Peppermint Opens Up About ‘Letters’ And Her ‘Best Sex’

Peppermint in wet denim (photo Credit: Magnus Hastings).

PEPPERMINT  

I have to say, I have covered a lot of different, wonderful people since I started writing for Instinct. I have been able to see and meet so many different shades of the rainbow, and I grateful as the queer community never ceases to inspire me. This time around, I got to interview Peppermint from RuPaul’s Drag Race. She just released a single with the video “Best Sex” and yes, it’s got everything you think it should have. She opened my eyes to what it is like to be a black trans person, and other things I had never thought about. I watched several segments of her performance on Drag Race, and honestly, some of it was so funny I couldn’t finish. Just pull some up on YouTube, and see if you can make it through without going into hysterical laughter. Peppermint has it all.              


Jeremy Hinks: Hey, Surfs up Peppermint. Congratulations, the video just came out today for “Best Sex”, this is your first video of this kind is that correct?

Peppermint: It’s not my first video, but it is my first music video of me rolling around naked in bed with people … with more than one person too. You know. (laughing)

JH: Yes they were all knocking on your door, and just parading through, but one of the scenes, I was thinking, “Wait, is that her type, REALLY?” (She is really laughing now) And then there was this one that made me chuckle, you were there with that one bloke, then next frame shot there is a guy standing next to the bed, and I was wondering if he was just there to fix the windows or something, because he looked really out of place.

PM: Well, all of the guys are, … OK, let’s just put it this way, I have had to expand “My type”, what was on my original list might just not be what you end up with, and that’s just a part of life. BUT all the guys in my music video, they were very sexy handsome men, who I would be very honored to be on their arm in real life.

JH: Well, one of them was kind of geeky looking.

PM: Hey, it’s OK, not your type.

JH: My fetish was for redheads, and that is what I dated exclusively for years, ’til I ended up with a blonde, so I get what you are talking about. Speaking of that one, I don’t know if you remember me, I shook your hand at the Encircle Summit last year here in Utah, and I ended up at the other building for the adult session, I missed all the fun stuff, I got to listen to all the professionals and psychologists. But my wife stayed back and photographed your session.

PM: Well, it’s nice to meet you again.

JH: I would just like to say, because of the situation here in Utah, because you are obviously aware of it, thank you, thank you so much for taking part in that for the young queer people in Utah. That means a lot to so many of us. Can you give us a few words on the Encircle activity?

PM: Oh yes, gladly, it was my first year participating in this annual event. Encircle is about getting the youth together, and probably at its purest, it’s about joy, and queer joy, young people in the LGTBQ+ community to get together, to connect and get some entertainment, and some education. There were several seminars, I didn’t get to go to all of them, I was doing my own, but it was wonderful to be able to hear the stories and experiences of the youngsters. It’s clear that they were trying to make it as diverse as possible, and I think they achieved that. This year they were benefiting a house, an LGBTQ center that young people can go to and find a safe environment, and to be with their peers. It gives them a safe place to be, and that is the most important thing for our youth to be safe. I would be honored to take part in it next year.

JH: YES, entertainment, and education, you gave them both. My wife got to photograph you, and was there with you, Kalen Allen, Vincent. You know Kalen Allen right?

PM: Of course I do (laughing)

JH: Yeah, that guy could make the statue of a dead stoic laugh, he is brilliantly funny. So, thank you for being at Encircle, we all had a great time and got to hang out with Dan Reynolds.

PM: Yeah, it was great, all of it was.

JH: I started volunteering for Loveloud a few years ago, just out of my support for the community, and I take payment in Gatorade at the concerts. So I get a huge ice-chest full of Gatorade and I run back and forth between sets. They pick the hottest weekend of the summer.

PM: You are well hydrated. I haven’t been to Loveloud, I wanted to, but obviously this year, with COVID, it didn’t work out.

JH: Well, let’s have a Gatorade together backstage. (no alcohol allowed, this is Utah)

PM: Well, yes, I just want to see the show period, so that would be great.

JH: Belinda Carlisle is in my top 5 of the most gorgeous women on God’s earth. So, when I came across your performance of “We Got The Beat” of the Go Go’s, I laughed, and still laugh, it was fun, so full of personality, I had to go back to that one several times.

