If you have not settled into a seat for a show by Jasmine Rice LaBeija, you’re simply not doing New York City drag. Since 2012, this trained vocalist/performer extraordinaire has been turning looks and pulling no punches on and off stage. Keeping professionalism and individuality in the forefront of her drag career, LaBeija has somehow managed to squeeze in turns at two Miss Continental pageants as well as being part of the ensemble cast of Shade: Queens Of NYC, even with a packed weekly NYC performance schedule. Even with her always busy schedule, LaBeija made time to sit down with me to talk about the sisterhood of NYC drag, the possibility of a RuPaul’s Drag Race appearance, and those ever popular Facebook Live appearances!
Michael Cook: For those that have never seen Jasmine Rice LaBeija, on stage, how would you describe your performance style and “drag” as a whole?
Jasmine Rice LaBeija: I would describe my drag as ALL of the above. Sexy, silly, stupid, smart, special, surprising, spectacular, sensual, and the list goes on!
MC: You are known to perform some real dance floor stompers as well as some great mixes. How do you choose your material? Any favorites that really stand out?
JRL: You know when you watch cartoons and the lightbulb goes on? It’s like that when I’m listening to music or watching something. As a drag queen and a performer, I am trained now to always think about new numbers I can make constantly, even when I’m just walking down the street.
MC: How did Jasmine Rice LaBeija get her start in the extremely competitive New York City drag scene?
JRL: As they always say there are two types of drag queens. I got my start in June 2012, Pride. I actually started drag with Monet X Change. However, I believe in RuPaul’s saying “we are all born naked and the rest is drag”. So I believe I’ve been doing drag my whole life.
MC: You are a trained singer and sometimes grace the crowds with your extraordinary vocal talents. Do you feel your talents set you apart from the crowd?
JRL: I believe it does set me apart from the crowd. However, I am also there for the crowd. There is nothing I love more than performing for an amazing, active crowd. They are my fuel and that’s why I love performing on stage.
MC: What are some of your career highlights so far?
JRL: The best moments for me truly were when I competed at Miss Continental Plus and Miss Continental. Especially when I went to Miss Continental, as I was 2nd runner-up!
MC: What is left that you want to achieve as Jasmine Rice LaBeija? Any aspirations to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race perhaps?
JRL: I want to achieve many things as a performer and for my community that I represent. Being on stage and having a mic in your hand while getting everyone’s attention is power that not everyone has. So I would like to use it for good. Drag Race is not up to me. I think any drag performer would like to be on the biggest platform that our industry has to offer. It is up to RuPaul to give me that opportunity. All I can do is what I’m doing right now and hopefully RuPaul will see something special in me and put me on the show. I mean can you imagine the ratings, gifs and memes they’ll get from me? (Laughs)
MC: Speaking of Drag Race, several NYC girls have won. How do you think the show as a whole has been for the drag community?
JRL: Like everything it has its pros and cons. I think it is amazing how drag has become so mainstream. It is now more approachable than ever to get content and see what our community looks like. However, with all the positivity from that show, comes negativity. I guess the world has to be balanced out. There are a lot of people thinking they can say whatever they want because they watched Drag Race and now are experts in drag. People forget that it is a reality show and they cast personalities. Their main focus is not only drag, but people’s character and how they will play they’re part in the show. Also, they film for twelve plus hours a day and only use not even half of what they filmed, so people have to realize that it is not as easy, quick, and fabulous as it comes across. I can go on and on about this issue, but it is what it is. It’s the world we are living in right now (laughs).
MC: You were featured on the show Shade: Queens Of NYC, What was that experience like? Have you kept relationships with all of your cast-mates since?
JRL: That experience opened my eyes to a lot of things and my limits as a drag queen/performer. The thing about our show was that we were filming and airing at the same time. Most shows are pre-recorded and edited later on. We were basically going Jasmine Live the whole time (laughs). Most of the cast-mates were close to begin with, but I think the show brought us a little closer together. Some closer than others, but that always happens when you have big personalities in the room.
MC: Your Facebook Live sessions are that of LEGEND! Have you always been such a straight shooter?
JRL: I have been a straight shooter my whole life, but my Facebook Lives also usually have a reasoning behind it. I always say I’m a reaction to an action. I never just go live for no particular reason. However, I’m trying to grow and become a better being. Especially in this crazy social and political climate, it is so easy to just pop off. Now I’m trying to just roll my eyes and move on unless it specifically mentions my name somehow. Then I’ll go Jasmine Live Labeija on people (laughs)!
MC: The gay community has had a very trying year and politically things are very dark. What do you think are the biggest issues facing our community and what do you see as your part in helping to address them?
JRL: I think the biggest issue is the word “community.” People forget that we are all human and connected to each other. Words like “community” are a tool to separate us and we need to be careful about that. Yes it is important to find your tribe, but you must be careful to not separate from each other as we are all in some way related. When we stop separating ourselves, then we can see how affecting someone can in return, affect me. It is basic human rights, not just LGBTQIA+ rights ya know? I think I help addressing these issues by being on stage and bringing everyone together to laugh and enjoy our time together. I try to make a safe space for everyone. I am also still learning as an individual to be a better ally to my fellow human beings, not only the LGBTQIA+ people.
MC: What does “pride” mean to you? Body positivity is very important to you, correct?
JRL: I think positivity in general is important to me. It doesn’t specifically have to be body positivity. You have to keep an open mind with pride and not be so stuck on that word. People forget the true meaning sometimes. Pride is loving yourself and knowing yourself. As an individual with pride, you have to know when you have made a mistake and how flawed you are. But it is OK to know those things, as that is how we grow as individuals. It’s not to put yourself down, but to pick yourself back up to become a better version of you. Like I said, all around positivity!
MC:Most importantly’-where can people see you perform?!
JRL: People can see me perform all over. My regular weekly gigs are:
Monday: Messy Mondays at Rise Bar with my cohost Pissi Myles and DJ David Serrano
Thursday: Jasmine Live at Pieces Bar with my rotating cohosts Jolina Jasmine and Holly Box-Springs with DJ 2 Face
Sunday: Skinny Brunch at Hardware Bar with my cohost Brita Filter and DJ Nicky Boombox.
If you want to keep up with my performances and to see what my upcoming projects are, you can follow me on all social media platforms @JasmineRiceNYC Especially on Venmo as there is never a wrong time to tip a queen (laughs)!
Art Courtesy of Jasmine Rice Labeija-Facebook