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Conservatives Be Damned, Peppermint's Mainstream Era Is Here

Conservatives Be Damned, Peppermint's Mainstream Era Is Here

Peppermint
Robert Frashure

The RuPaul’s Drag Race legend explores the evolution of her career and how she’s fighting back transphobia in an exclusive interview with Out.

Prior to competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine, Peppermint was already a trans trailblazer and drag legend in New York City. After her time inside Mama Ru’s werk room, Peppermint became an even bigger global superstar breaking ground for trans women, drag queens, and the LGBTQ+ community overall.

Between becoming the first trans woman to create a principal role on Broadway in Head Over Heels, appearing on TV shows such as God Friended Me and Pose, cohosting series like Translation and Call Me Mother, and releasing three studio albums, Peppermint has truly become one of the most popular and beloved LGBTQ+ stars of our time.

Amid the current political state in the US pushing for anti-drag and anti-trans bills, Peppermint is also one of many celebrities and Drag Race legends set to appear in the Drag Isn’t Dangerous telethon. Hollywood stars confirmed to appear at the event include Melissa McCarthy, Billy Eichner, Orville Peck, Idina Menzel, Adam Lambert, Charlize Theron, Jesse Eisenberg, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Sarah Hyland, among others.

During a recent interview with Out, Peppermint discussed the importance of Drag Isn’t Dangerous, her recurring role in the Amazon Prime Video series Harlem, working on the third installment in her Letters to My Lovers series of albums, and her role in the upcoming A Transparent Musical stage production.

Scroll through to read Out’s exclusive interview with Peppermint – and make sure to watch her at the Drag Isn’t Dangerous telethon on Sunday, May 7. For more details and tickets to the event, visit dragisntdangerous.com.

Out: You’re appearing on Drag Isn’t Dangerous this weekend. What should fans know about this event?

Peppermint: Fans should know that the drag community is damn tired of being framed and spoken about in such a negative way when drag is so joyous. And we want to show the world how joyous drag is. At the same time, we also want to show the world that drag entertainers have lots of friends, families, and allies and admirers that want to support us and also think that these drag bans and different policies are very harmful. We also want to let them know that that drag entertainers are as unique as any other type of performer, musician, actor.

We can have different beliefs and things like that, but we don't want to be unfairly attacked. And we also don't want people in the trans community, which I'm also obviously a part of, to be scapegoated as well. So we want people to know that Drag Isn't Dangerous is going to be a fantastic fantasy festival of drag performers. It's an opportunity to see that community of people who love drag as an art form come together and raise money.

The more we learn about these anti-drag bills, the more it becomes apparent that there’s an underlying transphobic nature to a lot of them. As a trans woman and drag performer, what is your opinion about the impact that these bills can have not only on drag artists, but also on trans people as a whole?

I mean, it's really detrimental because these so-called drag ban bills, in execution, can limit the access that drag performers have. They can basically cut drag performers off from their jobs or their sort of sense of financial stability, their access to earning income, the shows that they perform at. By not only criminalizing certain performers and performances, but then also criminalizing, fining, and removing the liquor licenses or any other type of licenses that the businesses may hold that actually hire and employ these drag entertainers. So that's obviously not good, and it is damaging to the careers and livelihood of both the drag entertainers and the small businesses that employ them. But beyond that, they also have lasting effects.

In essence, what they also do is criminalize and sort of muddy the waters about the conversation on trans individuals and sort of trying to label us as child molesters and pedophiles, which is obviously not true. There's no one group of people that every single one of them is a child molester. I wouldn't even say that about priests, and we know that there are more priests on record who have actually been accused [of this behavior], with literal proof of their sexual misconduct towards their parishioners and young victims. So the drag community and trans people being labeled as someone as horrible as a child molester or pedophile, it tries to discredit us. What they want to do to protect children is not listen or help. They want to hurt people that protect children. That's what they're trying to do: justify us being hurt.

When I say justify us being hurt… they may not admit it, but it allows people, quite literally when you see the discourse online, to justify their acts of violence and vitriol [against us]. And the fact that they're stating, 'I'm going to kill you, I want you to die,' it certainly is a signifier and it's certainly something that we will look back on as a red flag if something does happen.

