TOBIN: [SINGING] Let’s start from the very beginning.
MATT: [SINGING] A very good place to start!
KATHY: Oh, here we go again.
MATT: [SINGING] When you sing you begin with Do Re Mi
TOBIN: [SINGING] Do Re Mi
MATT: [SINGING] Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti…
TOBIN: Resolve the 7th, Kathy.
MATT: No it’s “Do.”
KATHY: I think--What is it?
KATHY: All I hear is “No.”
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy
VOX 2: With your hosts, Kathy Tu and Tobin Low.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: OK, so we are in the studio...Kathy, Matt, me. And I have a little surprise for you guys.
KATHY: Alright. Here we go.
MATT: What’s happening?
TOBIN: I have gathered you all here today.
KATHY: Oh god.
TOBIN: Because there is an irreparable rift in our team.
KATHY: Which one?
MATT: Oh, I think I know this.
TOBIN: Which is that I love Drag Race, and I feel completely unsupported because I think in fact you guys hate Drag Race.
KATHY: True, true.
MATT: Yeah, that’s super correct
[RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE THEME PLAYS]
TOBIN: So for the truly unenlightened, I am of course talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race...the reality TV competition show that crowns America’s next drag superstar. Each season, a new cast of drag queens competes for the crown...They have to act, sing, dance, AND LIP SYNC FOR THEIR LIVES...And one by one they are eliminated by the show’s host and head judge...RuPaul.
TOBIN: I LOVE THIS SHOW. I love the fashion and the drama and the hilarity. But I think what I actually love most about it is watching with other super fans. When you are a drag race fan, it feels like you’re part of this huge community that also loves it. You can talk endlessly about who you want to win, who deserves to get the boot, who is your all time favorite is. I mean, it is as close as I will ever come to understanding what it’s like to cheer on your favorite team in a crowded sports bar. And that’s why it pains me so much that I can’t talk to you guys about any of it. So I guess my first question is...how much of the show have you actually watched?
KATHY: I have watched exactly 2 ½ episodes one of them with you, and I wouldn’t say I hate it. But I just strongly dislike it.
TOBIN: Ok. I wanna hear more about why you didn’t like it.
KATHY: Like you said, it’s like watching sports in a sports bar. And usually,that, I am all for that. But I get turned off here because I’ve tried watching the show and it feels like there’s too much to catch up on.
MATT: So much, I completely agree on this.
TOBIN: Matt how much have you watched?
MATT: Okay, so I think I’ve seen ¾ of an episode total, maybe like half of one, and the last quarter of another. And to me it felt a lot like when I have invited people over to my house to watch Game of Thrones and there’s like usually a whole group and there’s always like one person who is like, “I’ve never seen it before but like it seems fun. Like, I’m probably going to like it.” And very quickly it just completely goes over their heads and they’re like “Oh, I can tell that all of this means something to you,” but like they have no idea what is going on.
TOBIN: Gotcha. So part of it is just feeling like you can’t catch up to the canon of the show.
MATT: Not can’t. Like, am not interested enough to.
KATHY: That’s fair. That’s fair. Yeah.
MATT: I would rather watch football than Drag Race.
TOBIN: Oh my god. Ok, ok, I do wanna know more about WHY you didn’t like the show. So like, I wanna take like an inventory of complaints that I can address directly…
KATHY: Ok, so one complaint I have is the way the show is edited. It’s super fast paced. And it feels completely random. All these crazy moments happen, and they explain nothing, nothing is explained!
TOBIN: That’s fair. They’ll go from a contestant talking to the camera…
TRINITY: There’s some other really strong competitors.
TOBIN: ... to a queen pulling tape off of another queen’s nipples.
TOBIN: Then they cut to like a reaction shot …
TOBIN: And different reaction shot…
TOBIN: And then they’re back to the person talking to the camera.
TRINITY: It’s not a time to get comfortable.
VALENTINA: That was so painful. Thank you babe.
KATHY: So many crazy things just fly by. It’s confusing, Tobin.
TOBIN: OK, so style of the show, complaint number one. Got it.
TOBIN: Matt, I’m afraid to ask..but do you have a complaint?
KATHY: [LAUGHS] Oh no.
