Being crowned DIVA Entertainer of the Year 2017 is a lofty title, but competing against the rest of her RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under cast was something totally else. Coco Jumbo came in with a Sydney drag sensibility and a razor sharp lip sync ability. While Coco has left the competition after a stunning lip sync, she is fully prepared to hit stages worldwide. I caught up with Coco post-elimination and we chatted about her path to Drag Race Down Under, what it was like becoming one of Sydney’s darling drag performers, and sending home a fan favorite like Art Simone!
Michael Cook: Getting chosen to be one of the inaugural cast members on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under must have felt absolutely surreal; tell me about how that felt when that call came…
Coco Jumbo: I never for one moment thought that I would be on RuPaul’s Drag Race, especially coming out of COVID. To get the call, it absolutely blew my mind. I was sitting at home with my housemate, the call came in when they told me, and I sat silent for a moment. Then I ran to my room screaming (laughs)!
MC: You are such a big drag presence in the Sydney drag scene, winning titles like Sydney’s Favorite Drag Queen. Was it intimidating to enter a drag competition with performers from all over Australia?
CJ: It was very intimidating. I never try to be the best, I have always just tried to be my best self. Going into a competition like Drag Race was not so much off-putting, but I love an adventure. When the opportunity arose, it was like “yup, let’s go, let’s have some fun”. I wanted to just make the most of it and have a good time.
MC: What about the experience did you find to be the most fun or most surprising?
CJ: How good RuPaul looks in person! She was equally as stunning in-person as she was on-camera!
MC: Many of you are prominent names in the Australia drag scene, so any of you going home was truly a game changer.
CJ: One hundred percent. I am just glad that I was the one who eliminated Art Simone, she was really the biggest competition in the competition. Eliminating her was really something.
MC: How did Coco Jumbo get her start in drag?
CJ: I was in Coffs Harbour and there was a drag competition. It wasn’t a real drag competition though, it was older men dressing in their wives clothes and wigs and performing around. There was an eight hundred dollar prize and myself and my sister at the time decided to enter. I won’t the competition, and there was a festival coming up. The person running it asked me to perform at the festival, and then someone at the festival saw me and asked me to come perform at Mardi Gras. It just went on from there and now here I am!
MC: The Drag Race culture has been a phenomenon here for well over a decade. The moment you saw it, was it something that you had to be a part of?
CJ: I was immediately in love with it. I remember being about eighteen and my auntie gave me an episode of Season 2 with Mystique Summers Madison. I didn’t even know drag was at the time, but now I have been doing drag for ten years. I have been pretty much cross-dressing my whole life, so seeing people doing drag on television was an eye opening thing for me. I became a huge fan and when I was on set it was like “what the fuck, I am actually here”! It is so weird to be on that side of the screen….
MC: Does Australia have “drag families” similarly to have the United States does?
CJ: Not really. There are drag cliques and a sisterhood and stuff, but when I moved to Sydney, I came here with a friend from Coffs Harbor. She was doing drag as well and there is a weekly competition called Drag for Dollars, and I kept winning it weekly. I think I had a twenty-week winning streak. She started to get jealous and I once in the smoking area, she was lighting my hair on fire. My sister Ivy slapped her hand away, looked at me and grabbed my hand and said “that’s not a real friend”. Off we went into the sunset; we started hanging out and she started teaching me makeup; the sisterhood grew from there.
MC: Now that you are an official ‘Ru-girl’, what do you think you want to do now?
CJ: I want to see people, meet everyone, and show everyone my performance skills.When I was on the show, I was looking forward to lip syncing for my life since I was doing such shit in the challenges. Lip syncing is what I do, so why not lip sync for the judges!? Next time I’ll just learn to do the splits I guess (laughs)!
MC: What do you think you have learned as a performer and person in the last year?
CJ: It has taught me to not rely on anyone else for my own happiness. We were locked down for a year and even though I live in a house with three other people, I still was depressed. My sister passed away last year and I went into a really dark hole. I caught myself staying in bed, and finally said we were going to turn this frown upside down! I started taking walks, taking the dog for a walk, things like that. I was so caught up in being around people and not really having time for myself, it turns out that it is all just a state of mind really.
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