Jerick Hoffer, also known as Jinkx Monsoon, is the most recent winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Logo TV’s reality competition in which contestants compete to become America’s “Next Drag Superstar.” Originally from Portland, Ore., Hoffer, 25, has been performing in drag for 10 years. He configured Jinkx Monsoon as “the hardest working single mother in show business,” an overbearing mom and aspiring actress with delusions of grandeur. With a heaping helping of class and crass, Jinkx is a sexy yet silly baby boomer who strives for fame while trying to navigate the modern world.
On the first episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” this season, Hoffer introduced himself as “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen.” He was poking fun at himself — he actually does have the sleep disorder — but he also put his religion in the spotlight, a rare move in the drag world. Forward contributor Elyssa Goodman talked with Hoffer about the evolution of Jinkx Monsoon, channeling his mother through drag and finding out he was Jewish at age 18.
Elyssa Goodman: How did you craft the character of Jinkx Monsoon?
Jerick Hoffer: Jinkx Monsoon is loosely based on my own mother. The first time I started creating this middle-aged woman character was the first time I was asked to host a drag show. I had never spoken into a microphone in drag before, so when put on the spot I just started doing an impression of my mom. It cracked me up and it cracked the audience up and it’s how I started the whole persona.
Many of your influences are women of a different generation: Little Edie, Meryl Streep, Lucille Ball. What is their appeal?
I really like women who are able to be classy and poised and really well put together when the time is right, but also be complete clowns. With Jinkx Monsoon, I strive to make her pretty and likable and have this bubbly, lovely personality. But then she can also be the most crass, out of the blue, kooky character.
Does your religious background influence your drag performance?
I was raised Catholic, in a primarily Irish Catholic family, and then when I was 18 I found that I was actually of a Jewish bloodline on my mom’s side of the family. I became interested in learning about Jewish culture and Jewish heritage. I wasn’t about to presume that I should change my faith or change my whole lifestyle. But I did decide to start to explore Jinkx as a Jewish female character. It just fit for her. Jinkx is a single mother and I’ve seen so many really strong Jewish women — Sarah Silverman is a particular inspiration of mine. There’s a mixture of pride and self-loathing in Jewish female comedians that I’ve always really admired and wanted to bring into Jinkx. It was my way to get in touch with something that I found out really late in life that I was a part of.
Also, in the gay community there are not very many Jewish drag queens. I always found that funny because there are a lot of Jewish gay people out there, so why aren’t there more Jewish drag queens?