A strong contender from the very first season of the seminal competition “So You Think You Can Drag,” this queen has made her drag mark in the seven years since with her quick wit, glamorous looks and Mary Poppins attitude. Having Named herself after a bitch and a handjob, she now electrifies the Laurie Beechman stage several times a year alongside her auntie-in-crime Paige Turner, and this holiday season is no exception. Give it up for Christmas Miracle Miss Jackie Cox!
Thotyssey: Hi Jackie! Thanks for talking to us today! Tiz the season… have you observed Black Friday this weekend?
Jackie Cox: Hi! Great to chat with you! As a practicing and orthodox coupon queen, I finally bought myself a new Nuvaring. Gotta get to it now, before the Obamacare goes away!
A wise investment! Are you a “Holidays” kinda gal, or are you over it already?
No, I say the more holidays the merrier! Its like going on a bender from Halloween all the way up until Chinese New Year! I don’t really know what any of the holidays are about anymore, because they all just kinda blend together. But as long as they keep selling the discount candy at Lot Less afterwards, I’m in!
I’m glad you have your priorities in order! Okay, so you are well-known and loved as a hilarious and entertaining queen in the city, you were in the very first season of “So You Think You Can Drag?” at the New World Stages, and you’re frequently on the Laurie Beechman stage for SYTYCD host Paige Turner’s seasonal shows. But we don’t get to see Jackie Cox weekly anywhere! Is this because of boy gigs, or a day job?
Why thank you! You’re right, I don’t have a weekly show–but I don’t know what you mean by “boy gigs.” I’m a natural Lady…. just a naturally very hairy lady. Like your favorite Aunt from Staten Island.
I do have a day job though, I work in Fashion. Its very Devil Wears Prada. Except its discount clothing, so it’s more like the Devil Wears Kohls. I mean, that is probably the main reason Paige has me guest in her shows, where else do you think we get those discount Christmas Tree Skirts?
Paige is a crafty one! So, let’s stroll down memory lane! Where’s your hometown?
Well I’ve really lived all over, but at this point Jackie is a New Yorker through and through! I’ve also had stints in California and even Wisconsin–but that didn’t last too long! You’d think up there that they’d appreciate my CHEESE-y jokes more…..
See what I did there? Its a laugh a minute. Or at least once an hour. Good thing that’s about how long Paige’s new Christmas show is, so the odds are in my favor!
So I take it you were always a performer at heart?
Well, I really did move around a lot as a child, and I found a great way to make new friends was to do theater! And it still true today, so many of my nearest and dearest friends I’ve met in NYC are because we did shows together.
Who were some divas/gals that really inspired you and got you going in those formative years?
Oh gosh! Well we could spend hours talking about it, but I sure did love Julie Andrews growing up–I mean, she was magical in Mary Poppins and could make cute rompers out of curtains, what’s not to love? As comediennes go, I’ve also always loved the sheer physicality of Lucille Ball and the smart, self-deprecating wit of fellow brunette Tina Fey.
You’re known for your onstage Mary Poppins. What is it about Mary that we gays love so much? Is it just because she can fit everything in her bag?
Well that’s certainly a talent I aspire to! I think it’s that, plus she has a mysterious quality about her–you never know when she will drop by! Much like that hairy Aunt I was telling you about. Good thing I always have my electrolysis wand at the ready.
Hold on to that! So, when did your drag journey begin?
Well, it really was born out of the theater. I had previously played Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Maria in a parody of The Sound of Music (not joking!). I had recently moved to New York, and my upstairs neighbor at the time, Austin Helms, said “I’m starting this new competition… it’s called ‘So You Think You Can Drag’ and I think you should do it.”
A pair of blue leggings and a week later, I won the first ever week of the competition with my rendition of “Out Tonight” from Rent. It was also the first night I met Paige, and she really encouraged me to keep going with it after competition was over.
And what’s the origin of your drag name?
Well, truth be told… there was a girl I went to school with that had the initials J.C., and she was kind of a See You Next Tuesday–she really thought her shit didn’t stink. She claimed she was the “best singer of the world”…. at least that’s what her Geocities Website said (this was some years ago, mind you, so having a website at 18 was pretty unheard of).
So anyway, my friend and I needed a way to talk about J. C. without her overhearing us, so he came up with Jackie Cox. (Which is also a bit of a double entendre for “handjob”) Flash forward a few years later, and I was trying to think of a stage name, and it popped back in my head: Jackie Cox!
Plus, I’ve always thought “Jackie” had a sort of je-ne-sais-quoi New Jersey sound to it.
That’s hilarious. But the Jackie Cox I know is such a classy broad! You’re mostly in specific stage costumes when I see you perform, but what is the general style of Nightlife Jackie Cox?
Nightlife? I’m usually in bed by 10, so I guess my style is fuzzy slippers and a mumu. But when I do go out, I think I have a pin-up sort of vibe: a little cute, a little sexy, a little retro–but hopefully a whole lotta fun! Think Katy Perry meets Zooey Deschanel.
SO what was that first season of SYTYCD like?
Well, it was certainly different than it is now- a lot looser–girls could kind of come and go. In fact, a young Ms. Bob the Drag Queen was in that very first season with me for a few of the weeks (of course she was going by her maiden name at the time). For the few of us who stuck it out and were there almost every week, we really did become good friends. I still keep in touch with those girls, including Prada G. Major, who is like a sister to me and who is just doing such amazing stuff with her work for the National MS Society.
