 1000%!  I mean I’m sure lot’s of people feel the same way about Disney, but being there all the time was a whole different story for me.  I truly believed that I could do anything and be anything I wished.  So in the end, the song “when you wish upon a star” really was true for me….

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

HELLOOO!

 

D: HAVE YOU BEEN BACK TO SAIGON?

NP: Unfortunately, I have not.  Would LOVE to though.  You wanna take me??

 

D: HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED TRANSITIONING?  HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU KNEW YOU WANTED TO BE A WOMAN?

NP: Oh my goodness… I knew as far as my memory can take me back.  Probably around three years old.
Like a lot of other girls, I was very very effeminate.  My parents always knew.  My mom even asked me if I wanted a sex change when I was younger but I got scared and told her no.  I shoulda just said yes and got that shit done and over with and look extra CUNT!  I didn’t actually start to transition until I was around 21.  I had a friend who wasn’t so blessed in the looks category.  I’m not gonna name names but she was on the mones and I saw her soften up right before my very eyes, and said, “oh hell no!  If she could look soft, then honey, I know I’m gonna look way softah!   No shade. (LAUGHS)
So to make a long story short, I took my very first shot and boom!  That was that!  Skin cleared up. Hips filled out. Bosoms blossoming, and crying out of nowhere.  I was cunt honey.  There’s nothing like cunt juice to make you feel OVA!!!

 

D: BACK IN THE DAY, AS A BOY, DID YOU EVER DO DRAG?  DID YOU EVER PERFORM?

NP: Ugh.  I don’t like the way I looked then.  I was very insecure, but yes, I did do drag and I did perform.  I started doing drag with Allanah Starr when we went to college together.  She was a drag celebrity in South Beach already and then I slowly worked my way up the drag circuit there.  Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the way I looked, I had a fucking blast doing it.  Met sooooooo many people.  So many of my idols from Madonna (I got invited to her house — that right there is a whole nother story!), Thierry Mugler (my father in my head), Helmut Newton (my grandfather in my head). And the list goes on.
So yes! I did do drag, and performed and it actually helped boost my self esteem and confidence level.  I learned how to interact with people and be comfortable in my own skin.


 

D: WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO NEW YORK?

NP: After two years in south beach, I landed in NYC in 1995.  I came with $300 in my pocket, and not really anywhere to live, but I did have a job at Lucky Cheng’s though!  Thank God for that.  I stayed with some of the waitresses there, and then eventually found a more permanent place on St. Marks Place which was literally 50 sq. ft. and a seven-floor walkup.  Let me tell u, if u forgot something and you’re downstairs already, then honey, fuck it.  Oh gosh, it’s been 15 years!!  I can truly say that I’m a New Yorker now.

 

D: YOU’RE ALSO AN ILLUSTRATOR?  DID YOU ALWAYS LIKE TO DRAW?

NP: When I was in second grade, I recall my teacher, Mrs. Barker, gave us a drawing assignment and I ended up drawing Disney’s Cinderella with her gown, and her hair in an updo.  I thought it was pretty good, but when Mrs. Barker saw it, she was surprised and showed the whole class and posted it up on the cork board.  That’s when I was like, “Oh yeah, I can draw!!”  It made me feel really special.   Before that, I felt inadequate because I was the only Asian in the school at the time, and didn’t speak English that well as well as not having any friends because I didn’t look like anybody else in the classroom. After that, I would always use my drawing skills as a way to make friends and feel somewhat part of the crowd.
I would love to draw Disney characters in the beginning, then it turned to drawing and designing clothes, fashion illustration in high school, and then it turned to realism in the beginning of college. Then I would just do a hybrid of fashion and cartoon-like characters.

 

D: YOU’RE INCREDIBLY GOOD AT IT – DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL TO STUDY ART AT ALL?

NP: Thanks hun!!  I was born with the magic touch. 🙂 I believe that you either have it, or you don’t, but yes, I did go to school.  I went to a school in Miami to study fashion design.  Going there taught me more about discipline rather than the ability to draw.  I always had the vision to see things, to picture things, and knowing how and where to draw the lines or how hard or soft to apply pressure on the pencil or brush.
I love to people watch and study the human body.  How we move and our different proportions.   That’s my favorite thing to draw all the time.  I’m always trying to perfect it in various styles, whether cartoon-like or realistic.

