You are currently viewing Nicole Halliwell
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

Nicole Halliwell

Hometown Queen Goes National

By Chris Lodge

Celebrating 17 years in the art of female impersonation, the comically outrageous, irresistibly irreverent, and unabashedly honest, Nicole Halliwell is known for headlining stages across South Florida. For almost a decade, she’s been conquering and reshaping the standards of Wilton’s Drag Scene, challenging the norms of “bar and club entertainment” with new and exciting concepts.

Slowly breaking out of the walls of “The Gayborhood”, Halliwell has effortlessly shape-shifted across the spectrum into uncharted territory for most Drag Entertainers; emceeing massive soirées for giants like Fetish Factory and W Hotels, at mega pop-culture conventions like SuperCon and Spooky Empire, on Reality TV, in print advertising, and appearing in Hard Rock’s “All is One” worldwide pride campaign, being splashed across their Times Square Marquee. All while maintaining her presence in the community with local charities and events, helping to raise funds for urgent LGBTQ+ causes.

The goal : Make it to the big leagues, without the help of Ms. ‘Paul and her competition TV show.

As of 2021, she is now responsible for the five largest commercial drag entertainment concepts in the state, filling thousands of seats every year in venues across Florida, keeping herself and her local drag sisters employed with her entertainment company, Nicole Halliwell & Co.

As she begins the next phase of her master plan, a national solo tour, we sat down with Nicole to learn more about her beginnings, her current projects and what’s next!

Chris Lodge: Thanks for taking the time to chat today! You’ve been a busy gal!

Nicole Halliwell: Yes! And I’m so grateful for that given the circumstances! The entertainment industry was hit the hardest during the pandemic and there were points in 2020 where I didn’t know what would become of the masses of drag entertainers here in South Florida, including me! Pre-pandemic, I was working 37+ shows a month and then everything screeched to a halt. I’m beyond happy to return to work and in better shape than before!

Nicole Halliwell
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: You kept the community entertained with tons of streaming content during lockdown – what inspired that?

NH: There was a moment in March 2020 where I turned “What do I do now?” into “How do I make the best of this?” So I created “Quarantine Queens” and used my social media skills to reach our loyal South Florida audience. It was a great way to keep the Queens connected to their fans and entertained at home. Talk shows, game shows, and late night political chats got us thousands of viewers and followers and I was able to keep myself and my sisters who participated, paid, thanks to all of the generosity of the incredible viewers and supporters we had!

CL: You’ve since moved on from streaming shows and ventured back out into the world again.

NH: While apprehensive and taking every precaution, it couldn’t come fast enough. In September 2020, once I had a better understanding of how things could work in tandem with CDC guidelines, I paired up with venues that had outdoor, socially distanced spaces. I built shows ensuring we followed all of the safety criteria, with much success. It was nice to entertain people in person again and cure a little bit of their lockdown blues while keeping them safe.

CL: We see that your “Hilariously Inappropriate Drag Queen Bingo” tour is back.  Tell us about that. 

NH: Getting paid to play with balls has its perks! I’ve worked hard to reinvent Drag Bingo into something new and unexpected. I love when audiences tell me they’ve never been to anything like this. There’s no lip-sync performances and none of the gimmicks that typically are synonymous with it. Just two hours of pure naughty, outrageous shenanigans. I spent the entire pandemic writing and developing a show full of comedy, stories, and segues into games that keeps them laughing ‘till their face hurts.

I have 9 locations I tour every month from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa with the phenomenal DJ Joshua Atom, and over 120 consecutive sold out shows since September 2020! I’m proud to be South Florida’s #1 Drag Queen bingo since 2017 and I don’t plan on letting go of that title any time soon. Readers can see tour dates and get tickets at www.DragBingoFla.com!

Nicole Halliwell
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: What sets your show apart from the typical “Drag Bingo?”

NH: It’s so wildly unpredictable, pushing the limits on what I can get away with. All the “PC” culture gets thrown out the window. Nothing and no one is safe. I truly roast everyone and everything and touch on topics that give people table-slapping belly laughs. Vaginas, dating, gays vs. lesbians, Hallmark Movies, bodily functions, you name it. It’s all over the place. It’s truly a rewarding experience to put my thought process and wacky ideas on display for a room full of strangers and see them find humor and relevancy in it. The best review I’ve heard is “raunchy, ridiculous, fun”  – and that’s truly what it is!

