Austin drag performer returns to stage 6 months after nearly losing life to COVID-19

KXAN Live

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A renowned drag performer in Austin will make her comeback to the stage six months after nearly losing her life to COVID-19.

Nadine Hughes, known as The Brows of Texas for her beautifully exaggerated makeup, will delight fans again this weekend for her first performances since she survived a dangerously severe case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Her infection led her to spend more than two months in a local hospital — half of that time in a medically-induced coma.

“I never thought I’d get back to this moment,” Hughes said. “I was very scared that I wouldn’t be able to [perform], and the fact that it’s happening already is just so overwhelming.”

(Photo/Nadine Hughes)

Hughes’ hospitalization initially happened in December last year. At that time, Austin-Travis County entered into its highest risk level, and hospitals grew concerned they’d run out of space to treat all the COVID-19 patients. She wouldn’t leave the hospital until Feb. 26, and then finally returned home after spending eight days in a rehabilitation facility.

During her time in the coma, she noted she missed celebrating Christmas, ringing in the new year and seeing the inauguration of a new president. However, her mother as well as her roommate made sure she still experienced some of the holiday joy.

“They left everything up for Christmas, so that way we could celebrate Christmas when I got home,” Hughes explained. “Everything was as if I had just left it, and it was the most amazing feeling in the world. Something so small helped so much.”

Hughes will perform Friday night at Doc’s Drive In Theatre, located at 1540 Satterwhite Road in Buda. The event, which starts at about 9 p.m., has been billed “The Return of Queen Nadine.”

In a Facebook post, Hughes wrote she’ll also appear Sunday for a drag brunch at TRACE Austin, which is in The W hotel.

“I still have a road ahead of me to get back to 100%,” the social media post stated, “but I’m so ready to be doing what I Love!!!”

The show she’s looking forward to most, though, will happen June 16 at Rain on Fourth, her home bar. What she’s struggling with most about that performance is choosing the right song to match this big moment.

“My brain has been going crazy, because I don’t know what song will be the appropriate song. I’ve been searching and searching,” Hughes said. “I want to thank my community, and I want to show them I did this and show them that all the prayers and everything they’ve done was worth it. I’m just very grateful, so I just want to make sure it’s the right choice.”

(Photo/Nadine Hughes)

Hughes’ fans are clamoring to see her back on the stage, especially after many of them donated money to help cover the mounting medical expenses. Hughes’ mother, Melody Cass, started an online fundraiser not long after her initial hospitalization. To date, it’s brought in more than $23,000.

Hughes said that money helped her afford rehabilitation, physical therapy and medication.

“It’s just so wonderful that I didn’t have to have that stress, or my mom to have that stress,” she said.

Hughes is still striving to fully recover from the complications caused by her COVID-19 diagnosis. She is currently working with a physical therapist to regain mobility in her left shoulder, and she’s seeking additional help since her tongue remains partially numb.

Through all the setbacks, Hughes told KXAN she’s grateful to feel well enough now to return to the spotlight, which has sorely missed her basking in its glow.

When asked what she’s looking forward to most about performing again, Hughes got emotional when she explained it would be “seeing the faces of the people that I love and hearing my favorite sound in the entire world: a live applause.”

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