Known all over the world as a contestant of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4, Jiggly Caliente Brooks is a lot of things: a gorgeous transgendered woman, a fierce dancer and entertainer, an artist, a former escort, a badass bitch who will not suffer your attempts to push her around (no really, she’ll stab you). Don’t call her a role model, though! Thotyssey is honored to get down with the hot queen of Smoosh Smoosh Smoosh, as she talks about an upcoming gig and a whole lot of everything else!
Thotyssey: Hi Jiggly! Thanks so much for talking to us! You werejust at the premiere of the AbFab movie last night. What’s your verdict?
Jiggly Caliente: It was amazing. They make growing old look fabulous n’ fun. I want to be like them when I grow up.
I know, that’s like my dream! Speaking of verdicts, the last time I saw you, you were judging (and guest performing) for the Miss Industry pageant, and before that it was Ms. Barracuda. I’m sure you get asked to judge drag pageants every day, in every city. What’s your judging strategy… what are you looking for?
That’s really funny that you asked me about my judging strategy! Every category calls for a different type of judging. For talent, entertain me, make me do the “yasss” finger wave! For evening gown, makes sure it fits well, it’s beautiful: an evening gown should touch the floor. It’s always about the fit, and what it looks like on the girl. I don’t care how many stones are on the gown, if the gown doesn’t look or fit right, you’re shit out of luck!
Is it hard to be an unbiased judge when friends or sisters are competing in the pageant?
No, because if they’re my real drag friends, they should know I’m gonna be a bitch. i made a PSA for Miss Industry: “Listen, I know a lot of you girls are my friends, but know that I’m gonna be a bitch. You are all professionals, you should know what every category calls for. You know what i am, so, bring it bitches,” basically.
You were a Filipino girl who grew up in Queens–what neighborhood, by the way?
I was born in the Philippines and raised there til i was about 10 years-old, and then I moved here to New York: Sunnyside, Queens. Living in Sunnyside is amazing! The best thing about my neighborhood, this is my selling point: there’s a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a White Castle, a Wendys, a Boston Market, two Dunkin’ Donuts and a Starbucks in the vicinity of 10 blocks. So yeah, I love my neighborhood!
Sounds like heaven! But I’m guessing, like most of us, you had lots of run-ins with bullies and assholes growing up?
Well, when I was in first grade, i actually got expelled from school because of the way I dealt with a bully. This kid kept poking at my stomach and calling me fat, so… I asked the teacher if i could sharpen my pencil. I sharpened my pencil and i waited for him to do something. Sure enough, he poked me and said, “hey porker, porker, porker!” and I stabbed him in the hand with my pencil. It went right through, you could see the fucking lead part of the pencil through his hand. And I got expelled from school. So, that was first grade!
I don’t let bullies get to me, and I never let someone get the last word in on me! If you’re gonna say something, I’m gonna say something back. Which kinda defeats the purpose on Drag Race, because they never showed me get my last word in. I’m that bitch!
Actually, neither. I went to FIT to become an illustrator. I wanted to be a comic book artist. I went there for fashion illustration; it was my dream to work for Marvel. That went south real quick! [laughs]
Wow! What female superhero has, or had, the best costume?
I’m probably gonna get a shitload of hate for this, but I really love the new Wonder Woman costume. I think that it has more of a warrior-esque feel to it. I like that it looks like she can beat the shit out of you: like a fucking, 300/Spartans kinda outfit. I love this costume! I love that it looks like actual armor, but a sexy armor.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the simplicity of a catsuit, a bathing suit. I get that. But I think Wonder Woman’s new costume is amazing.
Also, I do actually love all the X-Men female costumes because there’s always a personality in them; a touch of uniqueness, specifically for the person it’s for. Like, Psylocke would be always in purprle, Storm is always in black and silver. I’m also very biased to Jubilee: yellow raincoat, cut-off jeans, a pink top, Doc Martens. I always say that Jubilee is one of the coolest looking characters from X-Men.
So you became Jiggly Puff, and later Jiggly Caliente, in the Web, right? I’m so curious about the Web, which was an Asian-centric bar here in NYC. I hear so many stories about management coercing all the queens and gogo boys into prostitution. What was your take on that? Are those just tall tales?
