Scroll To Top
Interviews

Jinkx Monsoon Talks Drag Race Finale, Doctor Who Casting & New Tour

Jinkx Monsoon Talks Drag Race Finale, 'Doctor Who' Casting & New Tour

Jinkx Monsoon
MTV

“If anyone else wants to come along, you’re welcome to, but I’m making queer content for queer people,” the two-time Drag Race winner tells PRIDE in an exclusive interview.

simbernardo

When you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you!

Since winning RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 and being crowned the Queen of All Queens, Jinkx Monsoon has been on a roll that includes a record-shattering Broadway run in Chicago, getting cast on Doctor Who, the release of new music, the announcement of her biggest-ever solo tour, Everything at Stake, and a herstory-making performance at the grand finale of Drag Race season 15.

During an interview with PRIDE, Monsoon reflected on the massive success of her Chicago run, opened up about her friendship with Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies, and explained how the meanings behind her newly-released song ‘The Lavender Song’ and the upcoming Everything at Stake tour have evolved over the last few months.

Scroll through to read PRIDE’s exclusive interview with Jinkx Monsoon. More information and tickets for Everything at Stake can be found on the tour’s official website.

PRIDE: I hear that you’re calling from the UK.

Jinkx Monsoon: Yeah, I'm in Cardiff, Wales. I haven’t begun shooting Doctor Who yet, but I’ve been having meetings and costume fittings. And my god, it’s just… it’s a dream come true. I’ve had a lot of dreams come true recently.

This is so exciting! I know you can’t spill any tea yet, but how excited are you to join the cast and the universe of Doctor Who?

I’m terribly excited. It’s not easy to encapsulate how excited I am with words. I was saying to the director yesterday, the role that I’m playing, it’s like everything I ever dreamed about doing as an actor in one character. It’s insane. It’s like all of my actor fantasies have been rolled into one character, and now I get to do it all on a show that I love, written by a prolific writer, a voice of our generation who has written so many astounding things. And this is just one example of his brilliance, Russell T. Davies. But it’s just… it’s extremely thrilling. And when I was dreaming, when I was a little boy, dreaming of growing up and being an actress, this is what I was imagining.

I know you’ve been friends with Russell T. Davies. How did that friendship come about and when did you get the call to join Doctor Who?

It was kind of a perfect storm, how we became friends. I was dating my now-husband, Michael Abbott, who’s a good friend of Russell’s. So our holiday show was coming through Manchester at a time that Russell was in Manchester, and my husband reached out and he came and saw the show. And that was maybe four years ago. And then over the years, Russell has come to see many of my shows.

And I’ll tell you candidly, after I was offered the role [on Doctor Who] and I accepted it, Russell told me that he saw my show Together Again, Again with my music partner, Major Scales, which is a show where I play myself in my 80s, a kind of dystopian look at my future. Russell said that he walked home from the show that night and decided, ‘Jinkx is the person I want to have play this role.’ So he advocated for me to play this role, and it’s just one of those moments where everything fell into place at the perfect time. I think old me would’ve been nervous, like, ‘Oh, is he just giving me this role because we’re friends and he’s taking pity on me?’ But with some things that have happened lately, I guess I’m trusting my abilities and my know-how a little bit more.

When I last spoke with you, you were about to start your Chicago run. You had just been cast, nothing had started yet. Now I’m speaking with you after you’ve just concluded your record-shattering run in Chicago with standing-only audiences, and so much praise from critics and fans. Back then you had already mentioned how the opportunity was a dream come true. How do you see it now, in hindsight, knowing what the response was?

In retrospect, I mean, yes, it was a dream come true. It still is a dream come true to have had that under my belt. But what I really appreciated about the experience was the work, and the things that I learned, and the education I was given by doing 10 weeks on Broadway.

I mean, I’ve been a professional live performer since I was 17. If you want to find a moment where I was first paid above the table as a performer, 17 years old. I’m now 35, and I just did 10 weeks on Broadway for the first time ever. At 35 years old, I feel like I finally fully understand everything I was taught in acting school. It’s like it took these life experiences, it took the ups and the downs, and the work I’ve done on myself to have more respect for my craft and for what I ventured to do as an artist.

And then Broadway was this like, ‘Okay, you’ve arrived. Now’s the time to really put your money where your mouth has been for the last however long, and to have it be an objective success.’ Just like I was saying before, to have it be something that I can say objectively I did that well. It really cures the anxiety and imposter syndrome that this highly anxious Virgo typically has. So, honestly, [Chicago was] the best experience of my whole goddamn life, and I’m still seeing returns from it.

Thank you to the production of Chicago. Thank you to my incredible cast. Thank you to the producers and every single member backstage. I feel like that experience propelled me into the next stage of my life, and I’m so f*cking excited for it.

I think you’re going to have to change your tagline from highly-tolerated to highly-celebrated, highly-talented...

