Drag becomes her

Jerick Hoffer is American but believes alter ego Jinkx Monsoon’s type of drag humour is more suited to UK audiences. Which is just as well, because we’ll be seeing more of them

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“We all have an alter ego, a superhero persona inside of us,” says Jerick Hoffer. “Drag shows us that it’s okay to have different facets of your personality and to want to explore those different sides of yourself.”

Hoffer’s own alter ego is Jinkx Monsoon. Citing influences such as Lucille Ball and Madeline Kahn, Jinkx is, Hoffer says, “all my favourite comedians filtered through a crude impersonation of my mother. At her core she’s a single mother who has big dreams and is desperately grasping at fame. And she’s a bit of a lush and a bit of a slut.

“That’s not a comment on my mother’s sexuality. It’s more a commentary on my own. I feel like Jinkx is the place where I put all my naughty behaviour. I get my demons out on stage so I don’t carry them with me.”

Channelled through Jinkx, Hoffer’s performances include acerbic comedy, satire, impersonations (Bette Davis is particularly spot on) and singing. It was that combination of talents that led to Jinkx taking the crown in RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2013.

For those who don’t know, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality TV talent show that started a decade ago. The queen of queens RuPaul presides over the competition alongside a panel of regular and guest judges as a selection of drag artists undergo various trials to be crowned America’s next drag superstar.

For years there have been rumours of a UK version of the show and it’s finally arrived on BBC, fronted by RuPaul herself and with queens from across the country, including Liverpool’s The Vivienne and West Yorkshire’s Divina De Campo. Hoffer, now a regular visitor to these shores, will be watching.

“I’ve met a lot of queens working throughout the UK and have worked with Baga Chipz and Divina De Campo so I’m excited to see both of them on Drag Race.

“I love drag in the UK because I feel like it’s so well done, but also no one takes themselves too seriously. There are a lot of diva personalities, but it’s not because they are super into themselves, it’s more because they know [their drag persona] ought to be a diva.”

Since winning Drag Race season five, Hoffer, 32, has toured a number of shows around the UK and that love of the UK drag scene is mirrored in a love of performing to audiences here.

“I think my work is well suited to the UK because a lot of my inspiration comes from British comedy – television shows that I was raised on.”

Indeed Jinkx’s surname comes from Adina Monsoon from the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. “I feel like I’m more on the same page with my audiences in the UK. My sense of humour is esoteric and eclectic, delivered with a deadpan dryness and that works really well there.”

Jinkx returns to these shores once again in December with the show All I Want For Christmas Is Attention, performed with fellow Drag Race alumnus BenDeLaCreme and produced in partnership with Manchester’s Contact Theatre.

There will be, says Hoffer, “ridiculous holiday-themed pageantry and humour, with lots of satire and commentary, because both of us are very opinionated. I’ll be belting my little heart out and we’re throwing in some choreography. We make the most out of a two-woman show.”

Hoffer uses the pronoun “she” when talking about Jinkx, but “they” when talking about having come out as gender non-binary a few years ago, even recording a song about it: Just Me (The Gender Binary Blues).

“I always knew I didn’t identify as male but I also didn’t identify as female,” says Hoffer. “And I never really felt like I knew exactly where I sat on the whole gender spectrum. And when we started having the conversation that many people don’t adhere to the constraints that we’ve been given, that’s when I started to realise the way I wanted to live the rest of my life. I’ve become really passionate about spreading that kind of open-mindedness towards the conversation about gender.”

Hoffer first performed in drag at the age of 16 in hometown Portland, Oregon. They moved to Seattle to study acting and established Jinkx Monsoon as a well-known presence on the Seattle drag scene while also taking on a number of other theatre roles. Inspired to audition for Drag Race by the previous year’s winner, Sharon Needles – another character-driven avant-garde performer – winning the Drag Race crown is something Hoffer is immensely proud of.

“I was taught in acting school that there was this term called arte, where better art is created in competition. And I look back at my time on Drag Race and how such a rigorous competition caused me in so many ways to up my game as a drag performer and really focused my passion and my interest. I came out of it a much stronger artist and I’m grateful for that.”

Since winning, Hoffer has developed a number of stage shows and released two albums as Jinkx. Jinkx Monsoon is, indeed, more famous than Hoffer. Does she take over Hoffer’s life?

“Yes and no. When I go out to a gay bar I can assume that I’m going to be recognised so I prepare myself for that. But then I can be in an airport or a fast food place or something – I’ve gotten really good at snapping into Jinkx when I meet someone randomly in the street.

“When I feel most sorry is when I’m out with friends or my boyfriend and they have to wait patiently while I take a selfie. But I’m starting to have the career I’ve always wanted, doing things that I dreamt of doing as a kid, and if the trade-off is saying hello and taking a selfie here and there then I’m cool with that.”

As well as the forthcoming Christmas show, there are plans for a new stage show with regular musical partner Major Scales in the spring, so it’s clear Jinkx will be back in the UK in 2020, especially because Hoffer has just started dating someone who lives in Manchester.

“He’s a sweetheart and swept me off my feet. We’ve done the whole long distance thing but I’ll have to come to Manchester more often.”

But despite this new relationship and that love of working in the UK, Hoffer wouldn’t make the move across the pond permanently. A sense of home is becoming more and more important.

“I was born in Portland and everyone born in Portland eventually goes back there – it’s like a thing. But actually, Manchester makes me think a lot of Portland, so if I were to move anywhere else it would be there.”

All I Want for Christmas Is Attention is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on 1 December (atgtickets.com). Drag Race UK is available on BBC iPlayer

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