Drag Race queens are taking over Toronto Pride this year. With appearances by Jiggly Caliente, Willam, Alyssa Edwards and Shangela, drag fans have a lot of shows to choose from. But one queen reigns supreme, and that’s Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon. She sings live, she’s a whole other kind of fierce, and she’s performing two numbers at The 519’s Starry Night. Xtra spoke with the newly crowned diva about her win, her personal struggles and interpretive dancing with newborn children.
Xtra: Congratulations on your win on RuPaul’s Drag Race! How did you celebrate?
Jinkx Monsoon: It’s surreal. Last night was exactly one week since we found out who won, and we had a celebration party at my hometown bar here in Seattle. And it was packed wall-to-wall with people. And that was the first moment I truly felt like I was celebrating my win. I took until I was able to come home and celebrate with my friends and my family and my loved ones to really let it sink in. Now I’m just ready to take on the world, you know?
Going into the competition, what were
your goals? What did you want to achieve (other than the crown)?
I went on to the show trying to be very calm and focused. If I spent every day thinking about the crown and the end result, I would’ve driven myself crazy. So I set attainable goals along the way. If I could just focus on one little thing at a time I could climb the ladder rather than try to jump it. My first goal was to make it to Snatch Game. And I wanted to portray Little Edie [from the film Grey Gardens] on Snatch Game. That was my whole mission for even getting on the show. I also knew I wanted to make it a singing challenge, because when I perform I only sing live. That’s how I do my shows. So I really wanted to share that with America, my love of music. Once I made it past those two challenges, then I was just like, “Well shit, I gotta set new goals.” With every challenge I made it my personal goal to do my very, very best and we saw — not to toot my own horn or anything — that I was in the top three for eight weeks in a row, which is a record on Drag Race.
That is a huge accomplishment. Which challenge was the most difficult for you?
The Sugar Ball. I knew that was going to be my most difficult challenge, because with drag, every-thing is a skill you can acquire and everyone’s good at different things. So though I’m very confident in my skills as a performer — like a singer, a dancer, an actor, a comedian — I became more confident with my makeup skills and styling. But styling — creating looks has never been my main focus in drag. So the Sugar Bowl challenge really tested that, and it was quite the struggle for me because I have such a unique, to myself, kind of style, and to try to make that accessible for everyone was very difficult. And then to create my own look was probably . . . I got away with it in the dumpster couture challenge. I just got all my favourite colours and braided them together and that seemed to work, but I couldn’t use that trick twice.
Back to the Snatch Game. Were you surprised that none of your competitors knew who Little Edie was?
Um . . . well . . . they didn’t really show this, but it was only half the room that didn’t know who she was.
Oh, okay, so a little
bit of editing there . . .
Yeah. Alaska, Ivy and Detox — they were all familiar with Little Edie. And actually, Alaska said the funniest thing to me. I said to her, “Alaska, how come you and me are the only people who know who Edie is?” and she goes, “Cause we’re draaaaag queeeeeens.” Which was a total read for the rest of the girls in the room, but I was surprised and not surprised at the same time, because it’s all relative. There’s plenty of people I’m not familiar with. I didn’t know who Tamar Braxton was. And now I do, and I think Roxxxy did a phenomenal job being Tamar Braxton.
Now that the show is done and the dust has settled, who has become your best squirrel friend?
First of all, I have a wonderful relationship with everyone from the show, even the people I bickered with while filming. We never ended a day with a fight still going. We always made sure to settle our differences and put it aside and chock it up to the competition. Even Roxxxy and I are really close now, you know — we got each other’s back; we love performing together. Any time you get any of the girls from Season 5 together, it’s instantly a party.
Oh, I can imagine!
But the two girls I have remained the closest with are Ivy and Alaska. And I just have so much fun with them; I can really relate to them. We text each other all the time. Alaska and I do duets together now, and we have so much fun whenever we perform together. And also, Honey Mahogany I get to see. I’ve been going to San Francisco a lot lately, so we actually were each other’s lesbian dates to this year’s GLAAD Awards in San Francisco.
You’re coming to Toronto on June 27 for the annual Starry Night event, which is a beautiful party. Are you excited to come here? Have you ever been to Toronto?
I’ve never been to Toronto, and I’ve never left America before. I had to get a passport just for this trip. And I’m so excited because it’s going to be my first time ever leaving the States, and I hear such wonderful things about Canada.
It’s an outdoor event and it’s going to be an extravaganza.
Love it, I’m so excited. Outdoors though? I’m going to have to dip myself in SPF 110.
You’re prepared for us, so how can Toronto prepare for Monsoon season?
I am entering the country doing what I love the most, which is live cabaret-style performances. I range from doing standards to doing very, very obscure pieces. I have an act in which I perform a séance and conjure famous women, and that’s my impersonation act. I have an act where I give birth to a baby and then I juggle it and do interpretative dances with that baby.
Go into my show with an open mind and know that it is a unique experience to Jinkx Monsoon. I treat every show with the utmost care and importance. I refuse to get tipsy before a performance. I’ll have a glass of champagne before I perform and that’s about it, because what I am there to do is put on a show, and I take it very seriously. If you ask my assistant, the whole day is spent planning out numbers and making sure they are all going to be perfect. So just be ready to be entertained.
I spoke to Sharon Needles in January, and we were talking about bucket lists and the things that she had tackled from her list during her year as the reigning queen. So I have to ask, one year from now, what do you want to have achieved from your bucket list?
I want to do an album. I am trying to put together an album that’s more musical standards, show tunes and torch songs. A much more lyrical album than what we’re used to from drag queens, because normally drag queens do a lot of dance and disco tracks. I do have a rap song that I’m creating, but my album overall is going to be mostly lyrical stuff. I also have some theatre roles that involve me doing drag on big theatre stages coming up, like Hairspray, The Vaudevillians — which is the show I created with my music partner — so I want to do as much of that as possible. But this year I would love, love, love to get the chance to play Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd up on a big stage. That’s my absolute all-time dream role. And then my lifelong goal is . . . I used to say that I just wanted to be the first flamboyant homosexual man to host SNL, but I realize now, more specifically, I want to be the first drag queen to host SNL.
Yes! Let’s get the campaign started!
There is one on Facebook, apparently, but I’m trying to go through the proper channels. Any support from the community to show SNL that they would watch a drag queen host the show would be great, because I think that as a comedian and as an actor that’s when you know you’ve made it. I would love to just rocket to that point.
Do you have any words of wisdom
or encouragement for our readers?
I said it a bit on the show, but I was representing the weird, awkward kid. And I think plenty of drag queens grew up the social outcast. I don’t think it’s too overly unique to my experience being kind of a goofy outcast, as a kid. But I think it’s a testament to the fact that if you have a dream, don’t let anyone tell you not to go for it. And even if you try at it and you fail . . . fail fabulously. Give it your all. Go big or go home, because you owe it to yourself to go for your dreams at least once. And if you try it and it doesn’t work out, or you find out it wasn’t what you thought, at least you gave it a shot. Life’s too short to spend time wondering what life would’ve been like if you had gone for your dream