Last year drag superstar Jinkx Monsoon made a memorable festive cameo in Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season with fellow Drag Race alum BenDeLaCreme, with whom she co-wrote and co-starred in the acclaimed holiday tours of To Jesus, Thanks for Everything! -Jinkx and Dela and All I Want for Christmas is Attention, as well as The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special, now streaming on Hulu. This holiday season the dynamic drag duo make their grand return to the stage with their whip-smart and filthy brand of comedy, new songs as well as fan favourites, taking The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! across the US, UK, and Canada on a 25-city tour from November 13th until December 30th 2021.
With her musical partner Major Scales, RuPaul’s Drag Race season five winner Jinkx Monsoon has travelled the globe performing in shows like The Vaudevillians and released two records, The Inevitable Album and The Ginger Snapped. On stage, she’s played the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (winning the Gregory Award), while on screen she’s appeared on the CBS cop show Blue Bloods, alongside Mama Ru in AJ and the Queen, voiced characters for queer animated series Steven Universe, and has been the subject of two documentaries, Drag Becomes Him and The Queens.
Before heading off on tour, Jinkx Monsoon spoke exclusively with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about growing up in Portland, Oregon, her drag debut as a teenager, what makes her on-stage partnership with BenDeLaCreme such a successful one, her holiday favourite movies and songs, and the queer culture that’s made an impact on her.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: before we get on the holiday show tour, could I take you way back to when you first got into drag, you were relatively young weren’t you, just 14 or 15?
Jinkx Monsoon: “Oh, waaaaaay back then! Yes, it was 18 years ago when I started drag. 15 was when I started to be a drag queen in earnest. At 14 I was occasionally getting into drag for parties. It’s so funny because I was always someone who wanted to prove everyone wrong, so when everyone in my life assumed that I was going to be a drag queen I was insistent that I was not planning on doing drag! Then this one night at a queer teenage prom, that I’d helped to organize and plan the entertainment for, I decided to do drag. Walking around that night and having everyone react to me in drag was all it took. It was like this missing puzzle piece that fell into place, and the rest is history.”
That sounds like a wonderful debut, and I imagine that you must feel fortunate to have grown up somewhere where there was a queer prom?
“Oh yeah, I always consider growing up in Portland to be one of my biggest benefits in life, because Portland is a very queer-friendly city. Even though you still face some of the same issues as a young queer person in Portland that you would anywhere else in the country, at least there I had an all-ages queer dance club to go to and I had a queer resource center. I met lots of other people my age who were queer from the moment that I came out, so it was a huge boon to my young queer self.”
As you’re about to set sail for your UK tour dates, it’s really exciting to see that long list of cities in the UK, Canada, and across the US in real live theatres.
Jinkx Monsoon: “You’re telling me!”
After last year’s The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special film, which was a lot of fun and of course had to be shot with all sort of COVID protocols in place, how does it feel to be embarking on a live international tour again this year?
“It feels amazing! I don’t want to say that I took being a live entertainer for granted, because I was constantly talking about how blessed I felt to be doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it’s easy to take for granted something that you don’t expect is going to go away the way it did. There’s been a lot of introspection and a lot of self-discovery while I’ve been working from home and working digitally, but the overarching thing that I’ve learned is that I am a person who needs to be on stage and there’s no way to synthesize it. There’s no way to get from digital entertainment what you get from live entertainment. Live entertainment is why I started this in the first place, so I’m very happy to be returning to my true home on stage in front of living people!”
Did working under the restrictions of only being able to produce digital work bring anything different out in you as a drag performer?
“I started working with lots of collaborators on short form digital comedy as well as working with my husband on music. It caused me to flex muscles that I hadn’t been working out for the last eight years or so. I definitely produced a lot of content that I’m proud of and was able to connect with people in a completely different way than I’m used to, so I try to focus on the silver linings. It’s kind of hard to focus on the silver linings of a global tragedy though, but we find a way!”
Have you done any solo live shows since things have begun to open up or will this tour mark your big return to the stage?
