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We were always right about Jinkx Monsoon—and the world is catching up

We were always right about Jinkx Monsoon—and the world is catching up

Jinkx Monsoon in Chicago on Broadway
Avery Brunkus

Out catches up with Jinkx Monsoon about returning to Chicago on Broadway and reaching a new level of superstardom.

simbernardo

Between high-profile roles in the Broadway production of Chicago, the long-running BBC series Doctor Who, the Little Shop of Horrors revival in New York City, and the Anything Goes production set for the Pasadena Playhouse, Jinkx Monsoon has also booked a Valentine's Day concert at Carnegie Hall for 2025 and is reprising her role as Matron "Mama" Morton during her second run in Broadway's Chicago between June 27 and July 12, 2024.

"I'm really excited, honestly, because only twice before have I actually done this, where I played a role, had a year, did all the other things, and then came back to that role," Monsoon tells Out. "I did it in Seattle with Spring Awakening; we did a reprisal of our production. And then we did Hedwig and the Angry Inch the year I was announced on Drag Race, and we did it [again] a year after I had won. Those experiences taught me that one year can change a lot."

She explains, "As an actor, you do a lot of pretending. You do a lot of make-believe. But, truly, at the end of the day, you're going to bring your life experiences to your performance. There isn't a way to synthesize living life. When you go back to a character like I'm doing with Mama Morton, it always takes a big step forward, because you've taken a step forward."

In this case, just a "step forward" feels like a big understatement, and Monsoon knows it. "I have a whole year under my belt, and this year in particular has been really nuanced. The last 12 months have been a lot of things for me. I'm excited to bring this newfound energy to the character."

Jinkx Monsoon in Chicago on Broadway

Jinkx Monsoon in 'Chicago' at the Ambassador Theatre.

Jeremy Daniel

In the last 18 months, Monsoon has not only made progress in her journey as a trans woman, but she also reached her inevitable — yet hard-fought — superstardom as an actress, singer, performer, and Hollywood fixture. As a result, Broadway productions, primetime television shows, broadcast news programs, and wide-reaching publications are welcoming her as a popular and respected artist. But this isn't a new era. This is Hera. This is exactly who she is, and who she's always been.

After being featured in Out's January/February 2023 issue to discuss her first Broadway run in Chicago and going on to break records for the stage musical, Monsoon has been featured in Rolling Stone, Variety, The New York Times, People, The Today Show, Billboard, Us Weekly, Cosmopolitan, V Magazine, Mashable, USA Today, Nerdist, Entertainment Weekly, Screen Rant, Interview Magazine, Slate, Paper Magazine, Consequence of Sound, WWD, Collider, The Seattle Times, Cinemablend, and W Magazine, to name a few.

Monsoon's scene-stealing Doctor Who villain role, Maestro, is already being cosplayed for fan conventions, as evidenced by pictures from u/an_ace_of_hearts on Reddit. In a video analyzing the Snatch Game of All Stars 7, improv coach Katelyn Berrios revealed that she's created a character partially based on Monsoon's Judy Garland impersonation, calling that performance a "master class in character work."

Following Michaela Jaé Rodriguez's 2019 run as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and Monsoon's turn in 2024, there are now think pieces about how trans actresses add interesting new layers to this character. "She may be dating Orin because she believes Orin is the best she can get, and so must maintain her hyper-femininity to keep him," Archie Wagner writes on Study Breaks. "Yet, through Audrey's relationship with Seymour, the character gets affirmed that she is lovable and desirable just the way she is."

Jinkx Monsoon in Little Shop of Horrors

Jinkx Monsoon in 'Little Shop of Horrors' at the Westside Theatre.

Evan Zimmerman

At this point, how is Monsoon balancing the act of gaining confidence while feeling the urge to keep hustling as hard as she can?

"The hustle is real and never truly ends, and I love that it doesn't end. It keeps me coming up with new ideas. It keeps me on my toes," she muses. "When I get to do my job and it makes an impact, it means that I'm serving my community by doing what I love. I take that very seriously. It's not like anyone's putting any pressure on me. No one's saying, 'If you mess this up, it messes things up for all trans actors!' That is in my mind because I don't want that to happen, but that's the pressure I put on myself. I know the impact it has."

