Jinkx Monsoon is the definition of the talented drag queen. Winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5, Jinkx know how to serve realness. And she knows it well. Performer, entertainer, comedian, actress and above all, queen! YASS Magazine met Jinkx during her perfomances in London in Soho Theatre and here is the exclusive interview!
Jinx is the alter ego of Jerick Hoffer, who graduated with a degree in theatrical performance from Cornish College in Seattle. With twelve years’ experience on stage, Hoffer is a seasoned Portland-born entertainer who has captured the attention of his native northwest region.
As early as 2006, Jinkx appeared as the lead dancer in the world’s largest drag queen chorus line, which made the Guinness Book of World Records. By 2012, she had advanced to roles in Seattle theatres, playing Moritz in Spring Awakening (produced by Balagan Theatre), Angel in Rent and Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray (both produced by The 5th Avenue Theatre). In 2016, Jinkx played Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (produced by Balagan Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group). As well as the latest album, The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx also released an album in 2014 called The Inevitable Album, which included the hugely popular singles Coffee and Wine, The Bacon Shake and Jinkx’s version of Radio Head’s Creep. On screen, Jinkx has appeared in an episode of Blue Bloods and joined the cast of Wes Hurley’s hit comedy series Capitol Hill. Following the success of the cult YouTube series, Drag Becomes Him, Jinkx successfully raised enough funds via Kickstarter to turn the series into a feature length movie of the same name which was released in 2015. Jerick Hoffer has managed all of this while suffering from narcolepsy, which was revealed during his appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Following last year’s total sell-out tour of The Vaudevillians which was performed in countries around the world, RuPaul’s Drag Race winner of Season Five Jinkx Monsoon and lyrical genius Major Scales return to showcase new music from their latest album The Ginger Snapped… however Jinkx worries that her best years are behind her. In order to avoid a breakdown of diva proportions Major must act as both pianist and therapist to the Manic Miss Monsoon. Music and mental health collide in this witty, biting look at the dark side of Drag fame.
What can audiences expect from the new show?
It’s like Jinkx Monsoon going to see a therapist live on stage for your entertainment, but on a serious note we discuss issues relating to mental health and wellness – but it’s all personal. It’s not me making statements about mental health, it’s me sharing my own experiences. It’s probably more personal than any show I’ve written before and it’s very honest and upfront about the darker side of drag and celebrity.
Can you elaborate on that darker side?
The dark side is becoming a celebrity overnight. I have to imagine on a slow rise at least things would make more sense to you. Also the dark side is being a reality TV celebrity because you’re a character and a persona you’ve created but you’re also yourself and people know you for you. Being a celebrity in the social media is its own monster altogether, you know? Everyone wants to see into your life at all times and you share parts of yourself thinking that’s what people want, then you realise you’ve given of yourself so much that you’ve got nothing left for you.
What makes Ginger Snapped unique amongst drag shows?
It’s more of a cabaret showing starring a drag queen. The music that Major Scales and I write is not drag music, it’s real rock music that we’ve collaborated on together and I’ve then written a show to showcase it. The main point of the show is to showcase the music and [laughs] I just happen to also bear my soul.
Can you tell us a little more about the style of music?
We do three covers in the show and the rest is original music composed by Major Scales and myself. We were heavily drawing inspiration from 90s grunge and the music we grew up with, having both been born in the late 80s, so there’s a lot of No Doubt, a lot of Garbage and Portishead as influences and, of course, there’s always the B-52’s in there somewhere. The B-52’s are always part of our process.
You’ve got Major Scales acting as both accompaniest and therapist… How does that dynamic play across the show?
I literally say that I pay him enough to be there that he can handle two jobs. He starts out as the pianist, then he becomes my therapist and he serves as both throughout the rest of the show. He asks ‘Why would I be your therapist when I’m not trained to do this?’ and I answer ‘I’ve paid you enough to be here, the least you can do is psychoanalyse me’.
What topics will Jinkx be addressing in the show?
The main topics Jinkx addresses are her own ego, her insecurities and the nature of drag as a competitive art form which requires you to be your best at all times whilst also constantly trying to be better than everyone else. It’s issues that are specific to me but which are also kind of universal for people in my demographic within the queer community. I think most queer people in their early 30s, living in the time that we’re living in right now, are probably sharing a lot of the same experiences.
Mental health is a hot topic at the moment. Can you elaborate on how it is addressed in the show?
