Jackie Cox knows her way around the New York City stages and is ready to take her unique performing style and Broadway sensibilities to the stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race this year. I sat down to chat with Jackie about how she’s melding her cultural background with her current performance style (and why that is so important) and what New York City Drag Race dynamo has been one of her biggest inspirations.
MC: So tell me Jackie, what does it feel like right now as your life is changing right before your eyes as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 is about to premiere?
JC: I feel like a breath of relief that is is finally not a secret that’s the biggest thing. I feel very honored to also be a part of this group of New York City girls. It’s a really cool group, we all love each other and hate each other at the same time in the best way (laughs). We are all just doing ourselves, it really doesn’t even feel like competition. It feels like five amazing different queens ready to have some fun and hopefully make New York City proud.
MC: You have an extensive performing background and a true Broadway sensibility. Do you think that it was helpful to you in competing?
JC: Well you know, of course everything in your life is helpful. Those that think that past experiences are a waste of time probably didn’t learn the lesson that they needed to from those past experiences. I think that everything that has happened in my life has led me to this moment, which has been very thrilling to see come to life. If you had asked me three or four years ago, I probably would have said something like “probably one day, never” but this year it happened and I said “why not, let’s go for it”. It was my first time auditioning also. I think this felt like the right moment for me. All of the theater stuff, those expensive college classes, hopefully now they have paid off a little bit.
MC: Your culture is extremely important to you; what it important that you made sure it’s something you highlighted as a queen?
JC: Definitely and especially right now. There was a long time when I did not embrace my cultural heritage. I remember that 9/11 happened when I was in high school at at that time, being a Middle Eastern person was something different. I was living in Orange County at the time, and they actually put away the Aladdin and Jasmine characters at Disneyland. People were scared of what Middle Eastern people were and are, and I thought that was something that I could never really embrace. What I saw with the election of Trump was that happening again, but in an even scarier way. In a way where people from Muslim majorly countries all over the world are suddenly not allowed to be in America at all.
MC: Have his policies affected you personally?
JC: My family members not being allowed into this country was crazy to me. My aunt who just visited here in 2015 was suddenly not allowed to come visit my mom and me anymore, her sister. I really thought that this was not a moment to hide anymore. This is not a moment to pretend that you are not Middle Eastern, that this is not part of your life and that this isn’t affecting you. I have this platform and I have these shows and this stage and this platform. I need to talk about it in my drag and make people see and have this visibility and not hide and not hide these characters away. I was thinking back to 2001 and thinking what that was like as a sixteen year old. To be a thirty-something who is brave enough to step into my self and not be afraid of it; hopefully there will be another sixteen year old who sees this season and really that they don’t have to be afraid to. That was really important to me and a big part of why I auditioned. It would have meant so much for me to see an Iranian kid on television at that time, and hopefully I can do that for another kid with this show; I am just so excited.
MC: What New York City Drag Race alumni do you see that have gone on to great success and you could pattern your own career in a similar way?
JC: Well obviously Bob the Drag Queen, hello! What is crazy about Bob is that she and I started drag around the same time, nine or ten years ago. I remember right after she filmed her season and before it was released she said to me “Jackie, how long have you been doing drag”? I responded “maybe four to five years”. She said ’the same time as me huh? When are you going to step it up and go to the next level”? I guess it took me another four years, but I listened to Bob. That is a career that would be the envy of any person in entertainment, much less drag queens. What passionate supporter of important causes and a damn good entertainer at the same time.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” premieres Friday February 28th on VH1 (check local listings)