MATT: I think this is like...it’s not going to be a surprise to you...but like I just generally,like,do not find drag queens that interesting. Like, I’ve seen drag shows, and I’m like, it’s fun. But I don’t think I’ve ever, like, sought one out on my own. And like, because of that I just,like,do not think Drag Race is interesting. Because aside from like...the hair and the makeup, and, I don’t know, just being,like, really catty to each other...I don’t think I,like, know what the show is about.
TOBIN: Gotcha, OK,so I’m going to label that as complaint number two. Why don’t we do one more?
KATHY: Okay, okay here’s one. It seems to me that the show has a very specific audience. And that audience is gay men. So, like, as a queer woman, I don’t really see what I would get out of watching the show.
TOBIN: OK. Complaint number three.
TOBIN: Here’s what I’m gonna do now.
KATHY: You’re going to just give up?
MATT: Leave us alone?
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] No no no!
TOBIN: What I am going to do is I’m going to go away and find EVIDENCE to refute all of your complaints...so that I can CONVINCE you that you should watch this show. And if I present my arguments and you still aren’t convinced, I will let it go. How does that sound?
KATHY: I would love to see you fail.
KATHY: Oh my god, that was like a Matt Collette thing. I’m sorry, I take it back.
TOBIN: No, that’s okay
MATT: I don’t have anything to say.
MATT: No,like, go ahead. I don’t think you’re gonna change my mind.
KATHY: But we’re open to it.
KATHY: We’re open to it.
TOBIN: OK, I’m gonna get to work. Here’s where I’m gonna put some time machine music.
MATT: Kathy, do you wanna help make it a three part time travel music?
KATHY: Uh…this is...okay.
TOBIN: Ready and...
[ALL THREE MAKE SILLY SOUNDS]
[TIME TRAVEL SOUND PLAYS]
TOBIN: Ok, in spite of the sound design, time has actually passed.
MATT: Yes we are in a different studio wearing different clothes and everything.
TOBIN: A week has passed since last we talked. And I am ready to point-counterpoint the crap out of your issues with the show.
TOBIN: All right, so Kathy, your first complaint was that the show is...kinda nonsensical.
KATHY: Yeah! It’s too random. It’s all over the place.
TOBIN: Yeah, so I actually think the sensibility of the show is one of the reasons it’s great.
TOBIN: Because each of those weirdo moments has the potential to become a sensation. And the example I’m going to use to prove my point is a moment from the current season of Drag Race…
RUPAUL: Ladies, I’ve made my decision.
TOBIN: It’s actually from the very first episode...when RuPaul sent home the very first queen. And getting sent home first is exactly the position you don’t want to be in. You don’t win any money and you get less screen time than every other queen. So RuPaul announces that the contestant getting the boot is…
RUPAUL: Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
TOBIN: Also known as Miss Vanjie. Now, generally when a queen gets eliminated, they walk down the catwalk one last time, then they turn around and deliver their last words on the show. Usually it’s some kind of joke. But Miss Vanjie didn’t exactly do that? Instead, she just said...
VANJIE: Miss Vanjie...MISSS VANJIE…Misssss…. Vanjie…..
KATHY: It gets funnier the more you listen to it.
MATT: It’s just so truly weird.
KATHY: It’s so weird.
TOBIN: And this is what I love about the show. Like so many other completely batshit moments on Drag Race, this goes by completely unexplained. It just sort of happens. But immediately, this scene totally blew up with Drag Race fans online.
MATT: Despite having watched none of this show...Like, I knew exactly this Miss Vanjie moment.
TOBIN: Yeah, I mean the internet became flooded with Miss Vanjie memes and tweets...When she made an appearance at RuPaul’s drag convention, the audience AND RUPAUL chanted her name...
RUPAUL: MISS VANJIE...
TOBIN: She sells Miss Vanjie merchandise...Andrew Garfield recently talked about her in an interview.
GARFIELD: Bruce Springsteen and Ms. Vanjie, I feel changed by this year. Maybe Miss Vanjie slightly more, profoundly.
TOBIN: So here’s my point...
TOBIN: I think that this show is meant to deliver these absurdist moments, that then queer people can take and do what they've always done. Which is, you know, make cultural moments out of them and be creative and be crazy with them, and it doesn't have to make sense. And then I also love that queens like Miss Vanjie can turn around and capitalize on these moments and make money and build careers off of them. So that is my argument for why the randomness of this show is genius.