[Laughs] Listen, it all evens out. I’m tolerated. If you take the people who love me and the people who hate me and mix it all together, I come out to an even tolerated.

So tell me about your new song, ‘The Lavender Song,’ which came out last Friday.

It’s a hard left pivot because we were talking about celebration and about the many ways in which people have shown up to support a queer artist, as well as many other artists. If you think of Sam Smith at the Grammys, and Lil Nas X’s rise to fame, we are at this time where a lot of America and the Western world wants to celebrate queer artists… and it threatens people so goddamn much that maybe queer people might start getting an even stance, an even shake in this country that boasts freedom and equality for all. It threatens so many people. I was really inspired to do the cover of this song after the Colorado Springs shooting. And the day that that it happened, I was on tour with BenDeLaCreme. She held me while I sobbed, just sobbed for five minutes, just crying because I was just so upset that it happened again.

But I pulled myself together, got in the shower, and was doing my shower routine to get ready for my show that night… and then this song came on, ‘The Lavender Song.’ I typically listen to a version by Ute Lemper, who’s a German cabaret performer and a Broadway actress as well. And the song is on her album, Berlin Cabaret Songs, in English. ‘The Lavender Song’ is considered the first queer anthem, and I think it might be one of the first songs that reclaims the word ‘queer’ as a positive thing.

The song was written in the 1930s in the Weimar Republic of Berlin, Germany, which is significant because this was an artist community and a queer renaissance that happened in Germany between the two World Wars. And it was the fear and threat of freedom that this community presented. They presented a world without the social norms and the gender norms that we were used to. And that is what motivated Hitler to use that community as a scapegoat. Does it sound familiar? I hate to be cliche and compare the conservative right in America right now to Hitler because I feel like people do that too flippantly… but in this case, there was a queer renaissance happening, and Hitler and the Nazis scapegoated that, played on people’s fears and insecurities, and scapegoated that community to rise to power and do what they did.

That is powerful.

So I thought about all of this while I showered, shaving my tits, and this song comes on, and it just struck me that we need this song again right now for our community. And I’m not saying I took on the responsibility to put this song into the world. Just, as a queer person, I know how much this song impacted me when I first heard it and knowing its history. I wanted to give that to the younger generation of queer people who are paying attention to what I do right now. So we’ve done a different take on it. It’s like a very N’Awlins Creole jazz take on this previously German oompah cabaret song.

We’ve taken a totally new take on it reflecting kind of the spirit and the attitude that I think the queer community is possessing right now in the face of so much adversity. I think we’re doing our best to maintain our class and show that we are just human beings living our lives. And the people who are trying to shut us down are tyrants and bigots and fascists. They’re f*cking fascists. I hate to sound cliche, but goddamn!

Anyway, that’s what motivated the song. And what I’m very excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Everytown USA. For every 100,000 streams of this song, I donate another $1,000 to Everytown USA. So the more streams that this song gets, the more money I donate to Everytown USA, which is a gun reform advocacy organization, a not-for-profit organization that spreads information, diffuses misinformation, and tries to educate the general populace about the truth about guns, and gun statistics, and how we can get our lawmakers to listen to us hopefully one day if they ever choose to.

And that’s beautiful because guns are a real threat to children, unlike queer artists and drag performers. I mean, you’re going on the road this summer with the Everything at Stake tour. That name, Everything at Stake, keeps getting more and more meaning as we progress.

Listen, just like ‘The Lavender Song.’ I told you I was inspired to do ‘The Lavender Song’ before this drag legislation was being pushed forward. And so I had already had my sights on this song being a statement for gun reform, and then I realized it’s a statement for a lot more than just that now.

And let me tell you, the first line of the song is, ‘What makes them think they have the right / To say what God considers vice?’ And the chorus is, ‘We’re not afraid to be queer and different / If that means hell, well hell, we’ll take the chance.’ It’s a really powerful song. And the same thing is kind of going on with my tour. What happens a lot is I come up with one idea and then the world keeps revolving and things keep happening, and then the idea kind of morphs into a new idea. Everything at Stake was first just to comment on the fact that I am getting a certain amount of momentum and things are going pretty good, and now everyone’s going to be zeroing in on ‘what’s she going to do for her first big North American tour with a live band and some money to back her up?’

It was kind of a joke about my insecurities and my own self-saboteur convincing myself that this one tour was going to make or break everything. But then throughout the months since the tour announcement, it’s taking on a new meaning. The show itself is taking a new shape. And rather than being a show about a tongue-in-cheek joke about my anxious insecurities, it’s becoming a little bit more of a show about defiance and a show about... There’s a witch hunt motif, but what if the witch wins in the end? I guess that’s the best way to describe it.

And we will not let them win, Jinkx. We’re not going to let them win.

They haven’t yet. I mean, people have been trying to make us not exist for a long time, and we still exist because queerness is not something that can be snuffed out. Even if we all denied that we were queer, that doesn’t mean that we stop existing. That doesn’t mean that we stop being queer.