 

D: SO HOW DID THE ‘TRANSFORM ME’ PROJECT COME YOUR WAY?  DID YOU HAVE TO AUDITION?

NP: That’s kind of a long story, so I’ll give you the abridged version:
I love to makeover my girlfriends.  Head to toe, including photographing them. Brought a friend home to makeover, and my husband, Robert, was recording us for fun on his video camera. He loved the idea of a “tranny” makeover show and pitched it to VH1 and voila!!
As for me having to audition, the answer is yes! VH1 wanted to make sure they got the right girls that are comfortable and know what they are talking about in front of the camera. Their was a casting with lot’s of girls and I got the part!  I would’ve been really sad if I didn’t get it just because it was my boyfriend’s creation.
A little fun fact; I auditioned to be the makeup expert in the show, but the execs loved my outfits for the three screen tests I did and told me I was to be the fashion stylist.  I didn’t want to in the beginning, but I said “PAY IT!!”

 

D: WE LOVE THE SHOW — WHAT’S UP WITH THE AMBULANCE?!  WHO’S IDEA WAS THAT?

NP: Aaaw, I’m so glad you watched!!  Well, ever since the pitch, VH1 mish-mashed everything around and the whole concept of the show changed.  At first, it was suppose to be the three of us riding in pink Vespa scooters, but only I had a drivers license.  That was scratched real quick, and then they told us it was gonna be an ambulance like the one in Ghostbusters!! (LAUGHS)  I kikkiiied DOWN!  It looked like a circus honey.  We were gonna look like clowns!!  As if it’s not enough that we’re T girls already but they wanted us in that clown mobile!  HA!  In the end, that didn’t work out (thank goodness), and it ended up being a regular ambulance because it’s a fashion EMERGENCY!

 

 

D: YOU GIRLS SEEMED TO REALLY MAKE IN IMPACT ON SOME OF THESE WOMEN — WAS THERE AN EPISODE THAT TOUCHED YOU / LEFT AN IMPRESSION?

NP: We made an impact on all the girls, especially on Tiffany.  She has such a wonderful soul but when she got burned by a grease fire that left her scarred, depression kicked in and she lost herself within. Thankfully we came in at the right moment to whip her back into shape.  That’s why I enjoyed doing this show!  Yes we get to dress up and kiki it up in different looks and different cities, but what really got me going was to see the positive transformation of these ladies, not just on the outside, but the uplifting change from within them.  As for Tiffany during the reveal, she was deeply appreciative and thankful for her metamorphosis, and the second I felt that from her, oh my goodness, it was waterfalls from me!

 

D: AND YOU’RE AN ACTRESS, TOO!  YOU WERE IN ‘FIGHTING’, THE 2009 FILM STARRING TERENCE HOWARD & CHANNING TATUM.  WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH THEM?

NP: I had a blast doing that movie.  At the time, I didn’t know who Channing Tatum was.  I was more thrilled at working with Terence Howard.  I would sit in the makeup chair next to Channing and I would look at him thinking, “Wow, this guy is good looking, but at the same time he looks familiar.”  Anyway, he kept to himself most of the time, and I felt like he was trying to stay in character.  When we started filming the fight scenes, I was impressed.  The guy knew what he was doing, acting-wise and fighting-wise.

 

D: AAAAAND SOME PEOPLE MIGHT ALSO RECOGNIZE YOUR GORGEOUS FACE FROM THE 2008 KENNETH COLE CAMPAIN, ‘WE ALL WALK IN DIFFERENT SHOES’.  HOW DID THAT IMPACT YOUR LIFE?

NP: When I got a call from Kenneth Cole asking me to do their campaign, I was iffy about coming out to the world, but said yes.  The reason why I did that was to open the gates for the trans community.  To let the world know that one does not have to be a model or an actress to represent a major brand.  It made an impact on me because this was actually a way for me to tell the world, “Yes, I am a transgender woman, and so what?!  I was outing myself in a positive light and format.  And I was the first trans-model to have a full page ad in Vogue, Vanity Fair, on the cover of WWD, as well as countless other magazines. Fan mail started to come in about how this campaign gave other girls courage to come out and to be comfortable with who they are and not feel ashamed.  I was uncertain towards the beginning, but after finding out how this affected so many trans women all over the world, I knew I made the right choice.

