dishin' it

Jaremi Carey dishes on Pokémon gays, drag vs. cosplay, and why you should watch your nuts around him

Most of the world first met Jaremi Carey through his drag persona, Phi Phi O’Hara.

A finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 who later returned on the Drag Race All Stars 2 (still a top-tier season), Phi Phi found herself painted as one of the franchise’s “villains,” a role the sweet and sensitive Carey was reluctant to play—and has since spoken about at length.

The gag is, Carey is Phi Phi no longer—he goes by “Just Jaremi” on his social channels, including Twitch where he has thousands of followers—but these days he doesn’t really mind being painted as the villain, or the hero, or anything in between… so long as he’s the one doing the painting.

That’s because, in the years since Drag Race, Carey’s carved out his own path, one that includes gay-ming, original music, makeup, and cosplay—which is essentially another form of drag, if you think about it. (Don’t worry, we’ll get into it.)

Thriving and Twitch-ing on a regular basis, we caught up with Carey between livestreams to feature him as the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our conversation, the artist and performer tells us all about what he sees as the similarities (and differences) between drag and cosplay, the seasonal staple he’s surprisingly a collector of, and how The X-Men helped him embrace his own queerness.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, video game, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important role in your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

Hands down, X-Men played a HUGE part in my journey, not only as a queer kid, but coming from a home of abuse and a toxic environment. I remember as a kid constantly wishing I had a super power just so I could leave my home and go to Professor X’s “special school.” X-Men showed me that, in a world where being queer was looked at as being weird, scary, and shameful, it would later just prove that now being different was my superpower and my strength! Embrace it!

Most of the world met you through your drag and Drag Race in particular, but you now do a lot of makeup and cosplay work and have even hosted a cosplay competition on Twitch, cosSLAY. Do you consider cosplay a form of drag? What can drag performers learn from the cosplay community?

There has been a constant discourse if drag is cosplay and is cosplay…drag? The way I have looked at it personally for years is they are essentially the same thing. We get to play dress up and bring a fictional character to life. I do think it is important to recognize that drag for many is an art form that helps people identify who oneself is, while cosplay, we already know the identity of said character, so we now get to be creative and choose how to bring that character to life.

Who’s a fictional character from a video game you had a crush on at a younger age (or maybe still do!)? What do you remember loving about them?

I legit can’t think of a video game character I crushed on. I played a lot of Kirby and Megaman, but it was never me looking at the character as attractive. I just wanted to beat the round, haha! I would say the first character that really made me question myself was watching the Green and Pink Power Rangers! I remember the iconic moment when they both kissed and thinking to myself why do I find both Kimberly and Tommy so attractive? It was the first moment I could see a male character in that light.

You’re working on a YouTube series all about fandoms called “The Fan Effect.” What’s something you’re a super-fan of that people might be surprised by?

“The Fan Effect” has been a long process and is currently delayed, but we are hoping to push it out soon! That being said, not a lot of people know this, but I collect nutcrackers… literally I have soooooo many nutcrackers and my closest friends gift me every year so the collection keeps growing! I only pull them out during the holidays though, so don’t worry… you won’t come over and see them eyeing you down haha.

If you could live in (or, perhaps, just visit for a day) one video game world, where would you choose and why?

This is quite funny because my friend and I were JUST talking about this! I said I would go one of two routes. I am a Pokémon fan through and through, covered in tattoos, too! To be able to battle and have my own Pokémon farm…. sigh… goals! However, I wouldn’t mind living in a Tim Burton world—ironically covered in Burton tattoos as well.

Where’s one of the first places/spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community?

Chicago! I was born and raised in Texas, brought up in a super conservative and religious household. On the weekends we went fishing and to church with baseball games throughout the week. When I hit 22 I moved to Chicago and it was the first time I felt I could be myself. I saw queer people holding hands, being celebrated. I could roam and not worry about being called a slur. It was a fantastic experience for me personally.

Have you held onto any keepsakes from your time on Drag Race—a specific garment you wore, something from the Werk Room, etc…— why is it sentimental to you? If not, is there something you wish you would’ve held onto?

I have my final four outfit from Season 4 as it meant a lot to me to get to that position. I worked really hard when no one believed in me and I had NOTHING literally NOTHING to wear, so I took some scraps back to my hotel room and sewed my final look by hand so I could proudly walk the top 3 runway.

I still have my Riddler entrance outfit and the RuPaul statue from All Stars when I was eliminated. Many people thought I sold it because they couldn’t understand a joke on TV. The rest of the items I either threw away or sold for charity.

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

One of the best things about streaming and content creating are the relationships that blossom. Through playing Dead By Daylight on a mutual’s stream one night, I met Arielle Twist, who if you’re ever on my channel, her handle is “Juicy.” She is a beautiful person, an indigenous trans woman from Canada who is an author and artist. It has been really cool to see the success they have received in just the time I’ve known them let alone all they have accomplished prior to me. They are funny, humble, intelligent and caring and I love them to pieces. I wish nothing but success for them and hope if you ever see her name you are able to attend one of her incredible shows!

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