Drag Race royalty Jinkx Monsoon on chosen families and ‘hustling’ to survive COVID pandemic
More than a decade later, their friendship has endured and their ideas are still as zany as ever. The synopsis for their brand-new show Together Again, Again! which recently premiered at London’s Soho Theatre and will soon tour the rest of the country, is proof.
Described by the charismatic duo as a “hypothetical retrospective”, the show catapults audience into a fictional future where “Jinkx is drinking, Major is balding, the world is collapsing and reptiles rule the world”. Against this campy, dystopian background, Scales and Monsoon imagine themselves as fame-hungry has-beens, clutching desperately at their last flickers of fame.
As for the show’s title, it isn’t just catchy, it’s accurate. The touring date has been postponed by two years due to the pandemic, but finally Scales and Monsoon sit side-by-side in a London AirBnB. “There’s a picture of London on the wall behind us, just in case we forget where we are,” quips Scales before we start the interview.
Throughout the call, they crack jokes and rib each other gently. Their long-term friendship is evident in the way they finish each other’s sentences, and their enduring musical partnership looks set to yield yet more tongue-in-cheek, 30s-inspired cabaret tracks, along the same lines as Monsoon’s 2018 album, The Ginger Snapped.
The capital is their first stop on a whirlwind, months-long tour. Ahead of its opening night, the duo spared time to talk cartoons, vaudeville, kitty litter jingles and their accidental invention of a brand-new genre, the “hypothetical retrospective”.
First of all, tell us about the new show. What can fans expect?
Major: Our new show is set in 2065. It’s our characters, Jinkx and Major, playing ourselves in the future and sort of making up a fictional future for us – what would have happened in our careers, how we would have fallen out and gotten back together over and over again.
Jinkx: Yes, and we’re focusing exclusively on the years that haven’t happened yet. It’s a hypothetical retrospective!
Major: Is that a new genre?
Jinkx: It is, we’re inventing it!
You’ve been friends since university, right?
Jinkx: I guess we met in our first year of college, but it wasn’t until sophomore year of college we started becoming very close. By junior year of college we were living together, and now we’re essentially common-law married! We started working together in college, but in earnest as working professionals, it was pretty much immediately after graduation. We haven’t really stopped since.
How has that relationship evolved through working together?
Major: That’s a really good question. It helped that we lived together, so we got a lot of the roommate rules out of the way.
Jinkx: Some of our best ideas came to us while playing video games on the couch stoned and drunk! That wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t lived together. Over the years of touring, we’ve gotten to know each other very intimately. We’re an example of chosen family; our friendship has transcended typical friendships and bridged that gap into unconditional love. Basically, we’re stuck with each other whether we like it or not!
View this post on Instagram
We know the show was postponed, so I imagine it’s been tricky to navigate touring in a pandemic? Tell us about that.
Major: It’s still something we’re figuring out, other than being as safe and considerate as possible.
Jinkx: When BenDeLaCreme and I went on tour for the holidays, we were about two weeks from completion when the final west coast leg was cancelled. It felt like we were navigating it, but then even that got cancelled. We’re just grateful for every performance, because these last two years have meant a lot of hustling. I never thought I could be a live entertainer working from home, but thanks to technology I could. Can you imagine if this happened in the late 90s, before we had these magic wands in our pockets? We’d have people selling VHS tapes on the street; I don’t know how drag queens would have survived without technology! I feel fortunate I was able to make that transition to digital; otherwise, I’d be back to being a janitor.
Jinkx, weren’t you quarantining in an AirBnB during the holidays?
Jinkx: I had to do it a few times in preparation for the holiday tour. I was having to self-quarantine for two weeks, alone in someone else’s space. That was a bit maddening.
Major: She was like Howard Hughes!
Jinkx: Luckily I had my PlayStation with me, so I kept myself sane. At the holidays I was quarantining with other cast-mates, which was much more enjoyable, and also with DeLa. We had Christmas together, which was a unique but very, very special experience. We whipped up a Christmas dinner with anything we could have delivered, and anything we could find in this AirBnB. Cooking a turkey in someone else’s oven is a bigger task than you’d think!
You toured as the Vaudevillians back in 2013. Vaudeville seems to be an era of drag that slips under the radar a lot; what was it that drew you both to it?
Jinkx: I think vaudeville is referenced a lot in mainstream media, people just don’t know that’s the reference. Family Guy is an example, they make references to vaudeville constantly, but maybe younger audiences don’t know.