TOBIN: [LAUGHING] Why not?
KATHY: Because it’s still in the moment, I don’t know what’s happening.
TOBIN: You’re still confused.
KATHY: Like outside of the show, I can get it. But I think until I’m,like, caught up on all of the seasons, I don’t think it’s, it doesn’t make any sense to me, Tobin.
TOBIN: But I’m trying to say that you let the nonsense wash over you.
KATHY: Ah, I think I’m too much of a realist for that.
MATT: Kathy doesn’t like nonsense.
KATHY: I really don’t like nonsense.
MATT: Strictly business.
TOBIN: Alright, I’m gonna insert a sad trombone sound here.
[WOMP WOMP SOUND]
KATHY: Sorry Tobin. I was really rooting for you though.
TOBIN: It’s okay. I’ve got more things, I’ve got more things. We’re going to move to the next point.
TOBIN: Matt…you were saying that drag race seems kind of surface-y.
MATT: Totally. Like, people all the time are,like, this show is not just,like, fun, it’s like capital I Important. But I, like, seriously do not know what it is about.
TOBIN: Gotcha. Okay,so to answer your question, I talked to someone who writes a lot about the deeper meaning of drag race.
MATHEW: Hi, I’m Mathew Rodriguez, and I am a staff writer at Into.
TOBIN: And something that he’s written a lot about is how the show is unique in the way it deals with race.
MATHEW: I would say that drag race is first of all the only show on television that consistently shows queer people of color and allows them to have a voice and doesn’t stereotype them...
TOBIN: He points out that, you know, so few shows feature queer people...let alone queer people of color...let alone queer people of color interacting with each other and with people of other backgrounds.
MATHEW: The queer communities are so segregated that the show is the only one on television that actually brings people from all the different communities into one room.
TOBIN: And a prime example of this happened very recently on Untucked, which is like Drag Race’s backstage TV show. It was a confrontation between two queens...The Vixen who is black... and Aquaria who is white. Aquaria picked a fight and The Vixen was not having it.
VIXEN: When you come for me and I come for you back and you say “Oh, you’re so negative.” I was chilling. You brought it over here, I bring it back, and all of a sudden, I’m a bitch.
MATHEW: And when The Vixen responded, Aquaria started with these crocodile tears if you will.
TOBIN: At this point, the Vixen basically like steps out of the situation...and acknowledges they’re on a reality TV show and how the audience will interpret their interaction.
VIXEN: So when you get super defensive and tell me that I”m negative when I’m just responding to what you brought to me, that will always read to THESE...
TOBIN: She’s actually pointing directly at the cameras here.
VIXEN: ...as a race issue.
MATHEW: The Vixen said like, I’m not going to allow you to turn this into a narrative of “Oh, the angry black woman,” or “the angry black queen.” And so when she did that, she was not only standing up for herself but also talking about the way that we don’t allow black queens on TV, black people on TV, and then ultimately black people in real life to have a full spectrum of emotion and experience.
TOBIN: So yeah. I would argue that in terms of what’s underneath the aesthetics of the show is some really interesting conversations about gender and class and race. So it’s more than just about playing dress up. But I wanna hear what you guys think.
MATT: OK, I hear what he’s saying...but I feel like...when I was growing up…
KATHY: Wait, is this a personal Matt story?
MATT: So when I was growing up my parents pretty much cooked vegetables one way, which was just ,like, boiling them. And they were like, "You have to eat them! They’re good for you!” And it wasn’t until much later that I learned there was actually all these other ways to cook vegetables that were just, like, so much more satisfying. So like, what I guess I am trying to say in this, like, roundabout way, is that Tobin you have definitely convinced me that the show is GOOD for me, but you haven’t convinced me the show is actually good or enjoyable.
KATHY: I thought it was compelling because I like the things that were said and the points that were brought up. Yeah, I would say it was compelling television.
TOBIN: All right, I'm also going to declare this one a loss for me. As much as I feel you guys sort of humoring me, it's still a loss.
[WOMP WOMP SOUNDS]
TOBIN: But I think I am going to get you with this last point.
TOBIN: Kathy, do you remember your third complaint?
KATHY: Yes. My impression is...that this show...seems to be only for gay men.
