Interview: BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon Hit the Road This Holiday Season
Your favorite drag queens are back to make the Yuletide even gayer.
BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are ready to bust out of quarantine and hit the open road with The Return of The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! The two queens came to international attention as contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race, but they have gained a steady following of devotees through their subversive stage shows, including an annual holiday spectacular. Last year's show took the form of a classic TV holiday special, as theater artists across the world migrated to the small screen as a temporary solution during the pandemic. But this year, they're making up for lost time with their grandest tour ever, which will take them across the UK, Canada, and the United States. Click here for a full list of tour stops. They joined me from the West Coast via Zoom, which naturally prompted my first question.
This interview has been condensed and edit for clarity.
In the age of the Zoom drag show, do you only consider what the camera sees?
BenDeLaCreme: I think as a drag queen you're only ever thinking about what anybody sees.
Jinkx Monsoon: I was of the persuasion that I like to be in full drag all the time, because I feel like the corset and the heels are part of how I get into character. That persuasion died about two months into quarantine.
DeLa: I actually think that died before quarantine, because you did not wear a corset for the entire 2019 Christmas tour.
Jinkx: Oh yeah...I've blocked that out of my memory.
DeLa: I will say that in the beginning of quarantine, I was doing a lot of digital shows where the camera was far back, full body dancing and singing; and that very quickly transitioned into my shows just looking like Zoom meetings.
Jinkx: Yeah, by the end she was just doing her shows like this. [see image below.]
DeLa: As much as not corseting was a silver lining, I cannot wait to be fully uncomfortable, bound from head to toe, in front of an actual audience.
You're playing big theaters for the Holiday Show, but for a lot of drag performers, the theater is the gay bar. Do you miss that kind of venue?
Jinkx: The thing I miss the most about the nightlife scene is being backstage in the dressing room with all of the other drag queens. It takes a village to raise a drag queen. Doing it alone for two years in my makeshift office/dressing room has been really jarring. There were definitely days when I thought, How am I going to simulate being roasted by my best friends for two hours before doing this show?
You did your special last year as a streaming event. Was that harder or easier than putting together a stage show?
Jinkx: I don't know if it can be compared, since they're such separate beasts. That's me admitting that I didn't produce it, though. We co-created it, co-wrote it, co-starred in it, and DeLa also had the job of producing the whole damn thing.
DeLa: And directing! Yeah, I would agree that they're not completely comparable processes. I have been creating live stage work for 18 years now. This was my first time directing and producing a film, and there was a learning curve doing it on a timeline that was fully inadvisable: From inception to delivery, we were at barely six months. The whole thing was an absolute sprint, so in some ways, I feel like creating the film was the hardest thing I've ever done — but that is taking into account that it was a onetime experience versus a lifetime of getting to develop skills.
I last saw your holiday show at the Town Hall in 2019. How has it changed since then?
Jinkx: We'll always roll out the classics, but every year we start from the ground up and create a show that's unique for that year. We very much write our show for this point in time, for what our audiences have experienced this year. Right now, we have two years of quarantine to draw inspiration from.
You're starting in the UK and moving west from there. How do you get from place to place? Is it mostly air travel?
DeLa: My dream of dreams is to figure out how to make this a bus tour at some point. You can get more cities in if you're just sleeping on a bus, not worrying about the time it takes to get to and from the hotel to the airport. But right now it's a combination of flying and, when we can, driving from city to city in tour buses. In the UK we'll mostly be on the ground, because the UK is much more drivable.
Jinkx: If I had it my way, we would be traveling by dirigible and there would be two weeks between each show.
DeLa: Sure. The 2022 holiday tour can start January 5.
Do you have a favorite or particularly memorable tour mishap?
DeLa: This was not a favorite moment at the time, but I've grown fond of it upon reflection. There was a night in Seattle where we were doing this bit about the film White Christmas, where we start doing that "Sisters" act that everyone thinks drag queens have to perform in every holiday show. And then we start addressing the fact that there's actually like, a minstrel show in the middle of White Christmas. And someone in the audience tried to correct Jinkx that it was not White Christmas. What movie did they say it was?
Jinkx: Something Camp...ugh, oh God.
DeLa: American Pie 6: Band Camp
Jinkx: No...it was...ugh Ski Chalet...
Jinkx and DeLa: HOLIDAY INN!!!!
DeLa: So they start to correct Jinkx from the audience, and Jinkx was not pleased that she was being corrected a month into our run.
Jinkx: Yeah, because it just raised so many questions. It was like: 1. Is it possible that there was more than one problematic movie from the golden age of film? I think so. 2. How did we go almost two months working on this show, and now at the 11th hour, someone is posing this question. Did they think we hadn't done the research? The dramaturgy?!?!?!
DeLa: The energy you're getting now is the energy that happened onstage, and at the time I thought the show was fully falling apart at the seams, but I look back at it and I think those were some of our best moments. Our dynamic was gold that night.
Jinkx: I don't want anyone reading this to think they should yell at me onstage! Trust me, I don't care what it takes, I will have the final word.