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Jinkx Monsoon on trans identity and taking centre stage: ‘I was always going to end up here’

Exclusive: Broadway star, cabaret artist, and a role in Doctor Who — Jinkx Monsoon’s big dreams have come true. But, as the two-time Drag Race winner shares, there were demons to defeat along the way

By Dale Fox

Jinkx Monsoon
Jinkx Monsoon (Image: Danica Robinson; Design: Attitude)

It’s 10am local time for Jinkx Monsoon when we catch up via Zoom. “Sorry my camera’s off — I had a late show last night,” the star explains of the blank space before me. Though I always prefer to see someone’s face when I talk to them online, I smile when I realise it confirms the point I wanted to make during our chat — that Jinkx’s career is thriving. Indeed, she’s taking the entertainment world by, well, monsoon.

Jinkx Monsoon wearing a spiked head dress
(Image: Danica Robinson)

Over the past decade, Jinkx Monsoon has become one of the most celebrated and multi-faceted performers to emerge from the illustrious ranks of RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni. Since being crowned the winner of season five in 2013 (and of All Stars in 2022), she has lit up the entertainment world, tearing down barriers and pushing boundaries with each role, incrementally advancing mainstream queer representation at the same time. Her impressive roster of accomplishments includes conquering Broadway in the Tony-winning musical Chicago (and currently dazzling off-Broadway audiences as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors), co-creating and starring in the internationally acclaimed Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show alongside fellow Drag Race and Seattle sister BenDeLaCreme, chewing the scenery in the 14th series of Doctor Who, and bagging herself a show at Carnegie Hall next year. Each new mainstream triumph for Jinkx feels like a victory for the entire community – though her path to success has been anything but smooth.

A decade of accomplishments

Looking back on her Drag Race win over 10 years ago, Jinkx admits she had big dreams from the moment the crown was placed on her head. “Well, the thing is, I did imagine this for myself after Drag Race season five,” she says in her distinctively old-world theatrical drawl. “It was a completely different game then. And different things were possible for drag queens and trans performers then.”

But when success didn’t come overnight, she grew frustrated. “What happened for me is after season five, I wanted it to all happen right away. I was ready for it. Or at least I felt ready for it. And I grew resentful that it didn’t happen all at once. The steps I was taking and the accomplishments I was making were wonderful. But they were not the big dreams I’d projected in my head.”

Rediscovering purpose

This resentment, coupled with struggles with alcoholism, led Jinkx to a dark place. “A big part of what led me to self-medicating with alcohol was my resentment for not being where I thought I wanted to be in life.” It forced her to reevaluate why she started performing in the first place. “I had to reinvest in why drag was why I chose how to do it [performing], and creating the show with BenDeLaCreme reminded me that there was a mission behind all of this: it wasn’t just to get famous; it was to create effective, good art that serves our community.”

Getting sober five years ago allowed Jinkx to refocus on creating meaningful work. “When I reinvested in creating the kind of work that I wanted to see in the world, the success followed,” she explains. “When I reinvested why I’m passionate about this and set my ego aside and started focusing on doing good work again, the opportunity started to follow.”

Spiritual journey

One of the key factors in Jinkx’s personal growth has been her practice of witchcraft, she affirms, calling it her connection to the spiritual world, nature and her environment. “Basically, my life being in a good position right now, I give that credit to therapy and witchcraft and mindful medication,” she says.

Jinkx Monsoon wearing a green dress
Jinkx credits her spirituality as being the driver for the good things in her life (Image: Danica Robinson)

“Spirituality and connection to the spiritual world, connection to nature, connection to my environment, is very important to me,” she explains. “Witchcraft is a personal practice. It’s a decision you make for yourself, and you don’t have to align with any religion to practise witchcraft. Or you can align with a religion and practise witchcraft. I know Jewish witches; I know Christian witches. Witchcraft is almost like a form of self-care mixed with philosophy and spiritual rhetoric.”

“I pay reverence to Hecate because I’m a big Greek mythology nerd”

Central to Jinkx’s spiritual belief is her reverence for Hecate, the Greek goddess of magic. “She was the goddess of the crossroads, and she guided people on their journeys,” Jinkx explains, adding, “I pay reverence to Hecate because I’m a big Greek mythology nerd and my goddesses, my pantheon, are Hera, Hecate and Hestia.”

Jinkx emphasises that witchcraft is about taking accountability for being your best self, saying, “Being your best self doesn’t just happen; it’s a choice you have to make. You have to want to be your best self for the people around you. And if there’s an obstacle in the way of you being your best self, like alcohol, when you remove that obstacle and reinvest in yourself and in your environment and those closest to you, good things can happen.”

Breaking barriers on Broadway

One of those good things was being cast in the role of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in Chicago on Broadway last year — a watershed moment for representation on the Great White Way as the first out non-cisgender woman to play the role. Jinkx believes her casting “signified something”. “It being an objective success showed just how much support there is for these visibly queer performers that haven’t been given equitable chances in the industry.”