TOBIN: Not true! And I found just the person to prove you wrong!
MACKENZIE: My name is Mackenzie Cole. I am a theater manager working in regional theater and I identify as queer.
TOBIN: I just want to get a visceral reaction from you when I tell you that the rest of Team Nancy hates Drag Race.
MACKENZIE: My heart just sunk to the bottom of my belly hearing that and it makes me really sad.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] Can I get a sound effect?
MACKENZIE: [SOUND EFFECT]
TOBIN: So Mackenzie’s relationship to the show started back when she was a teenager…
MACKENZIE: When I was 15 yrs old, I very much identified as straight. I had no inkling of queerness whatsoever. I was a very classic “I’m just a really good ally”.
TOBIN: But then...her family got a Netflix subscription.
MACKENZIE: And Somehow at 15 years old when I was living in Wichita, Kansas, the first thing I decided to watch was RuPaul’s Drag Race.
TOBIN: What did it feel like the first time you saw the show?
MACKENZIE: The first time I saw Drag Race, I remember feeling this instant connection. And I didn’t know what it was, how to explain it. But I saw something in them that I wasn’t seeing reflected in the really conservative environment surrounding me at that time.
TOBIN: Mackenzie became OBSESSED with the show. But…
MACKENZIE: In high school, it was something I didn't talk about it much because there was no one really around me that I would watch with. And it wasn’t until I went off to college that I started realizing that there were people around me that also watched. And I could gather with them and have this shared experience and not just be sitting alone by myself.
TOBIN: So this is the hilarious part. She goes off to college, she’s not out yet, but she loves Drag Race. And she finds other Drag Race watchers and forms a community. And they basically all turn out to be queer. So the show basically helped her find a gaggle of queers before she even knew what a gaggle was. And not just that…
MACKENZIE: The great thing for me about Drag Race is that every season there’s all new queens that you get to know and you get to understand how they do drag,what drag means to them. And having new examples constantly helped me kind of to navigate within myself how I wanted to navigate my own sexuality,my own gender expression, seeing all these different forms of queerness in front of me.
TOBIN: And because the show had helped her find community and figure out some stuff...she was in a really great place to come out.
MACKENZIE: I told two of my best guy friends, like, the first day we all got back for sophomore year that I was like “I might want to try to, I dunno, hook up with women this year.” And they were like, “Yeah, that sounds great, that sounds amazing.” I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know, like, how can I say I don’t like broccoli unless I’ve tried broccoli?” And they were like, “Yeah, you should go try broccoli Mac.” And then, like that night, I went out and had my first, like, hookup with a woman and I barged into their room the next morning at 8 am, woke them up by screaming...
MACKENZIE: “I TRIED BROCCOLI!” and they were like “WHAT, THAT WAS RECORD TIME!” And I was like “Listen, I was on a mission. I don’t play around.” Thanks broccoli!
MATT: Aw, Mackenzie.
KATHY: I, first of all, need advice from Mackenzie. I think Mac and I need to be friends for the future in the event I’m single again.
KATHY: I liked the fact that Mackenzie used the show to create her own safe space, basically.
And then go out and do the things that she needed to do to explore her identity.
TOBIN: Yeah. I’m gonna consider this one a win. But I do just have to ask the million dollar question: Can you imagine a world where you give drag race a try?
KATHY: Perhaps this is the show for certain people. I don't know I would say that it's the one for me... yet. But, yeah...
KATHY: Yeah I give most things a shot. You caught me on a good day, I had a magical day, so…
MATT: I'm like..I'm never going to watch Ru Paul, like, on my own I think,though.
MATT: I don't think I would ever catch up. I think I would just, like, jump in mid-stream. And I guess I need to like -
KATHY: Yeah, maybe that's the thing.
MATT: Land an invite to,like, a cool party.
[TOBIN GASPS, KATHY LAUGHS]
TOBIN: Wait! Can I invite you guys over? And we'll start a season from the beginning? And we'll watch together?
MATT: I feel like I've suddenly committed to something I can't back out of!
TOBIN: You'll be a Drag Race fan yet.
KATHY: Well, we'll see.
TOBIN: [SINGING] Mister, I'll make a man out of you!
MATT: That is the opposite of what happens on Drag Race.
KATHY: Yeah, that's really the opposite.
