Jerick Hoffer is a girl called Jinkx Monsoon—once or twice a week, at least. Recently, he's also spent time as a nice Southern gal called Deirdre A. Irwin, who earns her keep channeling dead celebrities (or, as she likes to call them, "celebrideads"). Hoffer is also another woman, Kitty Witless, almost every Thursday at the Rosebud, and last year he was both a Shakespearean lady and a Brechtian hooker on Seattle theater stages. Young Mr. Hoffer estimates that he spends a minimum of 10 to 20 hours per week as a woman, empowered by the magic of fake boobs, wigs, and dresses. Draggy magic! But he's not a drag queen.
He's the best fucking performer in Seattle.
"Jerick is a showstopping showman," says Keira McDonald, one of Hoffer's former teachers at Cornish College of the Arts and one of his current collaborators. "His work is mature, but it is also joyous and completely entertaining. He has a clear vision and the talent to realize it." Hoffer graduated from Cornish just last year (a wee babe!), and since then, his energy and skill have earned him acclaimed roles—big and small, male and female—with Seattle Shakespeare Company and Book-It Repertory Theatre. He always stands out. His talent is impossible to miss.
As Jinkx Monsoon, Hoffer sings, he belts, he croons, and he sells a song with the confidence of two Ethel Mermans in a bar brawl—and he does it with his own platinum-plated pipes. He's no lip-synching throwback. He's a singer. He's also a professionally trained ballet dancer and a blossoming presence in the comedy world. (A third episode of his Funny or Die serial Monsoon Season is premiering as you read this.) The magnetic power of his (her? Her!) stage presence is enough to grab the fuzzy brains of a bar full of gadding drunken gays and snap them to adoring attention. I've seen it happen. It's more than a skill. It's a power.
"Jerick worked his way through school as a janitor," McDonald tells me. "Every morning I would see him prancing around campus in headphones and skinny jeans, with a squirt bottle or broom or duster, singing his heart out... just being expressive and joyous." To this day, he fills in gaps in his income by cleaning houses—a real-life Cinderfella!
Still, even for dyed-in-the-wool tranny-spotters, it can be an honest shock to discover that Jinkx Monsoon is a real-life boy. The first time I saw Jinkx perform (at Trannyshack Seattle, just a measly seven months ago!), the thought that ran through my head is the exact same thought that runs through just about everybody's heads the first time they see Jinkx, "Hey! Wait! Since when do real girls do drag shows?" Because the female people who spring from Hoffer's brain are so spot-on, they emit nary a whiff of "dude-in-a-dress." He calls them "fully fledged female beings," and they are—insanely talented, deeply engaging fully fledged female beings.
"The first time I ever dressed in drag," Hoffer says, "I used an old blond wig that my grandma gave me. She used to wear it in the '60s! I looked JUST like Bette Midler... entirely on accident." He was just 15 years old.
Now 23, Hoffer grew up in Portland and came out in middle school. He was most worried about his grandma's reaction—he thought that she'd take the news badly. She didn't. "Her exact words to me were, 'I don't care if you love a man, a person of color, or a little person. The important thing is that you find someone who makes you happy.'" And then she started supplying him with wigs! "It was the best reaction I could have hoped for."
And so Jinkx Monsoon was born. Today, she's the hardest working "woman" in 'mo business. This past Saturday, Hoffer just wrapped up a run of Deirdre A. Irwin's one-woman show, Turning Parlor Tricks, at Theatre Off Jackson. Immediately afterward, he rushed to perform three numbers as Jinkx (with three costume changes) at Re-bar's Bacon Strip. She sang (and danced) "Show Off" and "Bride's Lament" from The Drowsy Chaperone, and performed a breathtaking duet with Ade Connere. Spectacular.
"I'm working sooo hard," Jinkx whispered in my ear when she got off stage. "I just need people to notice."
Mission accomplished. Full speed ahead.
Jerick Hoffer/Jinkx Monsoon/et al. will perform in the Pink Door's late-night burlesque show on May 21 and May 28, and can be seen at the Rosebud every Thursday night.