She cites trailblazing trans performers like Alex Newell, Peppermint and MJ Rodriguez — who have also made groundbreaking strides on stage recently — for sparking conversation, alongside herself. “Our audiences have said, ‘No — we want the real story told from the people who lived it; we don’t want to be bullshitted.’ So, I’m part of something that’s happening right now. To me, it’s not just a job; it’s my mission statement in life as an artist.”

“I would say I’m non-binary trans-feminine”

I ask Jinkx about her choice to undergo facial feminisation surgery (FFS) earlier this year and the questions it raised over her identity, which she explains was part of her gradual journey of discovery. “I’ve been me for a very, very long time,” she says. “I came out as non-binary I think at, like, 25 or 26… shortly after season five of Drag Race. And over that last decade, I’ve slowly been just naturally going towards the feminine side of the spectrum because that’s always where I’ve felt comfortable. It’s just taking me a long time to give myself permission to live fully in my feminine identity.”

Having already come out in various ways throughout her life — “I had to come out as a drag queen, as queer, as trans, as non-binary, and now trans-feminine” — Jinkx wanted this step to feel natural and unforced. “In the last five years, I’ve kind of started introducing the word trans-feminine. And for me, the way I’ve lived my life and the way I’ve been open about who I am and very public and candid, it just kind of felt like I was taking another step in the same direction I’ve already been on. I would say I’m non-binary trans-feminine.”

Transitioning her own way

She adds, “I was always going to end up here; I just didn’t know when. And it just happened to all align at the same time, and I know it was kind of abrupt … but that’s kind of how I felt like I wanted to do it. And everyone has told me, ‘Do this transition the way that feels right for you.’ So, I just took that to heart.”

Jinkx Monsoon wearing a green dress
“I was always going to end up here; I just didn’t know when” (Image: Danica Robinson)

This decision came ahead of Jinkx’s most unexpected performance to date, as the immensely powerful (and immensely camp) Doctor Who villain Maestro, which came about through her friendship with the show’s screenwriter Russell T. Davies. “Russell and I had been friends for many years before the Doctor Who episode came about,” Jinkx explains. “He’s an avid patron of the arts, and before I had met him in any other context, he was coming to see shows I was doing.”

From Drag Race to Doctor Who

One performance in particular sparked the idea for Jinkx’s Doctor Who character. “One night he saw one of my weirdest shows, Together Again, Again. And in this show, I played myself in my 80s, and the way I envision myself in my 80s is pretty bonkers. And Russell told me that he was walking home from the show that night, and it hit him that I might be right for this character that was being conceived for Doctor Who. And then I think from that point forward, he started writing the character with me in mind.”

Filming alongside co-stars Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson was a joy for Jinkx. “They were both such generous, wonderful scene partners because they gave their all in every take, whether the cameras were on them or not,” she recalls. “To have scene partners who are really happy to give you their all every take, it just makes the job so easy. And Ncuti was just so easy to play with. It never felt like acting. It just felt like we were our characters having a conversation, and that’s a cool place to get to when you’re working on a project.”

“Who gives a fuck what transphobes think?”

I bring up how the casting of two trans actors, Jinkx herself and Yasmin Finney, in the new series of Doctor Who sparked a predictable online backlash, with accusations of the show ‘going woke’ and threats of boycotts. But Jinkx has no time for the haters. “I say, ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We don’t need you,’” she declares. “I say, who gives a fuck what transphobes think? I say, for every Doctor Who fan we lose for racism, transphobia, queerphobia or just general bigotry, we’re going to have three or five more new Doctor Who fans coming in because of the representation. To the people who are criticising it and have a problem with it, I say to you, ‘You might be loud, but your numbers are shrinking, and your time is up. So, bye-bye!’”

Jinkx Monsoon wearing a green dress
“I do think the younger generation needs to be reminded that we had to fight for this” (Image: Danica Robinson)

Looking ahead, Jinkx hopes the entertainment industry will continue opening doors for unapologetically queer performers like her. “What we’re fighting for when we fight for representation, we’re fighting to keep all that because it wasn’t always here, and there are people who desperately want to take it away from us. I don’t believe they will. I know that we are in the right and that more and more people are seeing that. But I do think the younger generation needs to be reminded that we had to fight for this, and we still have to fight to keep it.”

“I’m having the time of my life”

In the meantime, Jinkx remains focused on creating art that uplifts and empowers her community, with riches and fame a secondary thought. “Do what you do for you because you love it and because you believe in it — not because you think it’s going to make you rich, not because you think it’s going to make you famous,” she advises. “There’s something to be said for investing in the people around you, investing in your environment, thinking about how your actions affect the sphere around you. If you don’t have something you serve, if you don’t have a reason for doing what you do, I can’t imagine how you could be good at doing it.”

With upcoming projects including a return to the Broadway production of Chicago and a landmark turn at the iconic Carnegie Hall, Jinkx Monsoon’s star shows no signs of dimming anytime soon. Guided by the light of her spirituality and her commitment to her community, she’s forging a path for queer performers everywhere to live and create authentically. As Jinkx puts it, “I’m having the time of my life.”

This feature appears in Issue 359 of Attitude magazine, which is available to order online here and alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359
Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359 (Image: Attitude)