Jerick Hoffer has been a celebrated Seattle talent since his Sondheim-singing drag persona Jinkx Monsoon started blowing minds at Re-bar's trashy drag night Bacon Strip (RIP). This spring, Hoffer took a quantum leap skyward on the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. When Jinkx was named the season's winner, a very specific type of Seattle talent (freakishly gifted, almost as freakishly humble) ascended to a new level of fame.
This week, Monsoon will play Velma Von Tussle in a 10th-anniversary concert performance of the musical Hairspray, featuring a full orchestra and 150 members of the Seattle Men's Chorus. Last week, I chatted up Hoffer via phone from Boston, where he was continuing his post–Drag Race victory tour.
What's your history with Hairspray? Is it something you grew up loving?
When the musical came out, I hadn't seen John Waters's original, so I watched it, and then went to see the musical. They're really, really different, and I wish they could've brought more of John Waters's aesthetic to the musical, but once you let go of the movie, you realize it's a really well-written musical.
Plus, in the musical, Velma is a much bigger role than in the film.
Yes! She's the TV-station-owning villain! Of course, it's traditional to have a male play the role of Edna Turnblad, but I've always felt they should also have a drag queen play Velma. I've always dreamed of clashing with another drag queen onstage.
Speaking of which, at least one bitchy queen on Drag Race tried to dis you as some sort of phony for your habit of "acting shy and nervous" before a performance, then bringing the fucking house down. I know you graduated from Cornish, and to me, this behavior seemed like an actor wrestling with all the typical prestage jitters and superstitions.
Totally. There are so many different ways of doing drag. Some people don't really clock the transformation—they just put on drag and they're in drag now. But Jinkx is a character I play. I put on drag, and it's a whole different entity. Cornish was the best prep for Drag Race—it was all about learning to take critiques without letting them shut you down.
You watched the weekly broadcasts of Drag Race with a crowd at Julia's on Broadway. What was that like?
It's already surreal to be a character on your favorite show. It's really surreal watching yourself with a roomful of people watching you watch yourself. I was nervous about doing the viewing party, because I hadn't seen the episodes and I didn't know what kind of embarrassing things they were going to show. But whenever anything embarrassing happened, the audience was cheering me on.
Enough about Drag Race—when do we get to see you in Grey Gardens: The Musical?
Trust me, if they came knocking, I'd take it in a heartbeat.