BWW Interviews: Jinkx Monsoon Talks Career, THE VAUDEVILLIANS, and THE INEVITABLE ALBUM
The always charming and incredibly talented Jinkx Monsoon proved to the American public that it was truly Monsoon Season for the last year. On May 19, 2014, she passed on the RuPaul's Drag Race crown to the sixth season's winner Bianca Del Rio. Certainly Hurricane Bianca is sure to rattle the world, but for all intents and purposes it is still Monsoon Season the world over. Jinkx Monsoon is going strong, working harder than ever, and proving that she is a talent to be reckoned with. Shortly after she helped coronate Binaca Del Rio, I chatted with Jinkx Monsoon about her career, THE INEVITABLE ALBUM, her debut solo album, and what's next for the indefatigable star.
BWW: How did you first get into acting and performing?
Jinkx Monsoon: I pretty much just always wanted to be an actor. Even in my baby book, when my mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said an actor from a very, very early age. So, I started getting into plays as early as kindergarten. I would always volunteer to be part of everything. Then, in high school, I was kind of torn because I was doing a lot of different things like taking theatre lessons, singing lessons, and ballet lessons. I decided I was going to go focus on theatre, first and foremost, because I felt like I would be able to get to do all the other things as well. I felt I'd get to sing, dance, do comedy, and do all the things I liked to do if I followed more of a theatrical route. That led into my decision to go into Cornish College of the Arts, and that's where I got my professional theatre training.
BWW: You gained national recognition when you were cast on and won the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. What was that experience like?
Jinkx Monsoon: It was simultaneously the best experience of my lifetime and one of the craziest fun, most challenging things I've ever done. [Laughs] I wouldn't change a single moment of it. I'm so happy I got to be a part of it the way I got to be a part of it. The world of opportunities has opened up for me afterward. I'm a huge fan of the show, and I just love being a part of everything. I love getting to go to all the events. I was just at the crowning of Bianca Del Rio two days ago. I had just the most fun time. It's so much fun to be a part of that family.
BWW: That's too cool. I think it's awesome. I love how the show emphasizes the artistry behind it all.
Jinkx Monson: That's the thing I appreciate the most about the show. When you get to see the kind of person who creates the drag queen, you know, you get to see behind the artistry. You get to see what goes into it and just how much effort, planning, and talent it takes to do it well.
BWW: Before and after RuPaul's Drag Race, you have been filming Drag Becomes Him, a documentary series. Tell me a little more about that and what that has this been like?
Jinkx Monsoon: It all started when the filmmaker, Alex Berry, was commissioned to do a short film on gender. That's when we filmed Drag Becomes Him #1. He filmed me getting into drag and talking about my experiences with it. Drag Race kind of gave a lot of exposure to Drag Becomes Him, and it got viewed a lot. So, we thought it maybe it would be worth doing more editions of it. With every new one we did, we saw a huge response from the fan base, and we realized it would be kind of interesting to keep following from who I was before Drag Race, who I was during, then after, and then once the new queen is crowned.
So, we had our Kickstarter, and we've been filming stuff that's going to go into the feature length documentary, in addition to the footage we already put into the online series. Everything that was in the online series is going to be re-touched, re-edited, and put into the full feature. There's also all the footage that he's been making for the last year that he hadn't used in the online series. Then, also, we've been filming new footage with me, my family, and other Drag Race girls for the last three months now.
The thing I'm kind of excited about is he also works with me on my music videos and some of my other video projects, and you actually get to see, in the documentary, scenes with me and Alex Berry working together because Kickstarter gave us the ability to hire multiple camera people. It's not all just being done with one camera by Alex; it's actually being filmed more like a documentary these days, so it's really exciting.
BWW: You've performed regionally at acclaimed theaters such as Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. What were those experiences like?
Jinkx Monsoon: Because I have so much drag work these days, whenever I take a role in a theatre piece, it's because I really, really want t play that role. So, all the roles that I've gotten to play recently have been things I always wanted to do. I did HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH two years in a row in the winter in Seattle, and that was an amazing experience both times. One time it was right after I was announced on the show, but they hadn't aired any episodes. Then, the second time, it was after the whole show had aired. It was kind of a completely different energy. Not only from the audience, but also from me. I feel like I grew up a lot in the year in between performing HEDWIG the first time and then the second time. When we did the encore performance, I felt like I was able to bring a lot more world experience and a lot more maturity to the role that I don't think I accessed as much in the first production of it.
Then, with HAIRSPRAY, I said, "If I ever did HAIRSPRAY, I'd only do it if I got to play Velma Von Tussle," and I got to play her at the 5th Avenue's ten year anniversary of HAIRSPRAY! It was actually at the 5th Avenue that HAIRSPRAY first premiered, before it ever went to Broadway. It was really exciting. I actually wore some of the original costumes from ten years ago, and I got to do my favorite songs form the show in my own style, which was just so exciting. [Laughs]
BWW: Recently, you made your Off-Broadway debut in the THE VAUDEVILLIANS. The successful show was extended four times. Tell me more about that experience.
Jinkx Monsoon: THE VAUDEVILLIANS is a show that me and my friend, roommate, and music partner for the last five years, Richard Andriessen, created. He and I started THE VADEVILLIANS in college, and it was originally just a cabaret show, and we would do a ten-minute act in a big variety show. Soon, we got our own show where we turned our material into an hour and a half long one-act musical. From there, it's just kind of evolved and evolved until it became what we performed in New York. But, it was Drag Race that really gave me the platform to introduce THE VAUDEVILLIANS in a big way. You know, the Laurie Beechman Theatre had originally approached me to do a one-woman show, just me singing my favorite songs with a piano player. I pitched THE VAUDEVILLIANS to them, and I don't think any of us expected it to be as big of a success as it has been. It has been amazing getting to tour it; not only through America, but we also took it to Canada and Australia this year.
BWW: On May 6, 2014, you released THE INEVITABLE ALBUM. Where did the title come from?
Jinkx Monsoon: I've just always wanted to an album. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to one day record an album. Once I did Drag Race it was kind of just assumed that sooner or later I'd be doing music. I was working so much with THE VAUDEVILLIANS though, and that was kind of taking up all my focus. So, it wasn't until the later part of the year that we were able to sit down and record the album. It was kind of this thing that we all knew was coming, we all knew it was going to happen eventually, but we just didn't know exactly when it was going to happen. So, I came up with the idea of calling it THE INEVITABLE ALBUM pretty much right after I won Drag Race, and it took us quite a while to actually get it recorded, published, and everything. I had the title of the album before I had anything else because I knew it was just going to happen inevitably. [Laughs]