Water off a ducks back! Almost two years ago, Seattle drag queen Jinkx Monsoon won RuPaul‘s Drag Race Season 5 and has gone on to become one of the most popular queens from the entire series. After releasing a full album, ‘The Inevitable Album,’ last year, Jinkx is just about to release her next big project, a full-length documentary called ‘Drag Becomes Him.’
In this fun new interview, Jinkx spills all the T on the new film, including when and where it will be released. In our hour-long conversation, we also spoke about what it’s like traveling around the country on a tour bus with seven drag queens, how Drag Race is propelling drag queens into overnight celebrities and all her big plans for the future.
The following interview transcription is an abridged version of our conversation that I edited at 3am (so pardon any mistakes you find). If you’d like to hear the full conversation, you can listen to or download the full podcast using the Soundcloud widget above. Enjoy!
Tim: Hi Jinkx, how are you doing?
Jinkx: I’m doing alright. I’m just on a tour bus with six other RuPaul’s Drag Race girls and Michelle Visage who’s clackin’ away on her computer with her acrilic nails.
What’s that like – traveling across the country with a bunch of drag queens?
It’s actually a lot of fun. It’s kind of like having a slumber party on the road because we have this living room area, a giant TV and tons of DVDs – but only the DVDs that we can find at truck stops. So they’re like $5, low-budget, second-run movies or movies from years ago or movies that just didn’t do well when they were out in theaters, like ‘Identity Thief’ – poor Melissa McCarthy.
Gotcha! Whenever you said truck stop movies I was thinking a whole different kind of movie.
Oh no! Nothing dirty. We save that for our individual bunks on the bed.
I know you are headed to the UK after this and then to one of your favorite cities, Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities!
I did a little research on you, don’t worry! Haha! How are you going to be traveling around once you get there?
When we get there we’re going to go back to the traditional mode of transportation for Drag Race girls, which is airplanes, which I actually can’t stand. I can’t stand going to the airport early in the morning and looking at all those judgmental eyes. We’ve all got our cracked faces and our mascara running down our faces from the night before. I’ve never experienced a place so genderphobic as airports. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re in, or where you’re traveling to, or where you’re coming from, airports are the most genderphobic place on the planet.
I wonder why that is?
I don’t know. I think it’s because you get people from all around and people from different parts of the world with different customs. Even just traveling around in America.
I was in an airport in Atlanta and walking around in what I normally where, which is my leggings, an over-sized sweater and my hair up in a ratty bun and this guy once spit out his Jamba Juice at the sight of me. He was literally walking down the corridor and saw me and spit out a mouthful of his Jamba Juice. I just thought, “This guy needs to get out more!” If this is gag-worthy for him, he needs to experience life a little bit more.
It gives a whole different meaning to “literally gagging over the way you look!”
Yeah, and I wasn’t even wearing anything sickening! Haha!
I don’t know, I actually went back and I watched an old documentary of yours called ‘Art Star’ and you looked really good in that heavy black fur coat, or faux fur, I don’t know.
Well the whole thing is faux – it’s a mocumentary. We were trying to go for something in the style of Christopher Guess, so nothing I say in that is that short is true or factual. Haha!
Expect for the fact that you’re from Portland, Oregon, right?
Oh, well, there’s that, haha!
I’m working pretty closely with Wes Hurley and the ‘Capitol Hill’ web series. I’m curious, seeing as they really dig at Portland in that show and say it’s like the hole of the earth basically, how do you feel being a part of season 2 coming up soon?
Well, first of all, I love working with Wes Hurley and I love all of his movies that I’ve seen. He’s just a really creative individual and the scripts that he writes are just so insane that I couldn’t help but beg to be a part of season 2. The whole joke about Portland being the hole of the universe is because Seattle and Portland are very very much alike but they both think they’re the better city. Portland thinks it’s the better city because it’s more authentic and the art scene there is kind of unpainted by the yuppies moving in and trying to take over the neighborhood. Then up in Seattle it’s more a bigger, better known city and, even though it’s a little bit less authentic, there’s a lot more to go around Seattle. It’s bigger, it’s got more people and it’s got more places to perform and more places to create art, so most people think they’re the shit. But they’re both just kind of equally shitty.
I want to talk to you a little bit about your upcoming documentary, because I know everybody’s really excited for this. Prior to being on Drag Race, you had a short documentary-style video of the same name – ‘Drag Becomes Him’ – that has since either been hidden or taken down, so can you talk a little bit about the full length documentary and what inspired you to create it?
Yeah! The whole project started about a year and a half before I even auditioned and got cast on Drag Race, so when we started working on the documentary I had no idea that I’d ever even audition for Drag Race – it wasn’t even on my horizon.
Where we started the project, I had been doing drag for about nine years at that point but I still felt like Drag Race was a long way away for me because I know it’s the most intense drag competition in America. It’s kind of surpasses all the pageants and stuff and it requires competitors to do a lot of different things and compete in a lot of different areas.
I was a very stubborn art house drag queen and I was really into doing characters, but all my characters were kind of insane and didn’t possess that drag jenesequa, you know? That over-the-top fabulousness that we kind of expect from drag queens – even insane drag queens, you know?