CL: Now you’re expanding it beyond Florida?

NH: Yep! I’ve run test shows in Raleigh, NC and St. Louis, MO, selling out dates through the New Year in a flash. With the help of my amazing friends at Tin Roof. I’ll be on the road with my first national solo tour, with stops at their locations in California, Tennessee, and Maryland just to name a few. Other venues have shown interest including Las Vegas, Dallas, and New York City. By March 2022, I hope to be operating monthly in all of those states, plus more!

Nicole Halliwell
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: We see that your theater shows have returned as well. 

NH: It was the first thing on my agenda as theaters reopened! It’s simply magical to see our local girls shine on the big stage! It’s an incredible feeling to walk out in front of a massive audience with roaring applause. For most Queens, it’s what we dreamed of! I run three wonderful shows, each with it’s own cast of insanely talented performers from all walks of life. 

CL: Can you tell us about a couple?

NH: Sure, let’s start with Queenz – The Drag Experience! A two-hour non-stop party with the Top 10 Drag Entertainers from Miami to Palm Beach all sharing one stage. There’s nothing like it anywhere. The girls from Drag Race are fun, but South Florida has its own unique breed of absolutely phenomenal entertainers, and I have them all in one place. Fans rave about its Las Vegas feel, as it’s more interactive and immersive than normal drag shows. And best of all, it’s indoors! See the next show December 17, 2021, at Lake Park Black Box at The Kelsey Theater West Palm Beach Florida. Visit www.QueenzDragShow.com for tickets!

ICONS celebrates the magic of Celebrity Illusion, putting the skills of South Florida’s trailblazing drag entertainers like Erika Norell, Joanna James, and Champagne Bordeaux on display to mesmerized audiences. It’s incredible what these ladies can do, transforming into the likes of Liza Minelli, Barbra Streisand, and Whitney Houston, with illusions so good the audience gasps at just the sight of them. We’ve got all the greats ready to entertain you! Superstars like Cher, Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, and more! See the next show December 9, 2021 at Mizner Park Cultural Center in Boca Raton, FL. Visit www.IconsDragShow.com for tickets!

CL: What started your journey into drag?

NH: A Halloween costume and good timing! I dressed up as my idol, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, for work thanks to the help of a makeup artist friend, and I got scouted by a club owner during my shift. He asked me to appear at his venue later that evening, and after it was all over he handed me an envelope of money on my way out the door. I thought to myself, “
I could get used to this!” And the rest is history!

Nicole as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
Nicole as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark | Photo Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: Has the real Elvira ever seen your tribute to her?

NH: Yes! I’ve spent time chatting with her at conventions and handed her a few 8×10 [photos], and she was impressed, even showing it to her management team. The first time she truly thought it was her in the photo, which was a mind blowing milestone for me. With any illusion, I spend a lot of time on the details, like replicating jewelry, the way the costume fits, mannerisms and poses. It’s a stressful gig, especially when die-hard fans see you. They’ll really pick you apart! Being acknowledged and validated by the person you’re playing really was a once in a lifetime experience. I’ve always considered her my “Drag Mom.”

CL: We know you have a few other illusions besides Elvira.

NH: Yes, a few that I truly pour my heart and soul into, like Bette Midler. It’s truly a joy to see the reaction on peoples faces when I enter the stage. My intention as an illusionist is to embody the character I’m portraying so deeply that the audience gasps when they first see me. I spent a lifetime learning Bette’s mannerisms, expressions and behaviors. Besides The Divine Miss M, I play her Halloween alter-ego Winifred Sanderson, as well as several other classic comediennes like Ernestine Tomlin, Totie Fields, and Gilda Radner’s SNL persona Roseanne Rosannadanna! Give me a challenge, I can be just about anyone!

CL: So, where did “Nicole” come from?