The people who are perpetuating this anti-trans, anti-drag, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment are setting the stage and making it really easy for individuals to not only harm us, but also politicians to more easily pass legislation about drag shows and drag brunches instead of legislation on the oil spill from these trains that are derailing. On global warming and climate change. On gun control. On any of these things. They're not having any of these conversations because they're all talking about drag shows.

It is absolutely wild. It seems like conservatives are using every tool in their arsenal to push their agendas. I saw on your Instagram recently that a fake tweet that you never wrote was circulating in these conservative groups. First of all, I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with stuff like that. It is beyond ridiculous. What has been your strategy or game plan to deal with situations like these?

I think that this landscape, this conversation, and the technology that we use to have this conversation, it is all ever-changing. It seems like every week there's an update and now the rules have changed. The things we can do or can't do have changed. I mean, I think the verification system on Twitter has always been a way to literally verify that whoever was saying what they were saying was the person saying it. Now, that may be changing because the rules about the Twitter verification system have changed. I don't know what that means for me in the future of using a platform like that, but it certainly makes it more difficult to tell the truth. And that has always been my game plan, just to tell the truth. If I say something that I think is a mistake or something that's wrong, then I'll take accountability for it.

Most of the time, if I'm saying something, I've already thought about it 100 times and figured out that this is what I want to say and thought about what the consequences could be behind it. That's how I think. And that's what something being well-thought-out means to me. I know social media for a lot of people is just about blurting out what you're feeling now, deal with it later. That's not how I operate. I've certainly seen people get messy and I'd be like, 'Girl, are you sure you're going to want to do that? You might regret that.' Since I don't engage in those types of things, I always thought that I would be able to not get involved in those types of things, 'cause I don't get messy in those types of things generally.

A general rule of thumb for me is to not attack individuals directly. I try to keep the conversation about the subject. If a person beats somebody up or mistreats them or bullies them, I would rather talk about the subject of bullying and the subject of why this is hurtful to people versus that individual and their actions. Because when we make it about that individual, it doesn't allow us to address the bigger problem, and that is a factor. When you only talk about someone who goes in and shoots someone as just a lone person who just decided to go and shoot someone, you're not talking about the bigger issue of school and gun safety. You're not talking about it.

I try my best to stick to the general topics, but what I've realized is, in this new chapter, it allows people who are interested in being dishonest and who don't want to really talk about the actual truth of the matter, to just sort of characterize and demonize a specific person and spread all these things. They say, 'This person said this. This person specifically said that. Here's the fake thing.' And then we're all arguing about this dust, but that's not the real issue. And I realized that I made an easy mark for these people recently because I talk very generally. I don't target people, so whoever targeted me knows that I'm not going to target that individual back. So maybe it is time to rethink my game plan… but I would like to think that the truth and being very clear with all these issues and my words, in the end, will be the thing that floats and holds water.

Even though these are tough times that we're living in, I'm always so happy to see you thriving, becoming more successful and more popular in the mainstream. So let's shift gears a little bit and talk about some fun things, like your character, Nikki, on Amazon Prime Video’s Harlem. What has been your experience on that TV show?

I love Harlem. It's been really great. Tracy Oliver is obviously a really well-accomplished creator and writer. I was over the moon when I heard that there was a role that was being written and that I was being considered for. I did have to audition initially on season one, and it was basically a cameo. But even in this season, as limited as Nikki appeared in season two, it was really great for me to see that they were being really thoughtful in terms of the writing and actually having a Black trans woman and her cousin, who's a Black lesbian, sit down and have a conversation about fertility, bodily autonomy, having children, continuing our family legacy and having the control and the right of our own bodies to make those choices. It feels really relevant. And I just felt so grateful that they were wanting to have that conversation play out on a show like Harlem that's so deep in the Black community.