Monsoon adds, "What you're talking about with Audrey makes me so happy. I went into Little Shop of Horrors thinking that I was going to bring this layer to the character that wasn't there when it was conceived. But then I worked with the text, and I spent time with this amazing show that is so well written, and I'm like, 'Oh, come on! Howard Ashman must have known a trans woman going through what Audrey is going through.' Audrey is not your typical cis woman in this situation. She is written as this larger-than-life character, and so many of her attributes just sing with resonance for the trans community."

"I thought I was going to impose that into the text, but turns out that it was always there," she recalls. "It just needed someone to unfold it and show it to everyone. Now that that's happened for me in a role, I want to do that in all of my work. If I play a role that's never been played by a trans person before — or is rarely played by a trans person — I want to bring out that layer that maybe has always been there; a route to take with the character that we've just never considered."

Corbin Bleu and \u200bJinkx Monsoon in Little Shop of Horrors

Corbin Bleu and Jinkx Monsoon in 'Little Shop of Horrors' at the Westside Theatre.

Evan Zimmerman

Monsoon starred in Little Shop alongside the talented and gorgeous Corbin Bleu, who played Seymour (her love interest) on the show. What an incredibly tough job to fall in love and kiss Corbin Bleu every night, I joke, which makes her laugh.

"I've just got to say: falling in love with Corbin Bleu every night is the easiest thing in the world. He is such an incredible human being," Monsoon says. "I haven't known him that long, but he's already one of my favorite people on the planet. We didn't rehearse together for a long time because he had already played the role. He didn't need as much rehearsal as me. But on day one of our rehearsal together, we just clicked immediately. It was like we didn't even need to have any conversations. It all came so naturally."

She recalls, "He and I went to dinner with his wife and my assistant. The four of us just sat and shot the sh*t a week before we opened, and I found out that I have so much in common with him. Here I was, thinking, 'What am I going to have in common with Corbin Bleu?' Turns out, almost everything, with a few key differences."

"I refer to him as an Ally with a capital A, and it's because he had already done the work before he arrived," she notes. "He never asked me to help guide him through working with a trans actor. As far as his mindfulness, it was never even a conversation, because it was never an issue. It never came up."

Jinkx Monsoon and Corbin Bleu in Little Shop of Horrors

Jinkx Monsoon and Corbin Bleu in 'Little Shop of Horrors' at the Westside Theatre.

Evan Zimmerman

When asked about working with Monsoon, Bleu tells Out:

"Jinkx Monsoon is one of the most wonderful people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Her thoughtfulness in her preparation is detailed and smart. Her execution is razor sharp. She's generous & talented & beautiful & funny, and that's all just on-stage. Off-stage she's all of that and more. The impact she has on everyone around her is magical. I'm so grateful to now be able to call her a friend. We should all be so lucky."

Monsoon also praises another Little Shop co-star, James Carpinello, who was cast as Orin. "We started rehearsal at the same time, and he was so wonderful from day one. These two men treated me like royalty in the most affirming way."

She recalls, "James gave me the sweetest remark at our cast party, as I talked about how everyone [in the production] made me feel so welcomed. James Carpinello said, 'You talk about us being allies… but you came in and, from day one, you pretty much said there was no other choice. You either be an ally or you get run over by this freight train that is Jinkx Monsoon.'"

"And I love that. I f*cking love that," she says. "I wouldn't say that I'm lacking in patience; I have plenty of patience. But, at this point, I guess I'm lacking in empathy for the willfully ignorant. All the cast members and crew members at Little Shop of Horrors were wonderful. It was just an incredible experience."

Jinkx Monsoon on Doctor Who

Jinkx Monsoon on 'Doctor Who.'

BBC/Disney+

The path to success in showbiz is still a minefield for queer and trans talent, even in 2024. That road is even more treacherous for drag artists trapped under a glass ceiling built on outdated biases about what they can and cannot do. Even though fans and critics alike were blown away by Monsoon's performance as the villainous Maestro on Doctor Who, bigoted viewers still found platforms to specifically criticize Monsoon as a trans actress and Maestro as a nonbinary character.

"The response has been so overwhelming and surreal, and it confirms how ready audiences are for a wide breadth of representation," Monsoon says of her experience with Doctor Who. "Drag entertainers are often put in a subsect of the entertainment industry and treated like we're not quite what we are. A drag queen is always a preface to what we do… as if to say, we're not a stand-up comedian; we're a drag queen stand-up comedian. We don't make music; we make drag music. So, being treated like an actor on a TV show and not like a 'novelty' was really incredible."

