In Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the world was blessed with the knowledge that the quirky and sweet queen named Jinkx Monsoon existed. Monsoon had an old-fashioned heart and vintage style that accompanied a very real musical talent. Since then, Monsoon had to crown a new queen as America’s Next Top Drag Superstar, but it’s not as if she’s not busy seeing her star continue to rise.
This year alone, she has already released The Inevitable Album, a mix of both old-school camp and modern indie rock, and reprised her starring role in The Vaudevillians in NYC just this past month. Jinkx and the talented actor and singer who brings her to life, Jerick Hoffer, were also the subject of a YouTube documentary titled Drag Becomes Him that will be turned into a feature-length doc for release later this summer.
We spoke with Hoffer about his many new projects and are pleased to offer a free download of Monsoon’s single “The Bacon Shake” right after the jump.
“The Bacon Shake,” as well as the rest of The Inevitable Album, has the same camp, old school theatre aesthetic that has informed so much of your career and image. What were some of the direct influences?
The thing about “The Bacon Shake” is that it was written by Fred Schneider [of the B-52’s] and he collaborated with my music partner Major Scales on it. It’s just such a Fred Schneider-y song. It’s just a funny, campy, patter song. It reminds me so much of the classic B-52’s stuff that I grew up with but a little bit more jazzy and swingy. The overall album is definitely supposed to give you a feel of what it would be like at a Jinkx Monsoon if you were to just see her perform all her favorite songs one evening at a regular show. The album feels like you’re sitting at that show watching it happen.
There are a lot of older [influences] on me like Marlene Dietrich, Bette Midler, a little Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday. Then there are contemporary influences like Regina Spektor, Amanda Palmer, and She & Him. Those really influenced the recording process as well and the direction I wanted to take with my music as a music artist.
With the wide array of performers you cite in your drag persona, including everyone from Little Edie to Helena Bonham Carter, who would you love to see and hear cover “The Bacon Shake”?
I’d love to hear Bette Midler cover “The Bacon Shake.” I haven’t seen Carol Burnett in a movie for so long. I bet she could do something fun with it!
I know the entire album is probably very special to you, but what tracks in particular are your favorites?
I really love “A Song to Come Home To” because that one was written specifically for me based on my experience after doing Drag Race and my career kind of took off which made my lifestyle kind of change. My music partner as a direct response to the way my life became a whirlwind in the last year. Another one is “What About Debbie,” which was an idea me and my drag sister BenDeLaCreme had when I was trying to figure out the best way to pay homage to one of my favorite scenes of all time which is Joan Cusack’s final monologue in the movie Addams’ Family Values. It’s a movie I’ve watched over and over since I was a kid but Joan Cusack’s character in that part in that movie was just such a huge influence for me.
You’re fresh off an encore run of The Vaudevillians, and given your Seattle theatre roots, what was it like bringing your own show to Broadway?
It was something we would always hope we would someday do, but we thought it would be ten years down the line. We had no idea that it would happen in the near future! We had been working on that show for about four and a half years. It’s seen a lot of transitions. We’ve played around with the characters and the storyline a lot. We never thought we would be performing a show in New York like that. It was really really exciting. It was kind of something we would joke about. We thought that touring the world with our weird show based on our stupid jokes would never fly but now it’s actually what we’re doing, and it makes us really really happy. What we’re doing with The Vaudevillians gives us time to work on new music, and we’re already hoping to have a few more albums in the next couple years and see how far we can go in the realm of singer-songwriter/indie music group.
What draws you to the vaudevillian world and style?
I’ve just always kind of been attracted to it love! I love the old cartoons like Betty Boop and the really old-timey Mickey Mouse cartoons — very ’20’s inspired. Also lots of my favorite movies and musicals have all been inspired by the ’20s or ’30s. It’s just been that whole antiquated period of the ’20s to the ’40s with a little bit of Victorian influence as well. I’ve just always been drawn to that. I’d like to think that I’m a vaudeville star reincarnated in this life.
Next up, your excellent Drag Becomes Him YouTube documentary is becoming a feature-length film. What will we see in that? Where does this start and end in relation to the YouTube clips?
The cool thing about Drag Becomes Him is that we’re releasing the full-length feature documentary this summer at the end of summer. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long long time and people have gotten to see clips of it on YouTube. But we’re now going back to the drawing board with it and looking at all the footage and really examining the story as one big cohesive story. We’ve also filmed a lot of additional footage after we raised the money on the Kickstarter. So Drag Becomes Him starts about a year before I ever thought about auditioning for Drag Race and takes up right after the episodes started airing and everyone knew I had done Drag Race and then follows me up to the moment that I win. Then it follows me sporadically after winning and concludes with me crowning the new winner. We’ll also have a little bit of aftermath, like three months after the new winner. It’s kind of like before rising to during and then after the whole Drag Race whirlwind. It’s kind of a sporadic chronological examination of what it was like winingDrag Race and that whole experience.
In the first part of the series, you discuss feeling like it didn’t matter what you looked like as a boy because you were “beautiful as a girl.” Does that sort of empowerment come through every time you transform into Jinkx to this day?
I think I definitely feel that even moreso today because I’m really proud of the way my craft has evolved. I’m proud of the steps I have taken to take everything to the next level, such as superficial things like make-up and hair but I’ve also been really invested in making sure that the artwork that I’m producing is stuff that I’m really proud of. It’s stuff that I’m certain that I want to put out there. Nothing’s rushed anymore. Nothing is haphazardly done. That’s where I’ve always wanted to take this and make a legitimate career. Drag Race really gave me the ability to do that. I still feel the same kind of empowerment. At the same time, the world has really gotten to know me as a person as well as my drag persona. I feel like I feel even more empowered these days as myself out of drag, too. Both aspects of my life have become more mature and a lot more empowered and confident these days.
Finally, where does your mantra “water off a ducks’ back” come from?
A friend of mine was dropping me off at the airport when I was going to film Drag Race. Of course I couldn’t tell her exactly what I was doing, but I told her I was really nervous and that I was going to go up for a big role. I think I told her I was auditioning for something but that it was really competitive. She said “water off a duck’s back,” but it was my drag friend Robbie Turner, one of my sisters in Seattle, that would say “water off a duck’s back” meaning other people’s negativity doesn’t affect you.
It was already a mentality I had after art school, and “water off a duck’s back” is an easier way of saying that it’s not about you as a human being. It’s not a personal attack on you, but it’s a critique of your work. To be an effective artist, you have to be able to hear critiques and take the notes there but let go of the negativity or any personal attack feelings that you feel were there in the way a person was critiquing you. You gotta let that go. I always thought of that phrase referring specifically to all the negative bullshit that has nothing to do with me or anything that was my head telling me that I’m not good enough or the insecurities. That all has to go. [It’s about] really just listening to what people are telling me and not piling on all the emotional response to it but take it very much like it’s an opportunity to improve the work.