The only thing they can do is take away our right to express it. But we won’t let them do that. I don’t know why people don’t just look back and see that every time a marginalized group has been threatened with oppression, we now look back at those things and say the people trying to oppress those people were wrong.

Every single time!

So why can’t they look at this situation and think, ‘Huh, maybe I want to be on the right side of history here.’ Like, f*ck! Sorry for how much I’ve sworn in this interview [laughs].

You did a Chicago number for the grand finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 15. What was that experience like?

I really wanted to do that because the queer community, the LGBTQ+ community has been so celebratory and supportive of me during my run in Chicago. And my [World of Wonder] family was also extremely supportive. At the finale, Ru leaned in to kiss me and tell me how proud they all were of me and stuff. It feels wonderful to know that I have those people. Not just my drag sisters, and my WOW family, and my Drag Race family, but I have the community behind me. It only makes me feel inspired to continue to make work for my community first. And if anyone else wants to come along, you’re welcome to, but I’m making queer content for queer people.

So [the finale performance] was really inspiring and really beautiful. When the Drag Race team called me to sing, they basically asked me what I would want to sing. And I said, ‘Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if I did ‘When You’re Good to Mama’ and just kind of have it be this punctuation on a really wonderful point in my life?’ But also to take this little piece of something I did in a different realm of entertainment and share it with the Drag Race audience and with the LGBTQ+ community everywhere. Drag Race has become the best way to spread a message amongst our community.

I’ve always said Drag Race really does its best to rise up to the challenge of being such a loud voice for the community, but we need more and more entertainment that is for us, by us, so that all the pressure isn't put on drag queens from Drag Race to be. I mean, queens have always been the matriarchs and the spokespeople of our community. We’re happy to do it. But we need to create more platforms for a bigger diversity of voices to be heard. And though I am just another white drag queen spreading my voice, I always hope to uplift the messages that I want people to hear.

Have you been able to watch season 15 of Drag Race despite how busy you’ve been? And if so, have you been rooting or falling in love with any of the queens in particular?

Yes! What’s beautiful is, let’s say I don’t get to catch an episode, but I need to catch up. I love [how] the Drag Race Instagram page just tells you what you need to know. If you’re someone who doesn’t care about spoilers, I can enjoy an episode even knowing how it ends. Because I can enjoy Romeo and Juliet, and I’ve known how that ends since I was five [laughs]. I like to know what’s going on, and then I binge the episodes when I have the chance.

I have definitely fallen in love with a few queens. Of course, I’ve fallen in love with Anetra. I was already in love with Sasha Colby. But just for whatever reason, my favorite queen has been Amethyst. I think she left too soon for how much she was entertaining me.

I never disagree with the judge’s choices. But for me, Amethyst was one of those queens like, keep her around for the confessional at least. What we should do in the future, even after a queen gets eliminated, is still have them do confessionals. We should have them watch from a secret location and still give commentary on this season. And that’s what I felt with Amethyst.

I even said it to her face. I said, ‘Amethyst, your little queer Andy Samberg act in your confessional was my favorite.’

I own the Drag Becomes Him documentary in my iTunes library. I decided to re-watch it recently knowing that I was going to interview you. It’s so crazy and so beautiful to see how far you’ve come as a performer between that documentary and now getting cast in Chicago and Doctor Who. As a fan of yours, this feels surreal, but it also feels right! How are you feeling right now about your career and the opportunities that you’ve been getting?

I've been saying it constantly to anyone who wants to listen, but part of why I feel really good and really natural in this moment in my life is because I’ve put in a lot of work to get here.

I think when I’ve been most anxious in my career, it has been when I’ve been worried that I haven’t done the work to be where I’m at. There was bitterness at moments in my career when I’m like, ‘I know I should be doing some of these things that other queens are doing. I don’t know why I’m not getting the call.’ But I fought that bitterness with just really digging into creating my own work, and I guess every time I felt like my career wasn’t going where I wanted it to go, I just decided to work harder and harder at it.

And then there came a point when I needed to start working hard on myself as a human being too. And so, I’d say in the last five years, especially in the last four years since quitting drinking, I have just really been focusing on how can I do my job to its best, at my best ability, at my fullest capacity, because I’m happiest as a human being when I know I’m proud of my work, and when I know I can stand behind my work. The collaborators I’ve worked with over the years – Nick Sahoya, Major Scales, BenDeLaCreme – these people have made me a better artist. The cast of Chicago made me a better artist. And I know how much work I’m putting into my career and my artistry right now.

So when I have big accomplishments, there’s a part of me that can say, ‘Yeah, kid. No sh*t. You worked hard for it. So stop second-guessing yourself.’ Like, they say that to queens on Drag Race all the time: ‘You’re here. You’re standing on the main stage. Stop wondering how you got here and accept it and just f*cking do the best goddamn work you can do.’

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

author avatar

Bernardo Sim

Editor

Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.