RuPaul’s Drag Race season five winner Jinkx Monsoon marches to the beat of her own drum—a stride that’s led her all the way to seizing the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. With her endearing campy style and quiet determination, the Portland born Seattle native quickly became a fan favorite. We’ve been in flood preparation mode for weeks, and Monsoon season is finally upon us.
Early in the season it seemed Jinkx’s offbeat take on old-school Hollywood glamour might be too far left of center to generate mass appeal—or anything less than a shady look of disdain from Michelle Visage. But once she found her stride on the runway, Jinkx propelled through the competition on the strength of her well-honed performance skills, charming personality, and killer comedic timing.
We talked to the recent winner about her experience on the show, how life has changed since taking the crown, and—of course—her favorite pairs of underwear in and out of drag.
Check out our exclusive interview below, and let us know how you’re faring through Monsoon season!
The Underwear Expert: How has life changed for you since winning the show?
Jinkx Monsoon: I usually say, ‘How hasn’t it changed?’ Because literally every aspect of my life is different now. I’ve learned so much about myself as a person and as a performer. I just feel like a more fully realized drag queen and a more fully realized human being. It’s allowed me to really reflect on my life and be very thankful for the things that helped me get to where I am, and I just love every moment of it.
UX: What was it like watching the show air for the first time? Were you surprised by anything you saw?
Jinkx: There’s so much I don’t get to see until it airs, like the confessionals of the other queens and things I wasn’t present for. So it was fun to watch my fellow competitors’ experience as well as relive my own. But it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around, watching yourself on TV can be a little surreal at moments.
UX: Was there anything you would have done differently?
Jinkx: It’s like a catch-22, because I feel like I learned so much about drag and the art form, and I feel like I’m performing at a whole new level now. I wish I could have gone into the competition with the skills and talents that I’ve acquired now, but I never would have acquired these skills had I not gone through the competition.
So it’s kind of like, you can’t have it both ways, you know? [Laughs] But yeah, I wish I had taken a few more sewing lessons, and maybe a couple more wig styling classes before doing the show. But otherwise I wouldn’t change a moment of it, because I just really feel so fortunate for my experience on Drag Race.
UX: How did it feel to find out you were the fan favorite?
Jinkx: That was probably the biggest surprise. I just thought I would be too much of an acquired taste for people, just a little bit too kooky for your average Drag Race viewer. But I was excited to see that the audience liked it—that they got where I was coming from, and that there are a lot of people out there who feel similarly about life, love and drag!
UX: You’ve cited Meryl Streep, Lucille Ball and your mother as drag inspirations. What do they all have in common that you take away from?
Jinkx: I think they all have class and integrity. They’re true ladies, but they don’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t be a clown—that they can’t goof around and show the goofy, ugly parts of themselves as well. If you look at Meryl Streep’s body of work, she’s not only been a glamour icon and a true diva, but she’s also been a huge clown at times and done some of the kookiest, funniest things. And that goes without saying for Lucille Ball, and my mom is a lot like that too. She’s a very sweet, well put-together woman, but she’s not afraid to commit to the joke. [Laughs]
UX: Your mantra on the show ‘Water off a duck’s back,’ helped you stay true to yourself through a lot of trying times. Is there a message there you hope to pass along using this new platform?
Jinkx: One thing I learned in art school, when you present art to someone or you present a scene to your theatre class, you’re asking them to critique the work that you put on stage. Sometimes you can take it really personally, and sometimes people’s critiques can hit you in the heart. But they’re not talking about you at all, they’re talking about the work that they watched.
So on the runway, I constantly needed to remind myself to take the critiques in and take the notes and be able to learn and to grow from them, but not take them personally. Listen to them, but don’t let the negative aspect of it weigh you down—let it be water off a duck’s back. I think that’s a philosophy we can all take into our lives and into our work. You have to be able to receive critiques to grow and to become better, but you don’t have to take it personally to the point where you’re beating yourself up about it everyday. I think we all face those kinds of situations in day-to-day life.
UX: Okay, so we’re going to move on to some underwear questions.
Jinkx: Wonderful! I’m sick of Drag Race, let’s talk about underwear!
UX: Right on! Firstly, we’re big fans of the Andrew Christian pit crew…
Jinkx: Yes, me too!
UX: That Whatcha Packin’ mini-challenge was pretty much beyond!—did you have a favorite crewman?
Jinkx: Well, Shawn Morales and I, he’s the one with the tattoos and the mustache?
UX: Oh yes, we know Shawn!
Jinkx: He’s actually such a sweet guy and has such a good sense of humor. Also, he is of the au naturale persuasion—he doesn’t wear deodorant. So at times when I was feeling really homesick for Seattle, I would just stand next to him and take it in and feel like I was at home for a moment, because he has that kind of Seattle-grunge-funk about him. He was my favorite just for the fact of sense memory purposes! [Laughs]
UX: What kind of underwear do you wear in drag, men’s or women’s?