Oh Jesus, the Web! I don’t think that’s true. I worked at the web for years. I did escort while I was working at the Web, but that doesn’t coincide with [me working at the Web]. I just happened to be working there at the time. I never did stuff there!
The gogo boys: there was a backroom where they could give the lap dances, but whatever happens between two consenting adults is what happens between two consenting adults. I know for a fact that the owner did not want that to happen. He actually didn’t want the back room to happen to begin with. It just kind happened. These horny old men that wanted to play with these little Asian boys, these twinks… but management did not make them do anything, that’s so stupid! This is New York City, everything is a hustle, everyone is a hustler. You gotta hustle if you wanna survive NYC, and if you don’t wanna hustle, bitch get out!
You’re very open about your escort work at that time, and I hear you’re even working on a one woman show about your experiences.
I’m very open about it because there is so much slut-shaming in our society. I’m talking about sex work in particular, because honestly, it’s the oldest profession on the planet. Why are we shaming something that we do with our bodies? I just think it’s so retarded when people are like “Oh, you can’t do that, that’s shameful!” Okay, bye.
What’s the craziest memory from those times (that you can share)?
As far as the craziest experience I had, this one time I was with this guy…. I went to the bathroom to wipe myself off. The guy grabbed the money and left. As I’m wiping myself down, I hear the door open, and I was like “This guy is leaving!” and I didn’t know why. And then I saw that the money was gone. I literally ran after him. I tried to, but he was too quick and he was gone. He got away with my money. And other peoples’ money.
I’m sorry girl! Do you find a lot of drag queens are not as honest about their own ties to escorting?
I don’t think it’s that they’re not being honest. I know that it happens! I just don’t think anyone should be ashamed for it. I think that in this society, we need to stop hatting on what a person’s hustle is, and start congratulating someone else on their hustle. Like, “bitch work! You did that! Get that fucking coin!” But nobody does that, Everybody’s trying to stop someone else from getting that coin. Bitch, worry about your own coin, congratulate the next ho! The girls should be proud of whatever the fuck they do. It’s your hustle! It’s how you put food on your table. Be proud of it!
You’re part of the amazing Brooks drag pageant family, but you don’t always use Brooks in your name at gigs or media. Why not?
Originally when I got on Drag Race, there was already a Nicole Paige Brooks. So, I didn’t wanna use Brooks and then be associated with her. So it was like, “Would you rather be your own entity?” And I was like, yeah!
But as far as the real world when I perform, I do use Jiggly Caliente Brooks–but it’s easier to just say “Jiggly Caliente” anyway. I don’t in any way shape or form denounce my connection to my drag mom Chevelle Brooks. I love her to death.
So, was the Drag Race audition process complex and scary?
To be honest, I was never really gonna audition for Drag Race. I was happy being a little ho! But, Manila and Sahara both told me, “they’re looking for a fat Asian. Why don’t you just try it?” And I tried, and I got on. And the main thing was, you don’t know if you’re going to get it. I didn’t think they would ever choose me. I was a fucking slut, I had no business on Drag Race! Lo and behold, I made it on.
The process was kinda crazy. It was a lot. I just felt like I would never share so much of me with a complete stranger, let alone the world! It was fun, but you were always kinda left feeling, “Oh damn, I don’t think I got this, I don’t think I got this.” It kinda felt that way until I got a call for the psyche evaluation. I was like, “fuck, this is a reality, and this is gonna happen.” I kinda knew then that I was gonna make it on the show. And then I was shitting bricks, cuz I was like, “fuck, this is real, I gotta take this seriously!” Which is the story of my life, because I never take anything seriously until it’s right there in front of me.
The show was pretty established by your season. Could you see things being manipulated by producers around you as they were happening, or did most stuff still happen naturally?
I think what happened was, we were rowing the boat, and the producers were steering the boat to where we were supposed to be, to where the story was supposed to go. I think they helped lead us to the way, but we were rowing the bitch.
I hate to say like “Oh, editing!” Because if it came out of your mouth, you said it! Some things can be misconstrued somehow, some way. Like, I did not fucking say “St. Tropez” three times, I said it once, and they edited it so I wound up sounding like a fucking Pokemon, “St. Tropez, St. Tropez, St. Tropez” [laughs], really? That’s not what happened!
