Interview | Jinkx Monsoon talks all things drag as new stage show comes to the UK

2016-03-31
Jinkx Monsoon has found a gap in one hell of a hectic schedule to give us an insight into exactly what we can expect from the London premiere of stage show The Vaudevillians; what it’s been like working with musical partner, co-star and friend, Major Scales, and to talk about the Evolution of Drag. “I’m painting on eyebrows right now.” Sprinkled with infectious giggles (hmhmh!) and an undeniable charm, Jinkx gives Attitude's Georgios Hadjimichael insight into how life has changed winning RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5, how society’s views about the importance of the genitalia between our legs is changing, and whether the water even gets close to the duck’s back any more... What is The Vaudevillians about? The Vaudevillians is a show that I created with my music partner, Major Scales. And it is about two vaudeville stars from the 1920s who were frozen alive in a freak accident, have recently thawed out, and have returned to the stage only to find out that all of their music has been ripped off by pop stars for the last century, because they were unable to get any copyrights. So they do the original versions of some of your favourite pop songs, as they were written in the 1920s. That’s it in a nutshell! What’s your favourite aspect of the show? I’m very physically active in the show. You know, I’m a cabaret star, so I do a lot of stuff where I’m just sitting on a piano, or just standing in one place. So I really like that I get to show that I have other talents up my sleeve too. Have you worked with Major Scales before? Major Scales and I went to college together and lived together for about seven years. And that’s how we develop all of our work, by sitting in our living room, playing video games and coming up with stupid ideas. We have a Christmas show called Unwrapped. We also have a sequel to The Vaudevillians, called Bringing Up Baby. And then we have a concert, because we have an album together. It has some covers, but is mostly original songs by him, with me as the singer. We’re very much like Captain and Camille, or Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, you know? I’m really excited to see it. We’re SO excited to bring it to London. We’ve done it all over America for the last like, three years, and we know that our fanbase has been requesting it and it’s finally all fallen into place. Has it been received well in America? Yeah, it’s been great. We did a four month run in New York at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and we did a full month and a half long repertory run at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, which is our hometown. I mean, we created The Vaudevillians about three years before I was on Drag Race. So we’ve been playing these characters, in different stories and different situations, for about six and half years now. The Vaudevillians is kind of like our greatest hits, put into a tourable, travel show. jinkx 3 You deal with huge themes of global warming, and accidental cryopreservation. If our world survives for long enough, would you want to be frozen in order to reintroduce Jinkx to future generations? That could be fun! I love Jinkx, and I have so much fun playing her. But I’ve had this kind of wild itch for a while. I mean, Jinkx will always be the base of my tree, you know… but I have a collection of drag characters, and not all of them have gotten a chance to do anything yet, because Jinkx takes up so much of my life. In The Vaudevillians I play Kitty Witless, which is another character I’ve created. Another Southern, clairvoyant character. And I’ve recently been thinking, you know, when I turn 50, I wanna create a character called Madame President. What do you hope drag will have evolved into by this point? I think we’re on a path where gender is no longer the strict rule that it used to be. And it should never have been, you know? The fact that we have let society tell us who we have to be just because of the genitalia between our legs is such a farce. And I’m so glad that we’re growing out of that because I don’t think that people that have nothing to do with me can tell me how to represent myself. So I think that drag is just going to continue to blur the lines between male and female and whatever else. I’m sure that people are gonna start like, being furry drag queens, you know like combining furries and drag queens together. I’d love that, like if their was a drag fox, or like a drag skunk or something… I dunno! Have you got any ideas for furry drag? I have been thinking about buying a fur suit, you know, like one of those mascot fur suits that the kinksters wear. I really considered it, but they’re SO expensive, to get a custom made like, wolf suit or something. Yeah sure, I have no idea how much that would cost, but… They’re expensive! We’re talking about like, thousands. Fur enough… Do you approach drag differently since your appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race? Yeah! Well because I’ve been supporting