TOBIN: [SINGING] Be a man!
[TOBIN CONTINUES HUMMING]
KATHY: I don't think this is the right movie for...
MATT: No, it's,like, the exact opposite one.
KATHY: This is, this is not the right movie for this.
TOBIN: [SINGING] With the force of a great typhoon.....
MATT: I mean, he's going for it though.
TOBIN: [SINGING] Mysterious as the dark side of...
TOBIN AND MATT: [SINGING] ...the moon!
MATT: Nancy will be back in a minute.
KATHY: And we’re back.
TOBIN: Yes, we are.
KATHY: Tobin, you have been trying so hard to get me excited about RuPaul’s Drag Race…
TOBIN: How am I doing?
TOBIN: All right, all right, I will take it.
TOBIN: But I will say all this talk about Drag Race is the perfect segue to talk about one of my favorite contestants from the show...Peppermint.
KATHY: Oh yeah, I’ve heard you talk about Peppermint before.
TOBIN: Well, for folks who don’t know, Peppermint is this incredible drag queen who competed last season on the show. She performed some of my favorite lip syncs with some of the best dance moves...she’s also been a performer in New York City for years before she ever got on the show. And she is about to be the first out trans woman to originate a role on Broadway. She is the REAL DEAL.
KATHY: And you got to interview Peppermint recently… were you a geek the whole time?
TOBIN: Sorta yes!
TOBIN: I’m just gonna start by being totally honest. I’m kind of freaking fuck out right now cuz I’m a big fan.
PEPPERMINT: Aw, thank you babe. I’m a big fan too.
TOBIN: Oh, thank you.
Peppermint: I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding.
TOBIN: You should be a big fan of you!
PEPPERMINT: You set it up!
TOBIN:Yeah, yeah. I walked right into that one.
PEPPERMINT: You did.
[SLAM SOUND EFFECT]
TOBIN: We also talked about her complicated relationship to having been on Drag Race. Because as much as the show is great...it hasn’t been without its problems. I mean, RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul himself have gotten backlash over how the show talks about women, about trans folks. Recently, RuPaul made kinda shitty remarks about how trans women who have transitioned are cheating when it comes to drag.
KATHY: Oh, RuPaul. C’mon.
TOBIN: Yeah, really not great.
TOBIN: Yeah, not great. And it’s also just a weird thing for him to say because just last season, the runner-up was Peppermint who is a out and proud trans woman. So I started by asking her, you know, if she was surprised by RuPaul’s comments, and she was basically, like, no. Not surprised at all.
PEPPERMINT: I've heard this before. This is not new. When I was coming up…a very well known queen, she suspected that I was transitioning. And she asked me, flat out, “Are you transitioning?” And before I could even answer, she was like “Well, you know, I support you, but you’ll never work in the drag world again.” Which was kind of, like, very ominous and damning. You know? YOU’LL NEVER WORK IN THE DRAG WORLD BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN. And so, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to me. For me, hearing anyone say that trans women don’t belong in the drag world, cis women don’t belong in the drag world, it just felt like a pattern. So I don’t accept it, and I defied the rules before this interview was ever given. I was out and trans before the show taped, before it aired, and before that interview. So I just don’t think that it’s valid.
TOBIN: Well, and when he did come around and apologize, one of the things he said is, to the trans community specifically is, “You are my teachers.” Which I think that can be a complicated thing too, right? Which is like for marginalized folks, this tension of sometimes feeling like they have to explain themselves to other people. Like how do you, how do you feel about that tension? Do you want to be RuPaul’s teacher?
PEPPERMINT: Well I don't think that necessarily was how, I personally didn't take it as a call to action that we needed to teach Ru. Ru is a grown man. She will learn whatever she hasn't learned. If she's not going learn it, she’s not gonna learn it. But I'm happy to do that. I just happen to be the type of person that wants to be an activist, and wants to speak out. Some people don't want to do that and not everyone should because not everyone can. But if you're out and you're open and you're queer and just living your life to the fullest, you are being a teacher.
TOBIN: I also just wanna talk about this other aspect of Drag Race that has been controversial. I’ve heard other queens talk about how they feel like there’s a different expectation for black drag queens versus white drag queens...and maybe not even on the show, but out in the world. And I wonder what your experience has been like with that.