I was just working in piano bars, singing songs and stuff. I was in this show called Bacon Strip by Sylvia O’stayformore and what she would do is have a different theme every month. We would all create off-the-wall, off-kilter drag numbers in this theme. After a year of doing that and after a year of working at the showgirls show, La Faux, in Seattle – which is a celebrity impersonation show – that’s where I learned a little bit more about taking drag to that fabulous level I was talking about.
After about three years in Seattle, I finally started to feel ready for auditioning for Drag Race. I auditioned and got on that year, all for the first time.
After Drag Race, Alex Berry decided to pick up the documentary project that we had done a year and a half ago and started filming new segments and kind of watching me experience the overnight celebrity that Drag Race was giving me. So you get to see me a year and a half before I auditioned for Drag Race, then he films me right after coming back from filming Drag Race once the announcement had been made that I was on Drag Race, and then a couple months later right before the winner was announced, and then right after winning.
We had in total about five shorts. And the shorts got so much attention and so much positive feedback that we thought it might be interesting to create a full-length feature film out of it. We were approached by Basil Shadid, who is a producer in Seattle, and we did our Kickstarter and met our goal and then some. Then we were able to really produce a full-length documentary.
We took the YouTube videos down because we’re using bits and pieces of that, but we also filmed a lot of new footage and explored a lot of the themes that I talk about in ‘Drag Becomes Him.’ We also did a lot of interviews with other drag queens and my family members and my collaborators and my friends and stuff, too, to really make it a full investigation of not only the art form of drag, but what RuPaul’s Drag Race did to my career.
It’s specifically my story, but it’s kind of a universal story about drag queens going from being a local celebrity to being a world-wide celebrity kind of overnight, which is a new phenomenon that Drag Race has kind of given to drag queens, you know? If you get that golden ticket and you go on, even if you go home first, you’re one of the 14 drag queens that year who everyone is gonna know your name.
It’s a really, really interesting phenomenon because before – to become a nationally known drag queen – you had to work for years and years and years and really hone your craft, and now you’re kind of doing it all of a sudden and can just get on TV, you know? Haha!
Have you already finished filming the documentary?
For the most part, yeah. We’re still going back and filming a bit of b-roll.
I’ve only seen the rough cut of it, so I don’t know what will be in the final product, but my favorite moments are the moments with my family.
It’s very interesting because the filmmaker, Alex Berry, interviewed members of my family without me there, so they didn’t feel pressured to say anything they thought I wanted to hear or to say anything for my benefit. I’ve gotten, through this project, to hear what my family thinks about my drag career in a way that I never have before. They’re speaking very candidly and openly about my drag career and I get to hear their opinions for the first time. My family’s been very supportive and nobody in my family has stood in the way of my drag career, but it’s so interesting to hear my dad talk about me being a drag queen when he and I have never really had that conversation. We’ve never discussed me being a drag queen. It was like this unspoken topic, you know? Haha!
After watching him speak about you, did you end up going back and talking to him about it?
What I did is I talked to him and told him that his segment meant a lot to me and it was really moving for me to finally have my dad acknowledge my drag career and my lifestyle in a way that he never has before and see that he has pride in it and the fact that he really enjoys that fact that I’m getting to do what I set out to do with my life. It’s weird for a boy to talk to his dad about dressing like a woman, you know! Haha!
I know a lot of people with dads who really love their drag careers. My dad doesn’t hate mine or anything, it’s just never what we talk about – we talk about anything but basically! My dad and I lean our conversation more toward weed and video games, and it works for us. I know that deep down he loves and celebrates my life decisions and who I am as a person – even though we don’t talk about it all the time, that’s really rewarding.
When is the documentary going to be released, or is there even a set date already?
Oh yeah! It’s debuting in Seattle at Cinerama on April 29th. Then what will happen, after it debuts in Seattle, is that we will submit it to festivals – we’re submitting it to the Sundance Festival and to queer movie festivals – just as many independent film festivals as we can and see if it gets picked up in any festivals. Then, after the festival circuit, we will tour with it and, just like one of my cabaret shows, I will tour to cities that want to produce an evening viewing the film. I will do a Q&A with the filmmaker, Alex Berry, and we’ll hopefully tour the country with the film so it can be seen by anyone who wants to come see it. Then after that it’ll be available for purchase.
It’s coming out in April, and there will be different ways to see it for awhile – hopefully it will be abundant, hopefully we’ll find abundant ways to get it out there to all the people, especially to all the people who contributed to the Kickstarter. It might be awhile before it will be able to be released on DVD, we’re just waiting to see how it goes at the festival circuit and stuff.
Drag Race gave me people who wanted to see more of ‘Drag Becomes Him’ enough that we were able to raise over $26,000 to produce this film. That’s so surreal and amazing, but I feel so lucky to have been a part of this whole experience and to be a part of this generation of drag.
Connect With & Learn More About Jinkx Monsoon and ‘Drag Becomes Him
- Jinkx on Facebook
- Jinkx on Instagram
- Jinkx on Twitter
- Jinkx on YouTube
Jinkx is such a sweetheart and I had such an amazing time talking with her about the amazing world of drag! She is so well-spoken and is so humbled, even still, by the opportunities that Drag Race has given her. Listen to the full hour-long podcast on Soundcloud (downloads are available) to hear our full conversation, where we talk about the popularity of American drag around the world, her upcoming tour plans, plans for her sophomore, No Doubt-inspired album and so, so much more!