Jinkx: When I am in drag, I wear men’s underwear pulled up. What I do is I wear soft-top cotton briefs, I tuck my junk in between my legs and then I pull my briefs up past my bellybutton and turn them into a thong, and that keeps all my stuff in place for the evening. I think they’re just basic cotton underwear from H&M, and that’s what I use to tuck with. Not every drag queen does it that way, but that’s the way that’s worked for me my whole life.
UX: Are there certain types of underwear that work better for that, something that’s soft and cotton?
Jinkx: Yeah, I like whatever is the softest. Because when you’re in drag for a long time, you can kind of cause a little bit of friction down there. Sometimes I use a dance belt, but dance belts can be very… [woof]… they can just be very… chaffy. [Laughs] I don’t know how else to put it more eloquently!
UX: Do you have a lucky pair of underwear that you wear while performing?
Jinkx: No, I don’t have any one for performing, but I do have a lucky pair of underwear for when I’m not performing.. you know, when I’m offstage, Mama!
UX: So, what are your top three favorite pairs of underwear out of drag?
Jinkx: Out of drag, my three favorite pairs of underwear are: I have a purple pair of Diesel underwear, I have a turquoise pair of Andrew Christian underwear, and I have one pair of assless 2xist—you know the underwear-jockstrap assless style, that’s for days at the beach! [Laughs]
Daniel Webster is another one of my favorite underwear designers, and he’s local to Seattle. He sells a lot of underwear though Under U 4men [the underwear store]. He does these amazing underwear designs that are not only really comfortable, but really unique. Like I have a pair of striped bubble-gum pink underwear—and what he does as his signature, the crotch piece has its own special design that you can only see on the inside.
UX: What’s the sexiest cut of underwear on a guy in your opinion?
Jinkx: I really like a guy in boxer briefs, because it kind of takes me back to high school [Laughs]. Even though I think it’s such a stupid thing, there’s something that still really turns me on about a guy with his jeans sagging and his boxers coming up over the top. In high school was when I first started noticing boys, and that’s when the skater-punk thing was in vogue so everyone had their boxers on display. I remember trying to stop myself from noticing that in high school so that I didn’t look like too much of a dick-pig! [Laughs]
UX: Right, like that scene in Clueless where all the guys are walking away with their boxers hanging out.
Jinkx: Yeah, totally!
UX: Now that you’ve won 100k, any plans to treat yourself to some luxury designer underwear?
Jinkx: Oh yeah. Actually today is my first day in Seattle, I came home yesterday and I get to spend the week here with very few obligations so it’s my first chance to go shopping with some of the money I’ve made from this tour I’ve been doing. So I’m very excited because I’m going to go update my boy wardrobe and upgrade my tech supplies [Laughs]. I want to get more of those David Beckham underwear, they’re actually pretty good and pretty comfortable.
UX: What can you tell us about The Vaudevillians, the show you’re performing at the Laurie Beechman theatre in NYC this summer?
Jinkx: It’s a very unique show, it’s something that me and my music partner [Richard Andriessen] created our junior year of college together in theatre school at Cornish College of the Arts. It started as a joke, like what if these two really, really old people were singing pop songs as if they were songs back in the day?
So we invented the characters ‘the vaudevillians,’ they’re a married couple from the 1920s, and they were frozen alive in a freak cocaine-induced avalanche accident. They’ve been frozen alive for the last century, and thanks to global warming they just thawed out and they return to the stage to perform their original music.
The premise is that all these pop stars have ripped off our music but we’re playing for you the original versions. We do a vaudeville version of ‘Paper Planes’ by MIA, and ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears, ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga, we do some Madonna, some Cher. We go all over the place with the covers, but they all sound like they were written in the 1920s for the vaudeville stage. It’s a lot of fun, and it also has a lot of comedic scenes and character-work, so it’s a very unique show.
UX: Sounds like a blast! What’s next for you, any other projects on the horizon that you can discuss?
Jinkx: The same music partner and I are working on some original music, so that this year I can produce an album. A lot of the Drag Race girls produce music and they go for dance tracks, but I’ve never been too hip to the discotheque. I’m actually going to produce an album that’s more musical standards, show tunes and torch songs. So, it’s going to be a little bit more lyrical than you’re used to from drag performers.
I’m also going to be playing Velma Von Tussle in the 5th Avenue Theatre production of Hairspray this summer [in Seattle]. I will be in a show that I’ve worked on for a few years with some Seattle performers called Freedom Fantasia at the Triple Door. Then I go on a European tour in the fall, and it’s my first time ever visiting the countries over the pond. So those are the big things, and of course the Absolut Tour that I’ll be headlining with fellow performer from Drag Race season 5.
SHOP Jinkx Monsoon’s Favorite Brands:
Diesel Underwear, available at Freshpair.com
Andrew Christian Underwear, available at Andrewchristian.com
Photo Credit: Jose A. Guzman