PEPPERMINT: Well my experience hasn't been that it's a very blatant thing. It's not as though someone came to me and said, “This is what you're allowed to do and this is what you're expected to do.” My experience has been more learning very quickly in the gay world or in the queer world, what they wanted to see and what they thought was funny and what they would accept from me.
TOBIN: How would you characterize that?
PEPPERMINT: Really really basic. For all the things that black women bring to the world and to humanity, it's more than just tongue popping and finger snapping and,you know, hair weaves. And unfortunately it's the same female black essence that gay men are living for today is the same sassy maid that would cart on 20, 30 years ago, who was the same housekeeper or nanny who would come on and say, “What’re talking ‘bout?” Like that's all that they wanted. And there are so many queens who are finger snapping. And that's real and it's beautiful. But there's so much more. And I just would like for there to be more space for that. Because it was always very ten white queens, one black queens...so the black girl has to be that one thing because we need that represented. So you better be that sassy black girl because that's all. There's only one slot, you know. And so I think when we start to open up and see more slots then we'll be able to accept more expressions.
TOBIN: Do you remember the first time that you performed in drag where, maybe not even necessarily to anyone else, but even just internally you were acknowledging like “I am up here performing and I am a trans woman and a drag queen?”
PEPPERMINT: Yes. I mean I think the first time I ever really really felt it, I was probably eight years old. And my grandmother was a seamstress so she taught me how to sew and she would make costumes for me. I was a Hershey's kiss...I was everything. Anything under the sun. But I came to life when she turned me into Boy George. And she put a little wig on me, did make up and you couldn't tell me that I wasn't this gorgeous woman. I was a little kid, wig probably looked a mess but I was feeling it and I wanted that feeling again. And so then I entered something called the homely court in high school, which during homecoming everyone would cross dress. And so the football players were crossdressing, cheerleaders would crossdress. And I was a cheerleader. So I at the time crossdressed and was in like a leopard fur and a little hat. I looked like I was going to a funeral. But I was feeling it and I sashayed across that gymnasium and I won. And I was like “Oh, this is this is it."
PEPPERMINT: This is it right here.They were just having a game. I was doing something for real.
TOBIN: This is everything…
TOBIN: what were your early days of being a drag queen in New York like?
PEPPERMINT: Early days of drag. I was a college student. I just moved to New York. I was in musical theater school learning how to try to figure out a way to audition every day to be on Broadway. And I quickly realized that I felt as though I needed to conform to audition for the perfunctory roles that all the guys audition for. And that just wasn't me and I wasn't really able to express my trans-ness my woman-ness or my drag-ness to anyone other than people in the clubs who would wholeheartedly accept it. I think what I needed to do was step away from the acting world and the auditioning world in order to really figure out who I was.
TOBIN: How would you describe your drag persona then?
PEPPERMINT: So for me back then drag was really the safe space to kind of express myself as a woman and my idea of my own womanhood because I really there weren't really any other outlets for me to do that. So I took my drag very seriously. I was not trying to be campy. I was like I need to look as quote real as I can. You know as glamorous and as beautiful as I can I'm just a woman and that's who I was. And when people would kind of ask about my drag persona then when they would hear other queens kind of describe you know quirks or kookiness or some kind of campiness my angle was, that I'm just a woman. Peppermint is just a woman. And I don't think I was trying to tell them that I'm trans; I just didn't want them to layer on kind of kitschy-ness or the idea that my drag was just like a joke.
TOBIN: Yeah. You wanted to be taken seriously.
PEPPERMINT: I wanted to be taken seriously. And so that's what I that was kind of what was in my head for so many years until I started to realize my trans-ness underneath that. After that I was like OK I'll wear a blue hair whatever, like, you know. I didn't feel like I needed to convince people of how real I am because I have that during the day.
TOBIN: I also just want to talk about how you’re about to become the first openly trans woman to originate a lead role on Broadway.It’s amazing. It’s a show called Head Over Heels. Can you tell me a little bit about the show?
PEPPERMINT: Head Over Heels is a fantastic musical. It centers around the music of the Go-Gos, first of all, which is like what hooked me in, immediately. But it's a story about a royal family, a king and queen and princesses and they are set on a journey of self discovery after hearing some rather ominous prophecies from an Oracle, who I play.
