Two-time RuPaul's Drag Race winner, actor, singer, comedian, and Out100 honoree Jinkx Monsoon is the definition of "booked and busy." Between conquering season 7 of All Stars, traveling the world with her holiday tour alongside BenDeLaCreme, and launching the new comedy series Sketchy Queens on WOW Presents Plus, Monsoon is making her Broadway debut by taking on the role of Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago.
"I'm through-the-roof excited. I've been singing songs from Chicago since I began drag," Monsoon explains. "'All That Jazz' used to be my go-to number. I've sung 'When You're Good to Mama' I don't know how many times. Michelle [Visage] and I were on tour some years back and we sang 'Class,' which is another Mama Morton song from the show. But how it came about was really traditional. I was in New York for something that I was filming. My agent reached out and said that the production of Chicago on Broadway was interested in having me audition for Matron 'Mama' Morton and Mary Sunshine. And while I love the role of Mary Sunshine, I'm 10 times more interested in auditioning for Mama Morton. So when I auditioned, all they read me for was Mama Morton."
"I auditioned like every actor does to get a role," she adds. "I sang the song a couple times. I took some acting notes and incorporated them into the song. I did a little scene work with a reader. It was a very traditional audition. I told them what ideas I had for the character, what directions I would want to take it, why the show's important to me. And I got the role.... I'll tell you, 10 years in this industry, I've auditioned for countless things. I'm so used to auditioning and not getting the role. And this time, I just happened to get it."
Pictured: Jinkx Monsoon takes the stage in Chicago
Monsoon isn't new to theater. In fact, she's spent the last decade performing in stage productions of Henry V, Rent, Spring Awakening, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Hairspray. She was also set to embark on a national tour of the musical Xanadu in 2019, but that production fell apart before it began. Now she'll be on the Great White Way, a distinction that at first felt "surreal" after years of effort.
"I am someone who constantly second-guesses everything and doubts everything and is constantly doubting my own worth and ability," she reflects. "I don't know if it's where I'm at with therapy, where I'm at with self-care, or certain accomplishments under my belt.... For the first time in my life, I'm like, 'Yeah, I worked hard for this, so of course this is where I'm at.' Which is really hard for a highly anxious, self-critical Virgo to even say!"
Monsoon brings a critical eye to the political world as well. Though she celebrated President Biden's recent signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, which federally fortified protections for same-sex marriage, Monsoon also acknowledges how hard it is to feel hopeful about politics during this day and age. "I guess I'm a little nihilistic at this point, because I'm excited that there's a president acknowledging the queer community and 'respect' is right in the title, so there's a lot of things to be celebrated," Monsoon notes. "But Roe v. Wade was overturned after 50 years of being a Supreme Court ruling. And so I've just lost hope in our government. That's where I'm at."
In the midst of a newly energized conservative pushback against LGBTQ+ people and a specific anti-drag vitriol among right-wingers, RuPaul's Drag Race is moving to MTV, the biggest cable network within the Paramount conglomerate. As the reigning Queen of All Queens, Monsoon believes that the art form of drag can only benefit from this larger platform.
"Any step that drag takes forward into the mainstream is a positive thing," she declares. "Drag Race currently is doing more for the queer community than any politician or government official. Drag Race is destigmatizing the queer community. Drag Race is teaching parents to accept their kids for who they are. Drag Race is tearing down misconceptions about queer people way more than I've seen any government person do. So yeah, drag should keep taking over the world."
While certain performers fear that Drag Race moving to MTV will make this art form even more "sanitized," Monsoon feels differently. "Did we have any concerns about rock becoming so mainstream that it would lose its edge?" she muses. "I mean, this is true for every art form. It's up to the artist. 'Will drag, the art form, lose its edge?' No, because there will still be underground drag artists doing underground drag. There will still be alt drag artists doing alt drag. Drag won't lose its edge. Mainstream drag might lose its edge, but that's part of what being in the mainstream is...becoming for more and more people."
"If you're a good entertainer, you'll find a way to keep doing the drag you've always been doing mindfully and thoughtfully for a wide audience," Monsoon concludes. If people are worried about drag losing its edge, then they really need to start doing some more work. Drag becoming mainstream isn't going to affect their work unless they choose to let it."
Jinkx Monsoon will be performing as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago from January 16 to March 12 at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway.
This article is part of Out's January/February 2023 issue, out on newsstands February 7. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.