During an interview with BFI, queen of all queens Jinkx Monsoon says with a knowing chuckle that Grey Gardens was a cult film until she did Little Edie on Snatch Game. “And then all of a sudden rental sales, sales of the film, the YouTube counts, the Wikipedia counts, everything went up tenfold,wp_postsshe explains. Then she deflects slightly, adding, “I guess RuPaul’s Drag Race is a mildly popular show.”
Drag Race gave her the platform, but it takes a certain kind of artist to imitate an obscure documentary on that platform. It takes a certain kind of artist to do it so well that the documentary is no longer obscure. Jinkx Monsoon is that kind of artist.
With her new comedy special, Red Head Redemption, Jinkx finds something between her singular cabaret shows and more traditional stand-up. Whether she’s singing, telling jokes, or just riffing, the special is at its best when Jinkx is following her own interests, inviting the audience to follow her down paths of idiosyncrasy. It’s at its best when she’s allowed her wonderfully weird specificity.
Jinkx is always hilarious and entertaining and she remains hilarious and entertaining when covering more standard trans comic topics like bathrooms, gender reveal parties, and airport security. But she’s transcendent when doing less expected fare like a musical number as Joan Cusack’s character from Addam’s Family Values — voice included.
It’s not about references being obscure — it’s that Jinkx is talking about things she cares about with no concern for relevancy, and talking about them in a way only she can. Most people watching will have seen Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast, but it’s still a choice to bring up the moment where Gaston’s toe peaks out of his sock. And to share that it gave her a foot fetish.
She may poke fun at herself for telling jokes that reference her celebrity life of international travel and Paula Abdul encounters. But, like when referencing her favorite movies, she does it in such a way that makes it easy to laugh at how British people order at Subway — even if you’ve never been to the UK.
It’s a basic tenet of artmaking that universality is found in specificity. Trying to appeal to everyone results in work that is flat and boring. Creating in a way only you can create results in work that is human and therefore appealing to other humans.
But even if this is a widely understood principle, it’s still one that’s fought against by people with power. It’s still more common to see trans storytelling that has a cis idea of mass appeal rather than art that feels specific, unique, and real.
It’s why I care so much about Autostraddle. Our independence has allowed me and so many other queers to tell our stories on our own terms. This matters in terms of transness — what a relief to not have to provide definitions in the middle of personal essays — and it matters in terms of, well, Drewness. It’s as important for me to write about my favorite esoteric art as it is to write about my identity. In fact, that’s all part of my identity.
Jinkx Monsoon’s drag embodies this rarity of expression. Whether she’s referencing science terms or doing elaborate bits with a banana and a condom — not the one you think — she follows her whims to their purest conclusions.
As her platform gets bigger, I hope those whims get weirder. I’ll follow Jinkx anywhere and, with her talent, I’m pretty sure the rest of her audience will too.