She goes on, "I only recently stumbled upon some videos of people specifically talking about my responses when asked what I think about the transphobic response to me being in Doctor Who. My response was, 'Who gives a f*ck what transphobes think?' So these people were saying that 'Jinkx Monsoon hates all straight people,' as if all straight people are inherently transphobic. They were also saying that I have it backwards: that the numbers of bigots are growing, and the numbers on my side are shrinking. However, that is factually and statistically untrue."

"These men also complained that I was in a liberal, progressive echo chamber," Monsoon notes. "So I looked at these five white cis male bearded conservative men talking about me being in an echo chamber. And, oh my god, the hypocrisy. It's so asinine! These conservative, far-right extremists are the ones shrinking in numbers. They're becoming a cult, and they just literally project what is true about them onto everyone else. If they had even an ounce of common sense, they would see what asinine hypocrites they're being."

Jinkx Monsoon on Doctor Who behind the scenes

Behind the scenes of Jinkx Monsoon filming 'Doctor Who.'

BBC/Disney+

In the span of two years, the self-proclaimed "internationally tolerated drag superstar" was crowned the "Queen of All Queens" by RuPaul and is now regarded as a Broadway darling, a powerhouse vocalist, and an excellent actress who's also a drag artist.

"I'm still getting used to it," Monsoon says. "I think I'm pretty good at playing it cool these days, but in my head, I'm still always freaking out and planning for doomsday. But it's been really fun to go to new places and meet people I look up to, and they're just the best people. It confirms why I was looking up to them in the first place, and it also affirms that those at the top — those who are secure in themselves and their careers — are just happy, delightful people. They're not acting like divas. They're not throwing fits. They're not making a fuss."

She continues, "I have now met Melissa McCarthy twice, and we had a little bit of a chitchat both times. Her whole family's there, Ben Falcone, their kids; they're all such lovely people, and she just chats with me like a person. She talks to me about the business. One of my personal heroes, Amanda Palmer, she and I had lunch recently, and she just talked to me like a person. She talked to me about her feelings about being an artist these days."

I ask Monsoon if she's seen the Max series Hacks. "I haven't seen the most recent season," she replies. "But I'm just going to say that watching that show feels like my life [laughs]. One of my best friends, Nick Sahoyah — we're the same age, so that detail's different — is my writing partner behind the scenes, and he keeps trying to make this mature lady stay relevant."

\u200bCarl Clemons-Hopkins and Tim Bagley on Hacks

​Carl Clemons-Hopkins and Tim Bagley on 'Hacks.'

Max

Hacks centers on Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), a legendary standup comedian who catches a new wind of mainstream attention. I tell Jinkx about a scene in season 3, episode 8, where Deborah's manager/business partner, Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), talks to a long-time fan of the comedian, Reggie (Tim Bagley).

Marcus tells Reggie that Deborah owes a lot to the fans who stood by her side through the ups and downs. Marcus argues that Deborah is now letting them down, as she's too distracted by her newfound fame and attention. Reggie, however, disagrees with Marcus.

"You can't stop being a fan now that she's got more of them," Reggie says. "We loved her before anybody else did, and she loved us before anybody else did. That's not nothing. We just have to share her now."

"Doesn't that make you mad?" Marcus asks.

"No," Reggie replies. "It just means we were right all along."

In a piece for Them, Mathew Rodriguez recalls seeing Monsoon in Little Shop and gushes about how "clear much of the enthusiasm for the rock-horror musical was, in truth, for her," observing that "many in the audience were already wearing merch sporting her face." In Autostraddle, Drew Burnett Gregory highlights that "it's rare to see a transfeminine performer cast as a romantic lead," but adds how "watching Jinkx as Audrey doesn't feel radical — it just makes sense."

This isn't a "When you're good to Mama / Mama's good to you" transactional dynamic like the one sung by Mama Morton in Chicago. This is a community of people who have history and show up for one another. This is how we bring in more chairs to the table instead of competing to sit on the same singular seat previously assigned to us at the table.

We currently face a shrinking (but loud) crowd of bigots attacking our existence, a grueling presidential election exposing how little we matter to the powerful, and the last few days of this year's Pride Month. As I assess my feelings about the wonderful state of Monsoon's career and read my queer peers putting theirs into words, it's clear that we relate to the pride, joy, and self-assurance shared by Reggie on Hacks.

We were always right about Jinkx Monsoon, and the world is catching up. Finally.

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is a writer, content creator, and the deputy editor of Out. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.