Five minutes with Jinkx Monsoon - before the Scarborough show
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales bring their drag show to the Stephen Joseph Theatre. We chat to them ahead of the event.
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’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 hope 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.
The tour calls at Scarborough. Does it have any significance for you?
I think I went there with the last show but it was such a whirlwind tour I couldn’t say for sure! I have heard of Scarborough Fair - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme - but I haven’t been to it, if indeed it’s still there.