myself with drag for a long time, but never has it become so much of a career for me until Drag Race. I was working as a drag queen in Seattle before I went on Drag Race, but it was like, a job. Whereas this is a career now, you know? It’s something that I not only do on stage, but like it’s a whole brand I’ve created: We have merchandise, and I created albums, and I’ve been thinking about writing a book… It’s become so much more than just, a job, you know? It’s become my whole life. And that’s kind of what I always wanted. I tried to quit for a while because I thought to be a legitimate actor I had to it give up, to focus on my acting career. And when I did that, I was miserable. Then when I brought drag back into my life, I started getting cast in plays as women. And that’s always been, like, a dream of mine - to not play ‘em as a joke, but to play female characters earnestly and honestly, just as well as any woman could. b72c801185e05e3ebd4404fc61b485c3 Well I'm happy that drag didn’t leave your life! I just wanna say congratulations as well. I have to admit, I cried with joy when you won! Oh, well thank you! I cried too, if you can imagine. Hmhmh. One of my favourite things is that once the show is done, queens from the different seasons start working together. Oh yes! It’s my favourite aspect of it, you know, 'Battle of the Seasons'. It’s all queens represented by the same management firm, as I am. So I get to spend a lot of time with these girls… and I love any time that all of the Drag Race girls are in one place, like when we’re filming a finale reunion. Because I’m just as big a fan of the show as anyone else, you know? I was addicted to the show as an audience member, then I was on it, and now I’m still addicted to the show. What made you apply to Drag Race in the first place? The simplest answer is Sharon Needles. When I saw her on the show, and not only do well on the show, but then win, I was like… Oh, this is a show for every kind of drag queen, not just one kind of drag queen. I was convinced that if I ever auditioned, or even got on, that they wouldn’t give me the time of day… they wouldn’t understand what I do, the way I like to do drag. But you know, I was ready to take my career to the next level. And I saw so many queens on the TV show, and I was like, ‘They’re doing such a good job… I bet I could do that too.’ Hmhmh. Well I’m very glad you did. I think a lot of people fell in love with Jinkx. Oh, thank you! Hmhmh. Have you watched the more recent seasons of the show? Season 7 received a bit of stick for being weaker than the other ones? Do you think it was? No, I don’t. I mean we’re eight seasons in, so obviously there's gotta be a weak season sooner or later, or there’s gonna be weak episodes here and there. But they worked just as hard on Season 7. The thing is, you know, I feel like it was a casting issue. I feel like they came up with the challenges, and then cast the people, and it was like that had cast girls with talents in things that they weren’t actually challenging them with. So like they had a lot of girls who were like supermodels, or fashion designers and stuff, but then put them in acting challenges. And I felt like that was a little unfair to the cast, you know? 372B3CE0-997E-05EC-71087B71634E7793 What about Season 8? Are you watching the current season? Yes I am! Even on tour, I have to find sneaky little ways to do it. Michelle and I just wait until we can find a link to a live stream of it or something like that. Last night, at like four in the morning, Michelle and I were sitting on her hotel bed, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race live on a stream somehow. I’m not even sure how we got it! How has life changed for you since 2013? I’ll just say that very simply: There’s no way it hasn’t changed. It’s like I do the same job I’ve always done, only now I do it on a global scale, you know, rather than just in Seattle. Do you ever need, ‘It’s just water off a duck’s back,’ anymore? Oh yeah! I don’t repeat it to myself, because that was more of a high stress situation, and I really needed someone whispering in my ear, ‘You got this, you can do this’, and there was no-one there to do that for me, so I had to do it for myself. It’s not like I’m a crazy person who constantly talks to myself, but through tough situations I do come up with a mantra, and I just repeat it whenever I need that little reminder. Right now my reminder is, ‘Drag is fierce and fun’. Because sometimes when you’re tired, and your voice is going, or like, you know, you’re under slept or under fed or whatever… you just have to remind yourself that this is a really cool job to get to do. Better than when I was working at The GAP, that's for sure! Monsoon season starts in London on April 25. You can catch ‘The Vaudevillians’ at The Soho Theatre, London from Mon 25 Apr - Wed 18 May 2016. For more details visit sohotheatre.com. Words: Georgios Hadjimichael More stories: James Franco's gay porn drama gets premiere date Caitlyn Jenner hits back at criticism: 'I am not a spokesperson for this community'