“This will indeed be my big return and actually I wouldn’t want it any other way because the annual holiday show I do with DeLa is one of my favorite shows I do every year. We really pour all of ourselves into it and we’re both meticulous perfectionists so it’s kind of nice to know that my first return to a live audience is going to be with the show that gets a lot of attention and a lot of love and a lot of passion and creativity poured into it. I think the perfect way to return is with a big bang!”
Can you give us a flavor of what we can expect from this particular holiday show, because I understand it’s going to be largely new work along with some old favorites in there too?
“Yeah, we’re trying to treat it like we’re rock stars and we know our audience is going to want to hear some of the hits, some of the classics, so we’re being very precise with what old tried and true fan favourite stuff to bring into this show, while also making it largely a brand new show. What you can expect is the patented Jinkx and DeLa dynamic between two seemingly opposing forces who come together to give you that warm nostalgic feeling for the holidays, whether you believe in the holidays or whether you’ve been cast out from the holidays you were raised with. It’s a holiday show for misfits and weirdos, and even normal* people too! I put normal with an asterisk, because what the fuck is normal anyway?!”
Okay, well if I use that as a pull out quote for this interview I’ll make sure that I put the asterisk in there too! You and DeLa have got distinct and pretty different energies on stage, what do you each bring out in each other as performers when you come together?
“It’s funny because as human beings we’re quite similar, it’s why we work so well together, but our drag personas have always been decisively on different ends of the drag spectrum. The thing that unites us is we’re both very character-driven performers, but I would say that Jinkx is based more on me as a person; it’s my truth taken to a ridiculous over-the-top level. That’s similar to DeLa’s, but then BenDeLaCreme is more of an allegory, she’s more of a manifestation rather than an extension. The way DeLa works is that everything is stylized, everything is artistic artifice, whereas Jinkx is more like magical realism. So DeLa brings out a bit more of a satirical side of me, and an allegorical side of me, and I bring some more honesty and candor out of DeLa. Together we’ve kind of met in the middle and found a way to both still be ourselves while honoring the performance style of the other one.”
When you’re on tour what do you tend to do when you have some downtime together? I’m sure doing the show is pretty exhausting but is it playing Scrabble, hitting the bars, exploring the city you’re in, or just catching up on sleep?
“Well, I love to sleep as much as possible. I travel with video games, so I’m always sneaking video games in wherever I can. What do we do in our downtime? Mostly talk about the show. We don’t stop work! I firmly believe that the work isn’t done until you’ve had an audience, so we work tirelessly to make sure that our opening night is perfect for our opening night audience, but we don’t close ourselves off from learning something new. That’s what makes live entertainment unique, every night is its own isolated, never to be completely recreated moment. Even though we do the same show every night there are new discoveries and we will continue to learn what the show wants to be and who we want to be in it. Basically, DeLa and I are talking about the show at all times until it’s complete and then even for months after we’re still talking about the show!”
What do the holidays mean to you personally?
“I was raised in a family that was very good at putting it on for the holidays. We weren’t particularly religious. I was raised with a loose understanding of Catholicism and my aunt taught me about lots of different spiritualities and religions from different cultures. At Christmas time we really did it up like we were your traditional American family celebrating Christmas, which is funny because our family was anything but traditional. I remember as a kid it being my favourite time of the year and it wasn’t until I started reflecting on it as an adult that I was like, oh wait, everyone was losing their minds, everyone was constantly stressed out! There was a lot of fighting, all in an effort to create the perfect holiday. Now that I’m the one hosting the holiday functions within my blood family, and then within my chosen family—as DeLa and I bring this holiday tour to the world every year—I’ve let go of the idea of a perfect holiday, in the sense that there’s a prescribed way to do the holidays right, and I just lean into the idea of make the holidays work for you. You know, like a stockbroker, make your money work for you people!”
Was there a holiday special or a movie that you grew up watching and rewatching over the years, or one that you still go to now?
“It was The Muppet Christmas Carol. Ever since I was a young person, I watched The Muppet Christmas Carol at all times of the year. Then I don’t know how old I was when I became obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas, but I said the corniest thing to my mom when I first discovered it, something like, ‘It’s so great because now I have a new movie to watch on Halloween AND Christmas!’ The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those beacons for weirdos and misfits. Everyone finds themselves watching that movie if they go against the grain a little bit. So The Muppet Christmas Carol and The Nightmare Before Christmas were my two go-tos and they remain my two go-tos, and I know pretty much all the words to every song from both films!”