So that’s how they can mess with it, but it came out of your mouth, it’s not like they lied! It is what it is, at the end of the day, it’s television! No matter if it’s a competition or not, it’s still a TV show. It’s supposed to entertain, and if it’s entertaining, fuck it! It is at my expense, but whatever, it is what it is, and I signed up for it.
You were Snooki on the Snatch Game. Do you know if she approved?
Oh my god, Snooki! I don’t know if she approved of it. I hope she wasn’t offended by it, because I thought that was part of the charm of who Snooki was. I don’t wanna say, she was a hot mess… but when she’d get a little saucy, she was gone. And I thought that she was still adorable, even though she was making mistakes. But she was 21 years-old, and when we’re young, we have that liberty of fucking up and fixing our lives. But look at her now! She’s amazing, her body is snatched, she’s an amazing mom now, and she’s still adorable and sweet. And hopefully she approved of it!
Oh man, that was like my Hail Mary, the Snatch Game… it was like the last thing I did! And if Snatch Game was edited the way it was supposed to be, I was supposed to get drunker and worse the longer it went. I was like, “Smoosh Smoosh Smoosh!” But on the show we couldn’t promote being drunk, so that’s probably why [it was edited the way it was]. I was so proud of it because it was my take on Snooki at the time, not Snooki as a whole. But I do love Snooki to death.
After all this time, are you at peace with your time there and how you were portrayed in editing and overall?
I loved every minute and every second I spent filming and being a part of Season 4. The girls that I have met… I met one of my best friends [Phi Phi O’Hara] because of Rupaul’s Drag Race. I cannot thank them enough for that part of it.
As far as how I was portrayed, I don’t think that in my time on Drag Race, i was able to showcase my strengths. My favorite challenge is still the wrestling challenge, and I think I kicked ass at the wrestling challenge. [But other than that] I didn’t get the challenges that I would’ve wanted! Like, the Sex & the City challenge that we were supposed to do… I got the part of Charlotte; that wasn’t me. I probably could’ve done better with Willam’s role, the slut, that’s my kinda gig!
Truth be told, I kinda landed more acting roles since Drag Race. I’m not mad at that. I think I can act. I’m a pretty good actress, I should be on Empire! That challenge, I would’ve loved to do that, but we didn’t get to do that.
Everyone can fall in love with a hot mess. I wasn’t a bitch. I am in real life. I was painted well enough because I was still lovable and endearing.
My story relates to a lot of people, I was going through a lot at the time, like my Mom’s death was fresh in my heart and in my mind. So me, I wasn’t in a space to actually focus on competing. Drag Race came at the right time for me. I will just say that it was a wonderful thing that happened at the right time. I’ve always said that things happen for a reason, and things happen when it’s time. And, I think that the way I was dealing with my Mom’s death wasn’t the right way, and Drag Race kinda put me in the right space where I could focus on myself. And for that, I will forever be grateful for everything that Drag Race has given me, the platform that they have given me to voice my opinion. There’s people who want to know my thoughts and opinions! It’s sweet.
There’s a lot of haters out there in the cyberverse, though.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s those evil little twits on the internet, but you take the good with the bad, and the good outweighs those little trolly bastards [laughs] I hate the little fuckers! But the good outweighs them, so I love it! Thank you, RuPauls Drag Race!
I have to say, favorite look of yours from the show was the silver bodysuit and the mohawk wig and big glasses. Do you still wear that, or any of your memorable looks from the show?
[laughs] I love how you said memorable looks! I don’t think that’s ever been said about my character on the show! But thank you. As far as the mohawk, I have to give Phi Phi credit. They never showed it, but Phi Phi helped me do that big ass mowhawk. They were like, three of my afro wigs that Phi Phi helped me put together. I was trying to do it, but it was not coming out right, it was coming out lopsided, and Phi Phi helped me out and made it into the big mohawk that it was. It was amazing. The glasses my friend Isabella gave to me.
And I still have my blue gown, I love it, it’s my favorite, favorite piece. So when they said bring your best and favorite drag, that’s what I wore, my baby blue gown. I just feel so pretty, I feel like a princess!
I’m really surprised that you weren’t picked for Drag Race All Stars Season 2. You seemed like a shoe-in… a fan favorite, clearly a Ru favorite, plus you’ve grown so much since the show. Were you surprised?
Was I surprised? [Laughs} No! After seeing the actual cast, and finding out who was actually on the show, it made sense. I can’t say I was bitter.
