Hotseat: Jinkx Monsoon

Meet the Pacific Northwest's first contestant on the American Idol of drag.

Snatching a spot on RuPaul's Drag Race is the quickest way for a drag queen to make it big, and the show's newest season features its first contestant from the Pacific Northwest: Jinkx Monsoon.

Monsoon, whose boy name is Jerick Hoffer, 25, lives in Seattle but hails from Portland. Hoffer first performed as Jinkx when he was 16 at the downtown underage dance club that became the Escape. Hoffer, now a stage actor, auditioned for Drag Race after seeing another character actor, Sharon Needles, win the title of America's Next Drag Superstar on the show last season. WW talked to Hoffer about his character and growing up as a queer teenager in Portland.

WW: What about Sharon Needles inspired you to apply to be on the show?
Jinkx Monsoon: Sharon Needles is a very high-concept, character-driven drag queen, and that's how I kind of identify myself. I wasn't inspired because I see myself as gothic or spooky like Sharon, but more so because I consider myself a drag queen with a full character and full backstory. When I saw how well she was doing on the Race, I started to feel like maybe this is the right competition for me too.

What is your character and backstory? 
Jinkx Monsoon is kind of based on my mother and also on my favorite female comediennes like Sarah Silverman, Lucille Ball, Maria Bamford and Deven Green. I see Jinkx Monsoon as a single mother who desperately wanted to be an actress when she was a little girl, and it never happened for her, so she keeps failing wonderfully. She's a tragic heroine because every time she goes for the prize, she fails. That's kind of what's endearing about her. I play her with a very tongue-in-cheek, drunken, disheveled, MILF-y housewife kind of attitude. When I go out to parties or events and stuff, I try to have at least one or two early-20-something gay boys around me that I refer to as my sons.

In an interview you did for Logo, you said you had a 23-year-old son, and I was thinking, "Damn, she looks young for that."
That's what I'm talking about when I say "high concept." I don't know a lot of drag queens whose characters are not the same age as they are. I very much feel when I'm portraying Jinkx Monsoon that I'm portraying a character. It's not Jerick Hoffer portraying a woman, it's Jerick Hoffer portraying Jinkx Monsoon.

You've said your goal is to make it on Broadway. Is your goal to be a Broadway star or a drag star?
My goal is to be a drag-queen superstar on Broadway. I'm trying to coin the term "dragtress." My other big goal in the next 10 years is to be the first drag queen to host Saturday Night Live.... I'd like to show that drag isn't just for the queer community. It's a universal and entertaining art form that can be shared with everyone—not just drunk homosexuals at smoky dive bars.

What's your dream role on Broadway?
My No. 1 dream role is Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. My favorite musicals are Stephen Sondheim musicals, so all my dream roles are from Stephen Sondheim shows.

Your name is a mix of Edina Monsoon from Absolutely Fabulous and your nickname Jinkx, which you had at SMYRC (Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center) in Portland. How much time did you spend at SMYRC?
I used to be one of the youth there in their drop-in programs. I would just go there and hang out with the queer kids my age and stuff. Then at 17, I wanted to start volunteering more, so I started fundraising drag shows to raise money for the space. I was taking what I was learning at the Escape nightclub as a drag queen and sharing it with SMYRC and kind of getting the SMYRC drag community up and running. SMYRC continues to be one of my favorite nonprofit organizations to work with.

I think the teens of Portland are very lucky that they have a space that's for them even if they're just going to meet other people their age who identify as queer. High school can be such a rough place to be a queer teenager, so to have somewhere to retreat is invaluable.

So on Drag Race, are you the villain?
No, without giving away too much.... A lot of people from other regions tell me I'm the nicest drag queen they've ever met, and I didn't change that at all for reality TV. Lots of people in Seattle tell me that people who come from Portland are just so much nicer than anyone else they know, and then people from L.A. say people from the Northwest in general are just 10 times nicer than anyone they know in L.A.... I'm used to people telling me that they didn't know that a drag performer could be inherently such a sweetheart.

But what good is a nice drag queen?
I'm more bitchy to myself. I'm a self-loathing comedienne. I have more fun poking fun at myself than anyone else. 

SEE IT: Season five of RuPaul's Drag Race airs on Logo.

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