Jinkx Monsoon

Forget everything you thought you knew about modern music. The Vaudevillians are reclaiming the origin stories of a few well-loved pop tunes. During the Twenties this pair were wowing audiences with their edgy and original music. But tragedy struck when touring Antarctica, as a devastating avalanche instantly froze them alive. Through the miracle of global warming, they were fortunately (and somewhat improbably) recovered – only to discover their songs had been appropriated by some of music’s biggest stars. “We’re here to give you a little historical context behind some of your favourite pop songs,” says the show’s co-writer, performer and drag superstar, Jinkx Monsoon. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was actually written by The Vaudevillians in the 20s as a reflection on the suffragette movement. A lot of people don’t know that.” A rowdy musical comedy, it robustly melds vintage cabaret with a twist of drag, and enjoyed repeatedlyextended runs off-Broadway. There’s also been a soldout Australian tour and an enormously successful stint at London’s Soho Theatre. Soon heading to The Old Market in Hove, Monsoon regards the show as one of their strongest works. “It’s so ridiculous and unique. It’s an idiotic concept – but I always think some of the best cabaret work is.”

Back home, America’s LGBTQ population is increasingly under pressure. Years of progress is being slowly eroded, both by lawmakers and newly legitimised far-right options. Monsoon admits to existing in something of a bubble, only ever living in the country’s more liberal enclaves. But the situation is impossible to ignore. “From what I can tell, no one is happy. You can’t go two days without hearing about something from this administration which is obviously an attack on our community.” Only recently has the US begun to be more fair and equal for all its citizens, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, but this situation is reversing. Sections of the government are actively trying to repeal legislation which protects its diversity. “It’s under the guise of: ‘it’s all for the good of America’ and ‘trying to repair what’s wrong with the country’. If you’re not a rich white male, you’re considered an after-thought when it comes to the legal system.” It’s clearly difficult to live under a system which doesn’t represent you in any way. Even more so when it’s staffed by extremists who are demonising your community in the name of ‘values’.

After already performing drag for more than a decade, Monsoon sprung to global attention as the Season Five winner on RuPaul’s Drag Race. They also managed to win whilst rising above the show’s notoriously bitchy backstage antics. “I was just there to do my best as a performer and an entertainer. I wasn’t there to get sucked into the bullshit.” There’s certainly gratitude for living amongst a generation who can find a platform on television. “It’s very surreal, but I try to count my blessings every day.” Drag Race has undeniably presented a whole new world for them as a performer, enabling a certain playfulness when it comes to expression.

Personal inspiration draws from a lot of different sources. There’s an air of old-school sophistication – Marilyn Monroe, Betty Davis, Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball have all left a mark on Monsoon. More contemporary entertainers, like Deven Green, Sarah Silverman and Margaret Cho, are also cited as influences. “I really to take the old and the new, then combine them in a way where you can’t really place me in any onetime period. Mathu Andersen, who was RuPaul’s make-up artist for eight seasons, gave me the tagline which I still like to use today – ‘a gorgeous anachronism.’”

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales’ The Vaudevillians comes to The Old Market on Thurs 30 Nov – Fri 1 Dec




Words by Stuart Rolt

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