NH: A dumpster on Sistrunk! Just kidding.  I ended up working for several years as an Elvira impersonator until I realized that I wanted to do this more than just one month a year, so I created Nicole and started learning how to do my own makeup. She was rough for a while, but I figured it out! Nicole’s personality is a mix of the characters I grew up on:  she’s bold and naughty like Elvira, brassy and outrageous like Bette, and dry and salty, like me!

CL: And the name?

NH: I knew in my head that somewhere in the future I wanted to work commercially with drag, so I didn’t want a name that would be too comical or wacky. I sourced names from my one true love, female pop groups! I pulled from my favorites; Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of The Pussycat Dolls, and Geri Halliwell, my favorite Spice Girl and got Nicole Halliwell!

Nicole Halliwell
Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: What is your earliest memory of drag?

NH: My earliest memory is Mrs. Doubtfire! I loved playing characters as a kid, and seeing a transformation like that was incredible to me. I spent a lot of time dressing up in my mom’s clothes after that, trying to create new personas, much to my parents dismay. After that it was The Birdcage, Too Wong Foo, and seeing RuPaul in the 90s on national TV shows like Arsenio Hall. Even The Spice Girls had drag queens in their music videos and movies. They were just everywhere. It wasn’t too long after that I stumbled upon celebrity illusionists like the legendary Jim Bailey who truly showed me what an artform it can be in the right hands. Growing up I couldn’t wait for Halloween!

CL: Were you a theater kid?

NH: Nope! In fact, I was the farthest thing from it. I was a loner and an only child, so I never truly fit in with any of those groups. I wanted to entertain, but I was too ‘weird’ to fit in with the “theater kids.” My mission from then on became ‘If I can’t be cast in your show, I’ll just make my own!’ And I did!

CL: Where did the entertainment bug come from?

NH: My Father! No, he’s not a Drag Queen! I’ve always wanted to be a “superstar!” I remember singing and dancing along to Madonna songs at an early age, wanting to be her, and imagining myself in front of an arena full of people. I got a taste of that in reality watching my dad on stage. A wildly successful entertainer, singer, and stand-up comedian for more than 40 years, he traveled the country with his musical variety show to outstanding reviews. He was sharing venues with superstars like Diana Ross, and even appearing on television and releasing a hit record in his youth. My dad’s perseverance, determination, and meticulous professionalism made him a success, and kept him in high demand for decades.

I learned how to command an audience, roll with the punches, and have sharp comedic timing thanks to him, as well as self-management and promotion. I am proudly following in his footsteps, albeit, in a pair of pumps! Most unexpectedly, given my career choice, he is as proud of me and my accomplishments as I am of him. He taught me how to build, market and sustain myself and I will always have him to thank for instilling the strength in me to overcome anything. I love you, Dad!

Nicole Halliwell
Courtesy of Nicole Halliwell & Co.

CL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

NH: My eventual goal is stand up comedy, and then TV. I’ve felt my whole life that I’m destined for a sitcom, or an acting role in drag. There aren’t enough of them and I truly believe I have what it takes to build a character that would coexist comically in the standard sitcom world. I got a taste of television being on TLC’s I am Jazz, and a few others – so it really lit a fire under me. Who knows!

CL: Any advice to baby Drag Queens?

NH: A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into being a Drag Queen. It looks like a lot of fun on TV, and it can be in the right situations! But above all, it’s a business with a lot of moving parts. At first, you’ll spend lots and lots of money on costumes, wigs, shoes, and supplies without making enough back, and you may have to hustle for years before you can earn a spot, somewhere, that will make you feel accomplished and truly cover your bills. You’ll face a lot of discrimination from hypocritical people, and you’ll even have friends, or family, who will react as if you have two heads when you tell them what you do.

But if you put your all into it and truly commit to making yourself visible and professional, you can do this and live a sustainable and happy life. Spending years in retail, I couldn’t have ever imagined being self-employed and wearing women’s clothes to make a living. But here I am! I consider this the best job in the world, and nothing tops the enjoyment I get from entertaining an audience, especially making people laugh. And if you screw up, that’s cool too. A couple of makeup wipes and nobody will even recognize you as you run for the door!

You can learn more about Nicole, her shows, and her history at her official website:   www.NicoleHalliwell.com.