In episode nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, the competing queens are tasked with creating a viral dance fit for social media. Most go by way of Gen-Z TikTok – simple and recognisable moves that can be easily replicated. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Werk Room, where the all stars prepare for the show’s challenges, Jinkx Monsoon is stuffing a peanut butter sandwich into her mouth as her fellow queens look on with confused and concerned expressions.
“Fighting to stand out against seven other winners is very hard,” she says. “This might be a risk, but I’m going to trust my gut.” The end result, the bizarre yet brilliant ‘Monsoon Munchie’, lands her in the top two of that week.
Known fondly as “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen”, Jinkx has been a centrepiece in the behemoth that is drag culture since winning season five of RuPaul's Drag Race. She has since released albums, toured the world, appeared in a feature-length holiday film and undeniably, become a firm fan favourite.
Jinkx admits there were numerous anxieties ahead of her appearance on the new series, which sees eight past winners return to the reality competition. But, as she explains, it helped that these feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty were shared amongst the other queens.
“The eight of us really formed our own tight knit little sisterhood and we were all so supportive of each other. The competition was real, but the love and the support was real as well. I think it's really important at this point in time to see that really good stuff can come out of supporting each other just as much as cutthroat competition can inspire good work.”
Photo by José Alberto Guzmán Colón
As well as appearing on All Stars, which is still airing and in progress when we speak, Jinkx’s next move takes her to Edinburgh, where she makes her Fringe debut with her musical partner in crime Major Scales. The show, called She’s Still Got It, is an opportunity to spend an hour in the presence of the wit, humour and musical prowess that has made Jinkx the star she is today.
“I first went on TV 10 years ago,” she says, “and I'm on TV again. For anyone who's returning or anyone who's a newcomer, we're putting Jinkx's best foot forward. So if you're a new audience member, and you've never seen me perform live before, get ready to get a crash course in the live Jinkx Monsoon experience. We're going to give you a little bit of everything that I'm best at. So you can expect a lot of really raunchy candid stories, a lot of irreverent humour, and you can expect Major Scales and I to be flexing our musical muscles together.”
Jinkx and Major have been performing together since they first met in college, and She’s Still Got It is the latest in their long history of collaboration. “We're very distinct from one another,” Jinkx says of their camaraderie on stage, “but we share a sense of humour and we share a lot of musical taste. Major's wildly entertaining but he possesses this rare skill, which is that he can share a stage with a drag queen and be the foil and be the straight man, and set me up to shine while still being absolutely captivating and holding his own against a really big personality.”
In their 2018 album and show of the same name The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx and Major provided something chaotic and simultaneously harmonious, combining comedy, music and storytelling with frank discussions on mental health. It was powerful in its subject matter, but also resulted in these discussions becoming a permanent fixture in Jinkx’s on-stage narrative.
“It's actually very cathartic to talk about it openly because I find that the more I just put my own experiences and my own story out there, the more I hear people say, ‘Oh, that's so similar to me’, or ‘I deal with my own version of that’.”
Photo by Magnus Hastings
While mental health remains at the core of much of Jinkx’s writing and performing, She’s Still Got It attempts to take audiences down a different route. In the context of the misery and hardships of the last two years, the duo want to offer some collective breathing space.
“Ultimately, we just wanted to create a show that gives our audiences an hour of levity in whatever's going on in their life,” Jinkx explains. “A big part of how I entertain my audiences is just being extremely candid with them. So while the show is not about mental health or ageing or existentialism, like some of my past shows, all of that is in there. I always say I get my demons out on stage so that I can live a joyful life.”
While the ‘Monsoon Munchie’ peanut butter dance was just one example of Jinkx’s inexplicable comedic genius, that episode served as a reminder not to underestimate that which we might not immediately understand. Drag has been catapulted to the forefront of popular culture in more recent years, and as a part of this, Jinkx not only strives to embrace her quirkiness but also takes her responsibility as a leader in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond seriously.
“I look at it a little bit as a responsibility, but also as a big opportunity to unlock the same kind of passions and realisations in other people that drag has done for me multiple times in my life. So I just think I'm taking everything I learned from the drag queens who came before me and passing it on to whoever is watching what I do now.
“We're talking so much these days about how much representation matters in our media and in our culture,” she continues, “and so, for me it’s about getting on stage and sharing my stories, and sharing the things from my life that other people can relate to. Because living my life unapologetically is how I pay it forward.”