The way we address it in the show is just me being open and honest about the things I deal with. It’s just about being able to talk about it, which is a big first step. It was the 1950s, I think, in both the UK and America where there was this idea that you’re supposed to bury everything that’s not pleasant. You’re only supposed to show people the pleasant, curated experience but life is mostly unpleasant and to deny that is to put yourself at a disadvantage.
Is there a line you draw when it comes to comedy?
What I’m trying to do now with my comedy is that I don’t want to be someone adding to the problems in the world. While I think everything can be funny in the right context, I won’t do racially-charged humour and I won’t do misogynistic humour. I’ve mad body-size jokes, mostly about myself, but I’m trying not to do that anymore because I don’t want to participate in things I don’t want to see in the world anymore.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about drag artists?
I think a lot of people assume you get into make-up, you get on stage and that’s all there is to it. First of all, the make-up process takes hours; for any good drag queen it’s gonna take hours to do the transformation. Then it’s not just putting on the make-up and performing, it’s stepping into a second skin and into a second life. It’s like having two brains at once because you’re thinking as yourself as the artist and also as the persona you’ve created so you’re kind of splitting your attention at all times.
What’s been your darkest drag moment?
It’s funny because it was one of the best nights ever but also one of the hardest, and that’s when I crowned my successor on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m sure anyone who has won a title can agree that it’s exciting because you get to be the one to put the crown on someone else’s head and share that experience and of course my successor is an incredibly talented person – I mean, Bianca Del has basically taken over the world – but it’s also hard. Then again, if you experience being on top you also have to experience the plummet from it. That’s the double-edged sword of being a winner, I guess.
And what’s been your happiest drag moment?
There have been many people I never even dreamed that I’d meet and now not only have I met them, I’ve gotten to work with them. I think my happiest moment was when Amanda Palmer agreed to duet with me on my current album because she has constantly been a source of inspiration for me, not just as a musician but also as an artist. Her friendship and her agreeing to collaborate with me are probably the biggest coups of my career so far.
Do people recognise you when you’re not in full Jinkx drag?
More typically they do in drag bars and gay bars. The biggest thing I gave up by doing Drag Race was my anonymity. I used to be able to be Jinkx then take off the costume, the make-up and the wig and no-one would recognise me. Now I’m Jinkx full-time and I’m totally happy with that. I’m totally content with the fact Jinkx and Jerick have morphed into one fusion, but I do miss the anonymity.
How does it feel to have been embraced by the great British public?
It feels right. It feels like this is where I’m meant to be. My UK audience treats me like I won yesterday. It’s not like it’s been five years since I was on Drag Race, it’s like it happened yesterday.
What are you most looking forward to about taking the show around the country?
Showcasing the music that Major and I have created together. Major is an amazing composer and lyricist and I’m most excited to showcase the new music. Also, I find writing my own work where I’m honest and upfront and where it feels almost candid, even though it’s on stage in front of everyone, is really rewarding – sharing my own experiences and having people tell me it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?
Throat Coat. It’s a miracle tea that I drink bucketloads of to keep my voice in good working order.
Do you have any dressing room diva demands?
No, all I need is loads of sugar-free Red Bull, a kettle to make my tea and paper towels. People don’t realise this but drag queens need paper towels constantly.
If you could have anyone on the guest list to come see your show who would it be and why?
Bette Midler. I don’t think I’d be a drag queen if she wasn’t a drag queen. I think her’s is the best drag in the world. I’ve never met her but I really someday I will.
What’s the first thing you do when you come off stage?
I have a shot of vodka. A big shot or a little shot? [Laughs] It depends on how the show went.
You describe yourself as “the hardest working woman in show business” so how do you kick back?
I smoke some weed and play video games. That’s what I mostly do to relax.
*all images are courtesy of Jinkx Monsoon
Major Scales is the evil twin of Richard Andriessen, a musician, writer and performer based in Seattle. He has written everything from award-winning New York shows on the east coast to music for amateur adult films on the west.
Soho Theatre is London’s most vibrant venue for new theatre, comedy and cabaret. As entrepreneurial as it is innovative, over the last five years under the joint leadership of Soho’s Artistic Director Steve Marmion and Executive Director Mark Godfrey, the charity and social enterprise has almost trebled audiences, opened a new venue and produced more work than ever before. The vision for 2015-2018 is to ambitiously expand beyond Dean Street with an additional larger new venue, a digital and TV presence, and a national and international touring programme.