PM: Yeah, I was in the Broadway musical “Head over Heels” which was based on the Go Go’s music, and we did the pandemic quarantine early, we did a 10-minute medley, we shot it from our homes, “We Got the Beat”, “Vacation”, “Our Lips are Sealed”, we did them all zoom style.

JH: Yeah, you gave them the proper respect, I have heard some bad Go Go’s covers in my day, and you all did it very well, kudos.

PM: We had their seal of approval, and we earned their good graces.

JH: So, here I want to say, you are the first trans woman of color that I have ever covered. I have covered plenty of drag queens, and trans artists, but you are kind of the singled out triple whammy, trans woman of color, and I am honored to be talking to you like this.

PM: Well, I am honored to be here with you.

JH: So, can we talk about “Letters to My Lovers”?

PM: I would love that yes.

JH: So, there was the pain, the grief, the suffering, and you sit there in the studio sitting at the mixing desk. I’m the guy who loves seeing the behind the scenes, how it’s all being made, and for that it was a “documentary” piece, but still, you and all of this emotion, it was great to watch.

PM: Yeah, we put out a little of the BTS footage on my social media to let people peek into the process. But this whole project is very different for me, in the past I have done lots of cutesy stuff, and some dance stuff, but this was new. I had just gone through a breakup, and decided that I wanted to take the opportunity to speak honestly about my experiences, and I think that can be both beneficial to young trans people, so that they can see some inspiration, and for cis gender people to help them understand our experiences, and to see that we are all more alike than different. So that’s why I did the album, and naturally I like being on camera, so, why not get it on film.

JH: Yes, and I will point out that love is the one thing we all try time and time again to do, and even understand, and constantly we are getting it wrong.

PM: YES!!!! (laughing)

JH: Think about that, if there is one subject that has had more songs written about it than any other subject.

PM: Yes, never understand it, never get it right.

JH: But it gives us the best songs, and endless subject matter for writing.

PM: It gives some great songs, and hopefully at least a few good memories.

JH: Yes, and you want to attach them to a song. In my day, we would have to write song lyrics down on paper and drop them to each other in school, that tells you how old I am, we didn’t have “TEXTS” back then, but ohhh, yes, those song lyrics.

PM: Well, In the early ’90s I was doing the same thing, so maybe we are in the same bracket.

JH: So, I also loved your input about “Black Trans Lives Matter”, we are all standing behind “Black Lives Matter” but you are bringing that up and giving it some visibility, I know that it is important, I know that a black trans person is more likely to be subjected to random violence than any other demographic, and it has gone up over the last several years. I appreciate you bringing it up, not just from someone who can side with you, but you are speaking to it from your own experience. For that and what you have done for the community here in Utah, we really do love you.

PM: I appreciate that.

JH: So, I have covered Ada Vox and Alaska, I mean, she is crazy as hell, and wonderful, how old were you when you started moving into this persona, and where did the name come from?

PM: Well, the one that is really easy to answer, peppermint is my favorite flavor, and favorite candy. I was sitting in a parking lot with a guy that I had a crush on, eating peppermint, and he said, “You should just name yourself “Peppermint”, and I would have done ANYTHING he told me to do, so I did name myself Peppermint, and that’s all he told me to do. So I can’t take credit for it, but it is my favorite flavor. As far as my persona, my drag public personality, it’s not really a character, and I might be wrong, I let people speak for themselves, but I think people’s “Drag Personas” are more or less just an expression or an extension of themselves. That is definitely true for myself, it was easier for me as I was coming up as a youngster, I was always very theatrical, and using make-up, and performing whether it was on stage or even in the living room was always something that I really enjoyed, I found a little of, not much an escape, but the ability to put a cloak on myself and operate in any way that I wanted. Most of the time I was pretending or playing dress up, it was always as a woman.

So as a trans woman, it’s more of me just expressing who I was. The only language I could use to get through to get my message across was by doing drag. Though now, my public persona, I’m more like a “Glamour Girl”, than just a drag queen. I certainly still dress in drag, sometimes it’s heightened, sometimes it’s not, but I decided to put down the drag outfit for this album because it really is about me as a woman, who deals with real things.