TOBIN: I hear actors all the time talk about how like, “Oh my god, eight shows a week. This is going to be crazy. Or like, the schedule's crazy.” You coming from the drag world and doing multiple shows a night like that kind of thing. I mean like how will this gig compare to that? Is this actually like not fazing you that much because you’re like...I've been doing this for a while now?
PEPPERMINT: A long while I've been doing it. Yeah you know there was a moment in time years ago when I was doing drag and doing seven nights a week and then like as you said several times there'd be more than one event on one night. So that doesn't really faze me so much. The schedules can be kind of similar. Now the goal in everyone's life is to do less work for more money.
PEPPERMINT: That's the goal. So I'm waiting for that day where I can be like one show a year and get paid more money than Oprah, right? So I'm not there yet but it is a grueling schedule but it's it's something that I can handle.
TOBIN: You know you have this huge fan base and then when they come to see you they're there to see Peppermint but in a play or musical like this you sort of disappear into this other character.
PEPPERMINT: I don't disappear. How dare you use those words, delete!
TOBIN: But the goal is for you to sort of become this other character.
TOBIN:Or do you not see it that way?
PEPPERMINT: The goal is for the audience to disappear into me. I want to bring them into this world. And of course you know yes, I'm playing this character. I think the thing that's good for me is that there's a lot of things that I have in common with this character and so I'm not unlike this character the Oracle whose name is Pithio. So, yes it is different it's not the normal Peppermint show that people are coming to see and a lot of the people in the audience have never even heard of Peppermint. So they are coming to just be entertained. But what I've been doing as a queen for years is just entertaining people and winning over audiences who didn't know who I was to begin with. So I feel like it's in my wheelhouse. And the costumes for the first time ever are paid for by somebody other than me. So that's great.
TOBIN: I want to follow up on a thing you said. What what do you think you have in common with your character?
PEPPERMINT: I think one of the biggest things that we can talk about with, they’re non-binary, which is something I don't want to get lost. I don't personally identify with non-binary but having a trans experience, I definitely know what it's like to either grapple with or contemplate or realize my gender existence at a different time than everyone else. And then really realizing my power through that, my personal power and strength in realizing fully who I am and who I was meant to be. And I think that's something that this character does very well. And then of course, like you know my character is covered in rhinestones which is pretty much how I live.Except mine are diamonds. Hers are cubic zirconia.
TOBIN: So you've had this huge success on RuPaul’s drag race. You're about to open on Broadway. What do you see for yourself next?
PEPPERMINT: I think I would like to see how drag in general, mine or some or anyone's, can become more mainstream. I think drag has a home and hopefully will always have a home in queer bars and queer nightlife. But I think, even when it seemed to have been contained or primarily existing in queer nightlife, drag reached politics, drag reached any social issue that was affecting the queer community or greater, and and so I'd like to see drag continue to do those things and more drag in politics but for everyone. A drag queen walking in a room to deliver a message is just a lot more entertaining than some stuffy politicians. So I say "Peppermint for President in 2020."
TOBIN: I love it. I would vote for you.
PEPPERMINT: I wouldn't.
TOBIN: Peppermint, I want to thank you so much for coming in and talking to me and putting up with me being nervous.
PEPPERMINT: You’re shaking, you’re sweating so much.
TOBIN: C’mon. Don’t lie to the people. I’m pristine. I use too many Korean face products to not be pristine right now…
PEPPERMINT: You are, you’re beautiful, you’re perfect. Did you stone those tights? For those Drag Race fans. Well, thank you for bringing me in.
[CREDITS MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: Head Over Heels starts performances later this month and officially opens on July 26th.
KATHY: If you wanna see us, live on stage, good news, we’re going to be at The Bellhouse in Brooklyn on June 16th as part of the first-ever, Big Queer Podfest.
TOBIN: It’s going to be this amazing live-show featuring some of your favorite queer podcasts: Making Fake History, LGBT Q+A, Food for Thought, and us. Go to thebellhouseny.com for tickets.
TOBIN: OK, it is credits time!
TOBIN: Matt Collette and Alice Wilder!
TOBIN: Melissa Lent!
KATHY: Sound designer…
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive Producer…
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC ENDS]
MATT: Miss Vaaanjie...Miss Vanjie..