Major: Exactly, they’re just like, oh, there’s that thing again!
Jinkx: If you look at what drag queens do these days, you build a drag show with all these entertainers in it, then you tour it around to different cities every night. That’s vaudeville. Drag queens, a lot of live entertainers these days are working off that original vaudeville formula. It was a no-brainer for us to bridge that gap – I’m saying that so much, it’s in one of our songs! Anyway, it’s one reason a lot of our songs bridge that gap between drag and vaudeville. It’s what we considered to be the standard for drag entertainment.
Major: It helped that, when we first got to know each other, we learned we both had an appreciation for music from the 20s and 30s, which is all very ya-da-da-da-da, to be technical about it!
Jinkx: It’s what brought us together in the first place, so it’s in the bones of everything we do.
Major: Would you say it bridges the gap?
Jinkx: I would!
You mentioned Family Guy, and Jinkx we know you have the Futurama podcast [with Nick Sahoyah] which looks at the show through a queer lens. Did that idea of finding inspiration or new ideas in cartoons bond you both as well?
Jinkx: You know, I analyse everything through a queer theory lens, whether it was created with queer people in mind or not. We both enjoy cartoons, but I think a lot of cartoons can inspire drag because both things are larger-than-life and kind of hyper-natural. It might be depicting reality, but it’s doing so through a particular aesthetic.
Major: Look at all the cartoons we got queered for the ‘Cartoons and Vodka’ music video, that was just us taking shows we loved and inserting ourselves into it.
View this post on Instagram
We wanted to talk to you about the music, actually. It’s extremely intimate but also tongue-in-cheek. How does the creation process work?
Jinkx: This is another point for us having a long, well-built relationship. For ‘Just Me (Gender Binary Blues)’, I sat with Major and said I’d like us to write a song about being non-binary, but I wanted to include my actual life experiences. I don’t write most of the music, I come in after Major has composed and written the music to then fine-tune it with him, but he wrote that song with references he knew because he’s been there on that whole journey.
There’s a lyric: “Now when I’m at the doctor for a little old check-up / And he says I’ve marked the wrong box and I wanna yell ‘step up!’” That’s a reference to a time I went to see a doctor about an STD. They misgendered me and asked when my last menstruation was! I was so bewildered and confused; was I supposed to have been menstruating this whole time? It’s one of my favourite stories to tell, and Major was able to use it as a line in our song. It’s a perfect testament to what we get out of the years of knowing each other.
Major: It’s definitely the sort of subject I only feel comfortable writing about because we are so close, and I know those personal experiences. I felt it was something we could draw from to make a universal topic feel more personal.
It must be lovely to hear from non-binary people about how the song has helped them with their gender journey, too?
Jinkx: It’s the best unexpected, added bonus to be able to help and inspire other people without even knowing it. Major and I love performing, so we’re performers because that’s what we wanted to do with our lives. I didn’t necessarily get into drag and cabaret to improve the lives of young queer people, but I’m eternally grateful I found a way to do what I want with my life and create a positive impact by doing that.
Major: Definitely. We’ve found an audience that connects with us, so it’s become a conversation. It starts from a place of us talking about our interests, and then other people see it and know they can get into it, too. That’s great to see.
You’ve started the tour in London. Any plans while you’re here?
Jinkx: We’re going to see Pleasure Seekers by Bourgeois and Maurice at the Soho Theatre. We like to take in the shows of other performers we admire, and Bourgeois, Maurice and Joe Black are probably my favourite British cabaret acts.
Major: There are a lot of restaurants I need to pay a visit to as well!
Jinkx: My husband is working this tour for the first time, too. I used to hate sightseeing-type things, but somehow doing it with him is fun. This might be my first time riding the London Eye, some touristy bullshit like that!
Major: Plus my mom is in town, so I get to show her around. I imagine she’ll be excited, but also very, very perplexed.
Finally, the play is set in 2065 – where do you hope to see yourselves in that time?
Jinkx: I hope to have done more TV, film and animated voiceover work. If we’re on the same trajectory we’re on now, we should have ten albums out by then!
Major: At least! I just hope I can look back on a much more decent career than the fake one we’ve made up for the show, where I end up writing kitty litter jingles. Well, only if it were the biggest kitty litter jingle ever. That would be fine!
To get tickets for their show, Together Again, Again! at London’s Leicester Square Theatre head to seetickets.com.
This article contains affiliate links, PinkNews may earn revenue if you click through and purchase products through the links.