We all wanted to see you on it, girl That being said: Phi Phi for the win?
I mean, I guess [laughs]! I’m kidding, of course I’m team Phi Phi. What’s fucked up is, a lot of these girls I’m really close with, I hang out with them. I wish I was closer to Katya or Alyssa, but I love Alaska, I love Phi Phi, I love Coco, I love Roxxxy, these are girls that I actually really know and I love all of them! So may the best asshole win!
But I kinda… this is gonna be bad… I kinda want Ginger to win cuz shes fat! I wish them all the best and I know they’re gonna slay, but Phi Phi is my best friend.
So.. regarding what another Drag Race alum Trinity K. Bonet said about bar queens vs. Drag Race queens… truth or lies?.
Oh my god, that comment. I thought that was so ridiculous and uncalled for. She was probably upset about something that happened. I don’t know the story, but I get why she was upset. There are times with local queens where shade has been thrown when we’re booked in their cities. I mean, I get it, I’d be salty too if I was working my ass off and somebody who just cuz they were on tv was getting paid like hundreds or thousands of dollars more than I am, I would feel a certain type of way. But at the same time, I thought she made valid points.
But then she said, “I am the reason you’re making this money.” No bitch, cuz they’re turning it, killing themselves, doing whatever they need to to make that dollar. So for her to say that comment… damn, girl. After all your valid points you made, that one comment fucked it all up. And that’s what sucks. It came off as so rude, it was just wrong. We were all, at one point, local queens.
It just sucks to hear something like that, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how she feels completely. But there are times when… yeah. I’ve experienced it one time. I won’t say where, cuz I had such a fun time with the crowd and the fans.
I don’t wanna be segregated from the other girls, I wanna be with the other queens, because trust and believe, you get all the good T from them! Good food, good dick, all that stuff.
But we do bring an extra amount of people into the bar, people who are not usual fans of regular drag, just fans of Drag Race. So that makes sense, but at the same time, no.
So, how much of a weight has been lifted from you since you came out as transgendered? And doesn’t it feel good to be a role model for transpeople everywhere?
Oh my god, to be perfectly honest.. that word [”role model”] attached to my name? I don’t think of myself as that. It just bothers me. I’m just such a mess, I cant believe people would think of me as that. I mean, if they’re not doing what I did? Great. Whatever I did, do the opposite, because that’s the right thing to do!
I just always lived my life, no matter what. I didn’t want it to be a secret, really, I just wanted it for myself. Because I’ve already exposed so much of me to everybody, and I kinda wanted just one thing to myself.
Something triggered while I was doing Drag Race. Before Drag Race, I was rushing to become a woman, “I need to do this, I need to do that, I wanna get this surgery, that surgery…” I guess something happened where I found a happy medium of who I really am doing Drag Race. I became intent with who I am. I wasn’t in a rush to get surgery…. I can’t get surgery because of my heart, I have a bad heart. Surgery is very tricky, very complicated to even think of. I’m content after Drag Race, I feel like I don’t need X, Y and Z done to feel like a woman. Being a woman is what I feel inside, and I’m just living my truth. I’m the woman that I was meant to be, I’m just happier.
Actually, me transitioning was never a secret. And I was transitioning before Drag Race.
All the girls knew about it: Willam, Manilla, Phi Phi , Sharon.. actually, Sharon was one of the people who asked me why I hadn’t come out, and when I explained to her that I was afraid of the pressure, she kinda understood. It’s cliche, but it’s like that line in Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility. Being in the public eye, it’s too much responsibility, and that’s why I didn’t want to do it for so long.
Do you feel pressured to be more of a trans activist now, and to be more PC with your image? It’s such a flip for drag queens, I feel.
That has always been another reason why I didn’t want to come out as a trans woman. Because I felt like I would have to be so politically correct all the time, and I would have to be an activist. I just feel like that responsibility is something that is so heavy, I don’t think that I’m the right person for it. Granted, I have the luxury of a platform where people wanna hear what I have to say. But at the same time there are people who would say, “You do not deserve a mic bitch”, i.e. Donald Trump.
I would be the worst role model in the world because I’m such a flawed individual. Being so flawed makes me scared of saying the wrong thing. I’m always so unfiltered, and so blunt.
Do you use the language and labels that trans activists are using?