It feels really great to be involved in a show like this. Not to mention the sisterhood, the gals, the core group of gals, the four actresses are so brilliant and loving. Every single time I'm on set or when we're doing something that's not even on set, but just like a promotional thing, it feels so great to be around them because they're accepting of me and they just bring me into the family, no questions asked, no holds barred. And that feels really great because I do remember a time when, as a trans actress and as someone who performs in drag, a lot of times people would just confuse those two things. I was being called out for hooker number two, and nobody cared if I was on set or not. And you'd eat lunch by the dumpster, you're not a part of our group, and everyone on set is going to look at you like, 'What is this fruit doing here?' And so that is a very different experience than what I had on the set of Harlem.

You’re also set to appear in the new Netflix series Survival of the Thickest. What can we expect from Peppermint on that show?

Well, this is actually me playing a heightened version of myself. The show's not reality, it's scripted, but it's part of my reality. I play a very glamorous, fabulous, beautiful trans woman who works in the context of drag and owns a drag nightclub/restaurant, and her name happens to be Peppermint. So that's really exciting. When I read the script and went into audition, obviously I was nervous. I've been a huge fan of Michelle Buteau and I remember seeing her in various parts and various projects. I was like, 'Oh, this is Michelle Buteau.'

She has really blown up and I think that she is definitely going to be one of our future legends when it comes to women in comedy and comics in general. She is a very kind, very open, very direct person. She also goes hard for the LGBTQ+ community. She's a major ally. She's one of the first people in those circles that I've seen, especially in the world of comedy, to speak up and use her platform to speak out and advocate on behalf of it. And sort of defend the trans community against other high-profile comics who coincidentally are on Netflix.

I love the fact that she wanted to have me be a part of Survival of the Thickest. When I walked onto that set, it was so inclusive. There were people from all walks of life, people with disabilities, queer people, people of color, queer people of color… Not only in front of the camera, because that could be tokenizing, but also behind the camera. And that just let me know this is a place for me.

I’m obsessed with the tribute videos that you’ve done for Janet Jackson. What is your process behind making these videos? Are you working on new ones?

I've viewed each one sort of as an individual. I love Janet Jackson so much that I get fully in the world of each song. And then I go back and I was thinking, 'Maybe I should have a trilogy, ' because I have two that I've released on YouTube. Maybe there should be a third. And then I go back on my social media at the beginning of the pandemic and I realize I did do a third. I did a video for ‘Every Time’ by Janet from the Velvet Rope album where she's like in the water and she's naked swimming around. I did that and released it as sort of a thing on my social media clip.

But to answer your question, yes, I would like to do another one. I do have another one from the Velvet Rope album, so this will be my second one from the Velvet Rope album that I would like to do hopefully in time for the tour to be in full swing. I would like to go and see her and show her this new video. I can't say what it is, but it might be a video that involves animals, and obviously dancing, and the desert. That's all I'll say.

What can we expect from Peppermint in 2023?

I guess I'm doing all the things that I love. I love music, I love theater, I love politics, and I love film and TV, so I'm going to be trying to do all those things. Obviously, there's some stuff we talked about that's coming down the line. Hopefully we'll be doing a season three of Call Me Mother, which is a drag reality TV show that I judge on and am a mother on. But also there will be some new music. We're finishing up the third installment to my trilogy of music called Letters to My Lovers, which comes out later on this year. So there'll be some music videos and obviously some music that comes out with that, and hopefully some more live performances.

In the world of politics, I'm still connected. As we gear up towards 2024, I'm going to continue talking about the equality for the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of who tries to make a fake post about me. If people are interested on how to get involved with allyship and sort of using their own platform, however big or small it may be to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, they can follow my social media (@peppermint247) and they can also keep their eyes peeled because I'm going to be putting together a resource which really just cuts to the chase.

This resource is for people who don't understand what it's like to be trans, the surgeries, the healthcare… these things that are in jeopardy, that all these people are arguing about. That they're muddying the water and are too busy calling us things like pedophiles. But there are people who love us and don't really understand how to defend us against those things. They need resources. I'm talking to medical professionals, religious experts, legal minds, and putting together some resources that I can put out. Things that are very simple for people to understand and say, 'Oh, no, that's not a fact. Here's a fact.' And then they'll be able to use that. And then, obviously, in the world of theater, which is also my true love, I'll be heading out to the West Coast to perform in A Transparent Musical based on the Amazon TV show Transparent. So you best get your tickets now!

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.