Muppets was one that I used to watch over and over again at all times of the year too. What about a Christmas song, either one that you like to sing or one that just gets you in the holiday spirit?
“Oh, the one that gets me in the holiday spirit? Let’s see, what would that be…? [Jinkx sings at full pelt] Rocking Around The Christmas Tree at the Christmas party hop! That’s the one that I actually like, but the one that I sing the most, because I find it the funniest, is O Holy Night. It’s such a beautifully written song, but it can turn dark so easily. When it hits that minor chord and starts hitting a bit of a marching stride it sounds a little militant, which is my favourite way to dissect the holidays. It’s like, here it is, this song that sounds really lovely and once it has you drawn in with its beauty, then it tells you to fall on your knees and give your life force to the holiday!”
Away from the holidays, what’s your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ culture, or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years?
“I can’t recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to learn more about reclaiming your gender identity and discovering what your gender identity is outside of the confines of the societal construct of gender. It’s called Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein. I think pretty much everyone should read that.”
Was there anything in particular that reading the book opened your mind to?
“I think we are raised being told that gender is something prescribed. We’re taught that based on our genitalia there is a natural, normal gender assigned to us and what Kate Bernstein’s writing and her activism taught me was that absolutely everything regarding your gender is for you to define for yourself, including what language you use. Just because a certain word works for someone else it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you, you get to choose your own words and your own descriptions for your own identity. It’s all about letting it be your story and your language that describes it.”
Is there anything else you’d like to mention in terms of queer culture or an LGBTQ+ person who’s made an impact on you?
“I came out 18 or 19 years ago when there weren’t as many LGBTQ+ people who were our LGBTQ+ icons, so I definitely grew up worshipping at the Church of Bette Midler. I can say my favorite bit of queer culture for today, and for always, is the cartoon series Steven Universe. It’s created by a queer non-binary person and deals heavily with queer and feminist and gender reclaiming themes. It’s appropriate for young people and it teaches us about queer identities and various gender identities in the most loving, compassionate, empathetic, and non-confrontational way.”
By James Kleinmann
The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! tours the UK, Canada, and the USA. For tour details and to purchase tickets head to jinkxanddela.com. The show is produced and directed by BenDeLaCreme, co-written and co-created by BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, and associate produced by Kevin Heard. F
The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! Tour Dates:
November 13 – Liverpool, UK (Playhouse Theatre)
November 15 – Edinburgh, UK (Queens Hall)
November 19 – London, UK (Troxy)
November 20 – Manchester, UK (Palace Theatre)
November 21 – Brighton, UK (Theatre Royal)
November 22 – Newcastle, UK (Tyne Theatre & Opera House)
November 23 – Birmingham, UK (Town Hall)
November 26 – Montreal, QC (Rialto Theatre)
November 27 – Toronto, ON (Queen Elizabeth Theatre)
November 30 – Portland, ME (State Theatre)
December 1 – Boston, MA (The Wilbur)
December 3 – New York, NY (The Town Hall)
December 4 – New York, NY (The Town Hall)
December 5 – Washington, DC (Lincoln Theatre)
December 6 – Philadelphia, PA (Keswick Theatre, Glenside)
December 8 – St. Paul, MN (The Fitzgerald)
December 9 – Chicago, IL (Thalia Hall)
December 10 – Detroit, MI (The Majestic Theatre)
December 12 – Austin, TX (Paramount Theatre)
December 14 – Denver, CO (Paramount Theatre)
December 16 – Phoenix, AZ (The Van Buren)
December 18 – Los Angeles, CA (The Theatre at Ace Hotel)
December 19 – San Francisco, CA (The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre)
December 21 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 22 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 23 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 24 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 26 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 26 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 21 – Seattle, WA (The Neptune)
December 28 – Vancouver, BC (Vogue Theatre)
December 30 – Portland, OR (The Newmark)