A New York City nightlife legend already, Peppermint is bringing her established performance style and new album A Girl Like Me: Letters To My Lovers to the masses with her new tour Letters Live! this summer. Bringing her brand new, emotionally raw music to the masses is a natural next step for Peppermint. After a stunning (and trailblazing) turn on Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Peppermint has gone on to everything from podcasting (It’s A Mess with Cazwell) to the Broadway stage (Head Over Heels). I sat down to chat with Peppermint as she kicked off her Letters Live! tour and we chatted everything from paying homage to one of her biggest idols, to being emotionally vulnerable on her new album, to the dreams she’s currently manifesting.
Michael Cook: First off, congratulations on your spectacular Janet Jackson recreation of her video “If”. What was it like to recreate such a legendary music video?
Peppermint: It was amazing. I have been a fan of Janet Jackson my whole life, I think a lot of people can relate. I remember learning the moves to a lot of her videos immediately. As soon as I saw them, I would videotape them and I would have them to play over and over again, so I would have all the moves down. They just stuck with me over the years. I go back in my lifetime and there are a lot of things that have changed about me, but in high school, after high school and during college I would get these extra curricular dance troupes together and perform these songs and teach everyone the moves. Friends from middle school, high school, and college, there are lots of people from different stages in my live and the one thing that many of them have in common is that I taught them the moves from If by Janet Jackson.
I always wanted to do something more with that, I don’t have any video of that and I wanted to do something really special for Janet’s birthday. I had the resources to put together a great production team like Brad Hammer Productions and with my management company, we were able to put it together. It was one of the biggest things I have ever done, but I am so glad I did it. Even if Janet had never seen it, I would have been over the moon, but she did see it. And reposted it! Completely amazing…
MC: We are entering a new era of Peppermint, from a new tour (Letters Live!) to a new album (Moment Of Weakness: Letters To My Lovers) as well as being featured in the film Fire Island. Is it the summer of Peppermint?
P: I hope so! A hot and sticky peppermint sounds good to me (laughs)!
MC: You released some truly legendary dance tracks back in the day, but this is definitely a new you and a new grown-up sound. Tell me about the new album.
P: I have always been a big fan of hip hop and r&b those are my two favorite genres of music. I think when people think of a drag queen music, they want electornic and pop music. I have done all of that before, but I thought that this is the perfect time to infuse my love of r&b with some of the things that I have really wanted to say about my community. I had also gone through a breakup, and there is no better time than after a breakup than to write some music! After a breakup ,the music is a little bit deeper, a little more soulful. I figured after singing about these issues of LGBTQ equality, there is no better genre to serve as a backdrop than r&b. The album was obviously inspired by the breakup, and it is one album in a series of three albums. This is the second album to be released, it is called Moment Of Weakness, Letters To My Lovers; it is basically the middle of the relationship.
The project Letters To My Lovers is based on the relationship in particular, and I have the beginning, middle and end; this is the middle, this album. We explore a lot of things, when the relationship starts to crumble, I sing about that in “Broken Home”, the lead single. The title track is inspired by the first time you see your ex, be it in a cafe or by accident, what is that moment of weakness when you see your ex for the first time…
MC: You are hitting the road and touring the nation this summer with Letters Live! is it going to be difficult revisiting the relationship through these songs?
P: No, and you would think that it would be triggering for me to sing about these things. In actuality, I am in a good place with my ex, we are cordial, we are in contact, and he does know about the music. I am not doxxing him and putting his address in the songs or anything (laughs)! You might think it would be hard reliving it, and to be honest, the first time I delved into these, the writing process was difficult for me and really emotional. The breakup was fresher at that point and having to probe all the thoughts and feelings in order to come up with lyrics or a word that rhymed, and thinking about how something felt and having to describe it in a musical way, that was tough. Now that the music is out and released into the world, it feels like a great big weight lifted off of my shoulders. I am usually pretty private about my romantic relationships, this is the first time that I have let a breakup, something so depressing and so deep, turn into something I am so proud of.
I want to share it with everyone, that I am happy to sing about, and the project itself brings me such joy. I also don’t want people to think it is depressing and it’s just going to make everyone sad. There really is so much love and comedy within the storytelling, in addition to the songs. It’s a bit of a VH1 Storytellers style. I sit and tell everyone all about what was happening to me that inspired me to write the music and go in all about how I am, past wearing sequins and being a runner up on Drag Race. There is just so much more and I am inviting people in.
MC: You were a New York City legend with an established career, then you got on RuPaul’s Drag Race. When you started getting the international attention that Ru-girls get, was it a relief that the world could finally start to see what New York City had gotten to see for years already?
P: In a way, especially around my trans-ness. It makes sense, there were people that were not there. If I did a cartwheel or sang a certain song in bars in New York, they weren’t at those shows so I don’t fault them for that. Regarding my trans-ness though, there is some confusion for some people or that they seem to think that because I introduced myself on Drag Race that is when I was invented; nothing existed before that. When I introduced myself as trans on Drag Race, it was like telling them my name, a name that I have always had. They didn’t know it so I had to introduce myself to them. I think people took that as I was just finding out who I was for myself and that was not the case; I had been out as trans for many years.
Sometimes when I talk to people who are fans of the show, I have to tell them I have been around for a very long time and all of these things have been a part of my story. I am hopeful that though watching Drag Race, people will have a chance to go back and look on some of the old videos or older songs that I released ten years ago, maybe they will fall in love again.
MC: So many trans girls have come after you on Drag Race, and you have managed to blaze a trail that you didn’t even know you were blazing when you appeared on Drag Race. Do you hear from the trans girls that came after you on Drag Race at all?
P: I certainly do hear from other trans contestants, but most of the conversation we have is commiserating on the experience we had to go through (laughs). I hear from other folks who are gender expansive, gender non conforming, or transgender and who are fans of the show who I may meet at Drag Con, at a show, or at the stage door and it always touches me when someone tells me that something about my story resonated with them; that will never get old.
MC: Fans of Drag Race are not simply waiting for to go back and snag an All Stars crown; you are literally the only one from your season’s finale that hasn’t won a crown and the fans are clamoring for it.
P: I know, I have to figure out what I am going to wear (laughs)!
MC: There is very little that you have not gotten to do in your career, from Broadway to recording music. What is something that you want to do that you have not gotten to do just yet?
P: Obviously a romantic relationship would be nice, but what I am honestly hopeful to be able to take some of my savings and purchase a house. Many of the girls from Drag Race have gotten to purchase a home, but not many have gotten to do it in New York City, it is so expensive. Many of the girls that I know have purchased in other states where you can get more bang for your buck. That may or may not be for me, but I still live here and want to stay in the city. I am ready to graduate into the full adulthood living situation, so if everyone comes and buys a ticket to the concert, I will be ready to buy a house!
MC: What do you think you are the most proud of right now?
P: You know it is obviously where I am compared to where I came from and started. Especially the atmosphere that I was in, times were different and things did not feel as free, even though our community is currently under attack. Things I didn’t see for myself even in my own path as I do now with regards to being black, trans and queer. Being able to make my own decisions about what I want to do and earn money, I have always taken so much time and invested myself; my mental energy, my emotional availability, to my artwork, to my performance, really pouring myself into dedicating myself to what I am trying to do, whether it is a stage performance or a new song. I would do it for a couple dollars that I had to take off the floor, and I did that for twenty years.
Now I can put that same type of energy into different things, a drag performance, a musical performance on Broadway, or something in between. Some folks find value in that, not only personal value that resonates in themselves that they can identify with, but also, I am being paid to do these things and that feels wonderful. That I am able to make an income from something that am just so truly passionate about.
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