I don’t go by anyone’s standards of what they call themselves. Follow your own path, but as far as I’m concerned, just used the right pronoun. Beyond that… I mean, all these big-ass words that they’re using? “Cisgendered?” I mean, really!? Come on! It has to be so technical now! It’s just too much for me. That’s probably the main reason why I don’t wanna be an activist, because I’m not studying all this!
No. Let me just do my own thing. If my own journey helps anybody else, OK, great! If it doesn’t, that’s okay too! We live in a weird ass time-warp where everybody has to be so PC, yet we’re killing each other for the dumbest fucking things!
How much does it suck, as a trans woman and as a celebrity drag queen, that Facebook is still making you use your original boy name?
Facebook wanted me to show them paperwork for my name change. But I’m like, yeah, but, Rihanna is Rihanna on Facebook, but her real name is Robyn Fenty. And there’s some other drag queens who’ve gotten away with it.
I’m just not gonna go through all the fucking madness just to change my name. It’s too much drama for nothing.
To be honest, the whole name thing is Facebook’s way of witch-hunting transwomen, and it’s just disgusting. I think that needs to change. I don’t get it, it’s just complete transphobia. There are people that are out there with names like Jason DicksSoGood kinda shit, but I can’t have Jiggly Caliente? Really? If I have over 70,000 followers, I think that’s a pretty legit human being, and if I’m going live, that should say that that’s the real human being… but, whatever.
You have performed in so many amazing places in the world since the show. What’s been your favorite gig, location-wise?
That’s a hard question. I don’t wanna shit on America, but the international fans are insane! They rarely get to see any of us, but when they do the love is so much.
My favorite gig would probably be Guam! They were so amazing to me and Phi Phi, and I was treated like a Princess because they fed me all the time! I loved the UK and Australia, they were so great. I loved going to Virginia Beach.
Orlando is a great spot for me, also.
Pulse was really good for me.
Southern Nights in Orlando.
LA is always great. Chicago: Spin was great for me, but it closed… sucks! Panama City, Florida! Splash Bar! They treat you so well, they make you feel like a star! I remember when they did Cobolt, they put me in a Kardashian-like suite. That was in DC. You can tell when promoters are really a fan of you also because they kinda go above and beyond!
What’s Jiggly’s presence like in New York these days?
Every since Drag Race, I kinda feel the love for me in New York fizzled, but the love for me outside of New York has been great. It’s sad to say, but I dunno, NY doesn’t like me any more! Unless they only like me cuz I did those splits in every contest I did while I was here.
Looking for me in this city is like hunting for Pokemon [laughs] you gotta look for me, I pop around random!
No Way girl, NYC loves you! What’s coming up for you?
I think I will be on TV again this fall. I can’t exactly say what yet!
I’m finishing my one woman show, I’m literally almost completely done with it. I don’t wanna put a product out there that I regret. I want people to enjoy my one woman show when I release it. I want everybody to laugh and enjoy my crazy stupidity!
I would love to host my own drag competition [in NYC]. I don’t know how to go about it, but that’s a dream of mine.
Either that, or I’d love to host Star Search at Barracuda, cuz it means a lot to me. Star Search has been quintessential in helping me start my drag career. As far as I know, nobody has beaten my record at Star Search yet. If they do, great, more power to them. But good luck beating 33 weeks in a row! Shequida literally had to say “Stop doing this! We can’t have you anymore.”
I hate boats. I completely hate boats! But as long as I’m getting paid, fuck! [Laughs] I’m so excited to do this though, because I’m working with some of New York City’s greats: Tina Burner, Honey Davenport and Bootsie LeFaris, who put this all together. It’s insane. I cant wait until we’re doing this number together, and we’re also doing solo numbers. I can’t wait!
Sounds like fun, which awkwardly segues to my last question! It’s such a dark, shitty time in the world, but I feel like a drag queen actually has a real role to play to make this world better. In your opinion, what is that role?
I think the positive part of being a drag queen right now is being able to give smiles and entertainment to people. However, I do see that as a society we just need to be better in how we treat each other. Why would you wanna treat others so shitty, would you want that treatment for yourself? “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
I’m an idiot, and even if the jokes makes somebody laugh or smile, then fine, let the joke be at my expense. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, then that’s fine, laugh, smile, be entertained. That’s all you could really ask for.
Thanks for everything, Jiggly! Have fun on the boat!