 

D: SO, ILLUSTRATOR, ACTRESS, MODEL, TV PERSONALITY…  WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO? 🙂

NP: Let’s just say I’m a maker of all things beautiful.  I love being creative and challenging myself to make something quite ordinary into something marvelous!  Whether it’s myself, an illustration, someone’s face I made up or a photo I’m retouching, I enjoy the process of transformation.  That’s why right now, I’m challenging myself again by doing photography.  Not to sound too obnoxious, but i’m quite good at it!  Again, It’s one of the mediums I enjoy most because not only do I get to thrust myself into beauty, I also get a to have fun with fashion too!  Awesome package right? So, when am I gonna be the photographer for a DIRTY assignment?!

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSING ON NOW?

NP: Well, I’m focusing on the photography thing, but I got a call the other day from Warner Bros. asking me to be in an upcoming blockbuster film.  I can’t say the title because I signed a confidentiality agreement.  All I can say is that it’s a sequel to a big hit movie!  You’ll be the first one to know once I wrap.
Also, I’m in a documentary coming out soon called ‘Being T’.   It follows 15 transgendered women struggling to realize their dreams in NYC. The executive producer of the film is Janet Jackson.  My husband Robert Jason is the co-director.  They’ve been filming me for five years now, and it’s going to be AMAZING. I can’t wait!!!

 

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D: WHAT / WHO INSPIRES YOU CREATIVELY?

NP: Wow, there are so many things and people that inspire me tremendously! Here’s a quick edit not in any particular order:

Steven Meisel
Helmut Newton
Thierry Perez
Pat McGrath
Chiho Aoshima
Ellen Von Unwerth
Mert and Marcus
Grace Jones
Richard Avedon
Steve Jobs
Thierry Mugler
Jean Paul Gaultier
Marina Bychkova
Danilo

and the list goes on…………….

 

D: WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

NP: As of right now, I just downloaded the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ movie soundtrack, with music by Neil Young.
Before that it was the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Harold Budd, This Mortal Coil and Selena to name a few.  Whenever I listen to something, I play it the fuck out and then I find something new or old, and get that process going again.  My music taste varies all the time.  I particularly enjoy listening to love songs.

 

D: NOW THAT YOU ARE A PUBLIC FIGURE, DO YOU HEAR FROM OTHER TRANSGENDER OR TRANSITIONING YOUTHS, COMING TO YOU WITH THEIR STORIES?

NP: Yes, all the time.  I have this one girl who is not out with her mother and hasn’t started hormone therapy but looks like a total woman.  She’s scared to tell her mom but doesn’t want to start on the mones till she does tell her.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I can give all the advise but people will change only if they want to.  And that goes for every aspect of life…. not just transgenders.

 

D: DO YOU DREAM DIFFERENTLY AT NIGHT AS GIRL THAN A BOY?

NP: I am the same person I was 35 years ago as I am today.  I didn’t have boy dreams or girl dreams. I just dream!

 

D: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH ROBERT?

NP: I’ve been with my husband, Robert Jason, for almost 8 years now.  No we’re not really married, but honey, if you’ve been with somebody for more than three years, in my book mama, you married!  Trust.

 

D: WHAT LANGUAGES DO YOU SPEAK?

NP: I’m so glad i’m bi-lingual.  I speak English of course, as well as Chinese (Cantonese).  I would love to learn to speak Spanish (I don’t know why I haven’t yet, because all my friends are hispanic!), French and Italian.

 

D: TELL US SOMETHING DIRTY IN CANTONESE!

NP: Oh my goodness.  Let’s see… diew lay!!  That’s the classic “fuck u!”  Or hum lunn!!  that means “suck cock!” Is that DIRTY enough?

 


 

Nina Poon Behind the Scenes with Marco Ovando for DIRTY. Video by Robert Jason.

 
POONWORLD.TUMBLR.COM
NINAPOON.COM
NINAPOONMAKEUP.COM
NINA ON IMDB
NINA ON FACBEOOK

 

 

 

 






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