Ladies, start your engines. We’ve got the cure for the shock you’re feeling about a top four season finale on RuPaul’s Drag Race and it involves a spritz of Peppermint. The New York queen that proved she can work (bitch) is closing out the ninth season of our favorite Friday night obsession by opening up her life through a bold new documentary.
While Peppermint has already made history for being the first out trans woman on Drag Race, her story has largely been relegated to the background until now. Directed by documentary filmmaker Oriel Pe’er over the past year of her life, Project Peppermint is taking us inside the life of Peppermint in all her glory. We’ll watch her rise to international stardom, navigate her transition, and interact with her closest friends, including Laverne Cox, Transparent’s Trace Lysette, and Bob the Drag Queen.
Project Peppermint is nearly to the finish line but now, as the film enters the final states of editing and production, it’s time to "put that dolla in my titty" and pledge yourself to #TeamPeppermint. An IndieGoGo campaign launched Friday to help fund the film that has thus far been entirely self-financed and includes incentives that range from exclusive brunches to one-on-one makeup tutorials with the queen herself.
While Peppermint finishes filming for the season finale that’s guaranteed to make us all gag, we caught up with her to talk Project Peppermint, the struggles facing trans women, and how she went from violet to peppermint one drag performance at a time.
OUT: In the documentary, you discuss a time when you considered doing sex work to pay for gender reassignment surgery, which is an avenue many trans women of color often have to go through. How you see that changing in the future?
Peppermint: Just to clarify, it’s not just trans women of color. I think many trans people in the United States and, in the world frankly, are facing discrimination and when it’s a minority, discrimination frequently effects people of color disproportionately. It disproportionately affects trans women of color arguably the most, so it’s not unheard of for trans women of color to be forced into, or to feel like they have to resort to survival sex work. Some do it as a choice of empowerment and some do it just as survival. For many people, it’s the most viable access or the only access to money—not only for operations but also to live, so that’s just a harsh reality.
There’s a lot of trans people I know who just don’t have access to work and so they can’t pay their rent. If you don’t look the way people expect you to look, then it’s hard for you to pass; it’s hard for you to be accepted at a job. As a drag entertainer, access to money is limited anyway and, as a trans woman of color, access to money is also limited.
What has been your proudest moment while making this documentary?
The truth is that we’re still filming, so I’m not quite sure if I can answer that question. But so far it’s been having the camera with me during my surgery. I think some people may view that as kind of an exploitation, but it was really one of the big moments in my life and I’m just happy that I was able to document that. To finally get one of my surgeries was a big moment for me and I slept through it, so I wanted to know what that was like and I’m happy that I was able to have the camera crew there.
What was your first drag performance?
My first official drag performance was at a bar called Porky’s in Willmington, Delaware. I did this sad remix of Whitney Houston. I had the same exact wig and dress that I’ve been using for years when I did Halloween in drag and pretty much wore the same thing for about a year every single time I appeared in drag.
But my first unofficial performance was performing or getting dressed up as my favorite character from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—her name was Violette Beauregarde. She’s the girl who eats some gum and turns into a blueberry so I totally got dressed up in my mom’s blue jumper, painted my face blue and made a wig out of orange yarn and rolled around on the floor acting like I was in the movie. What a sight. That was my first foray into drag, [and] I’m not sure how much has changed... hopefully a lot [Laughs].