You talked about the violence and discrimination that black people are subjected to, but right now we are marking 32 trans people who have been murdered this year. And many of those murders go UN-investigated, or under investigated. And 20 of these people are black trans women, with 12 of them under the age of 25, and that is why I chose to make this album. It’s important to be a successful black trans woman, or actor in Hollywood on their own TV show or doing films, but it is also important for people to see us being loved and valued by other people. Seeing us in relationships, seeing us move about the world, and watching people love and take care of us, not that we need to be saved from everything, but seeing people around them care for us, rather than ridicule us. Seeing your mother, father, friends, frat brothers caring for trans people rather than make fun of, and try and hurt us, that is the point, and that is why I created this album.

I was in a very loving relationship, SPOILER ALERT, it ended. But I think a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to love a transgender person. You are a cis gender man who is not trans, and you are heterosexual, and you are attracted to women, then trans women are included in that group. I’m not saying that all heterosexual men are attracted to trans women, but a heterosexual man who is attracted to, and is dating a trans woman, has that label in our country of being “GAY”, and that is simply not true. These heterosexual men are attracted to all kinds of women, tall, short, black, white, thin, full, blonde hair, and your red hair, and often trans women. It’s important that people start to recognize that, so I decided to put myself out there like this. For that, I had to put out the real me.

JH: And thus the presentation of yourself in the video, that wasn’t your “Drag Persona”, it was more “this is me” and “that guy was a jerk”, or whatever, you were not there trying to be anything but yourself. That is what I got from it at least.

PM: That’s exactly what I was aiming for, we succeeded, mission accomplished.

JH: Hey, I’m the dumb straight American white guy, so if I can get it, there is hope. So, the new one released today, but I have been listening to it for a few weeks, there was so much innuendo in there, it was over the top, but I wouldn’t expect anything different. I mean, all torso, no face, it was well done to finally see the video after knowing the song.

PM: Oh yeah, my girlfriends and I sit around and complain about guys all the time. It’s not unique to us but, I think one of the things that men who are into trans women see us is as just sex objects. I’m not saying “All men only see women”, but with regular women they seem to have a bit more to them with men. These men are in a situation that have the best of both worlds, they can have someone that they are attracted to, but they don’t feel the need to respect us. They think it’s okay and acceptable, because everywhere else they see us being disrespected. These guys are up to some bad behavior, and honestly, you might not have anything else good going for you, but you do have the best sex. (Laughing) The thing is, we are the only ones who, if you murder us, the police will side with you, when you say, “I didn’t know she was trans” and they won’t investigate the murder.

JH: That just sends my blood boiling.

PM: And we weren’t murdered by someone on the street doing a drive by, we are being murdered by our boyfriends, by our lovers. And women get murdered all the time, and that is wrong, but when a trans woman is killed by her cis gender boyfriend or husband, or being raped or murdered on the street, it has more of a disregard. We are in a patriarchy, and we are trying to change it by making people see it.

JH: I never thought of it that way, that people only viewed trans women as just sex objects, but for that, this whole conversation has been very eye-opening for me. Thank you, I appreciate you telling me. I felt like we were getting to a shift in that, and that it was going to wind down, but not happening, and now I know that they are not seen as real people. So, with all the innuendo, was it about one person, or was it to a lot of people, this was quite a burn.

PM: It’s about one type of person, not just one, I have had to experience this sort of bad behavior from a lot of people, but this song is actually the only one on the album that was not about my ex.

JH: Wow, … well still quite a burn, I’m not going to ask who it is, I’ll let the world guess.

PM: Well, like you said, love is the one subject we write so much about. This is a three album project, the beginning, middle and end, so hon, we are in the honeymoon phase. It’s really sweet, not a lot of burning, this is the tenderness and love.

JH: I’m sure you have said this, you said it to the youth in Utah, what would your message be to the young queer person who is afraid and in the closet, in the vulnerable state.

PM: You need to come out in your own time, if you are closeted and queer, you can find a community, and a place to feel safe, you can reach out to someone in the community, especially with the internet, there are places you can reach out to. I know a lot of the centers are doing outreach work. There is no specific way to be gay or trans, there is only one way to be yourself, and you are right on time and doing it the right way.

JH: Thank you Peppermint, I hope to see you at Loveloud or Encircle again.


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