You’ve obviously never been to a Rainbow clearance sale! But yes, that was quite the group! And I think next year its going to be even bigger! How amazing to come together as a community with all different types of queens? It felt good to leave my Midtown-Musical-Theater-Queen bubble for a night! Though I will say, there’s nothing quite like being home with my dear sisters putting up a show at the Beechman.
So, performing in a Beechman production is a big deal, and you’ve done several over the years with Paige. That’s largely a Broadway audience, and not exclusively gay, and they gag and go crazy over your every move. That must be an extraordinary high, right?
It is fantastic to perform at the Laurie Beechman. The one thing I will say about the audience is that there is nothing like a smart New York crowd, gay or straight! When we took our show last summer “Make America Gay Again” out on the road, it was still so well-loved by audiences… but there were certainly quite a few “Only in New York” moments that worked best here.
Do you have any fun “on the road” stories with Paige and your co-stars from these shows? I can imagine that just baggage-handling alone must have been a nightmare!
[Laughs] well, I do have quite a few fun stories about when Paige, Sutton and I went to California. First of all, Paige made us walk everywhere to save money rather than take Uber. Keep in mind, this is LA where the only pedestrians on the street were us, cleaning ladies walking to the bus stop, and Scientology Recruiters.
And you can imagine spending 12 hours with the two of them at Disneyland? Neither of them had been before, and in a past life I worked there–so I was the tour guide (yes, you may remember me from Beauty and the Beast LIVE–I played the dancing plate second from the end). Sutton made it her mission to conquer every roller coaster, while Paige spent the entire visit looking for the perfect souvenir–meanwhile, I devoured my entire bodyweight in churros and pineapples from the Tiki Room out of the stress of it all. But I will say, it was a lot of fun!
So is Paige primarily writing these stage shows, or is it collaborative? Are you part of that process?
Oh I would say its very collaborative. Paige usually has an idea for how she wants the setup and structure for each show to go. For example, in “Make America Gay Again” she came up with the idea of celebrating gay history, and then the three of us came together to think of what were the most iconic moments in gay history and how would we want to celebrate them. and then we layered on the very real relationship that we have as friends into the story.
I think that’s what makes the shows special, its not just fabulous number after fabulous number, there’s also a real story we tell of friendship and sisterhood that runs through each of the shows.
I really enjoyed “Make America Gay Again!” It was funny and campy, and there were great numbers and costumes… but there were genuinely heartfelt moments too. I loved it when you sang “Over the Rainbow” as young Judy Garland, uninterrupted and straight forward; it occurred to me that I don’t think I ever saw a drag queen do that before. And then as young Judy you had this little moment with Sutton Lee Seymour’s adult Judy…. aaaak! Very touching!
[Laughs] Yes that, was one of my favorite moments in the show too! When we started talking about doing an homage to Judy, I thought back to one of my favorite moments on the famous Carnegie Hall recording–when you hear Judy, years and years later, singing the song that launched her to stardom. The vulnerability in her voice is still there, but with a longing for what might have been. I always imagined when she sang that song in her later years she would think back to her youth, and I thought, how could we bring that moment to life onstage?
Plus, any chance to play 40 years younger than Sutton I’ll take!
For this year’s Christmas show, “She Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” we had a trunk full of songs that we have become known for, and you’ll certainly see a few favorites–but I would say most of the show this year is brand spanking new! And I won’t give away too much, but I will say that many of the stories from our travels have found their way into the show. Plus: Carol Channing is back, so it really is going to be fabulous!
Tell me more about James Mills, aka Carol Channing!
Well, James is a dear friend of ours, and is known for his amazing and spot-on impersonations of not only Carol Channing, but also Liza, and others! Paige has had James join the show as Carol Channing in some form each Christmas for the last five years.
One of the running jokes we have is that Carol can’t seem to remember my name, and calls me “Trixie Dixx”- which, come to think of it, is a great name if I ever need to go into hiding. Or become a stripper. Whichever comes first!
Any more spoilers for the show, Trixie?
Well, after the election we just had, I will let you know that we do address a certain Mr-orange-faced-you-know-who briefly in the show. But, mostly the show is a chance for our audience to smile and laugh, and we certainly won’t let that old Grinch take away our Christmas cheer!
I’m sure we’ll all have a great time as always. And congrats to you and Paige and Sutton for the Best Cabaret nomination at the GLAMs for “Make America Gay Again!” Will you be at the ceremony, do you think?
Thank you so much! It is such an honor for the show to be nominated, and you know, I’ve never been–but this year I just might!
Anything else coming up for you?
Well, after long last I am working on my return solo cabaret show, but the details are still being finalized. I’m also working on a fun collaboration with another girl from SYTYCD that will be coming hopefully in the spring–I won’t tell you who just yet, so I’ll just leave you with that little teaser for now!
I’ll take it! Okay, so finally… this is inspired by some recent Facebook posts by some queens that are going through it. When a basic bitch who thinks she knows everything there is to know about what you do from Drag Race has some “advice” or criticism about your drag, what is the appropriate response to said bitch?
Well first of all, I think we have all been in situations where we are clocked for this or that, but I won’t presume to tell anyone else what the appropriate response is to anything. For me, I just remind myself that no matter what anyone says, no one can do YOU better than YOU.
I may not have the best makeup, or wigs, and I certainly have been known to wear a flat or two… but I know at the end of the day I know I’m great at being Jackie Cox (or Trixie Dixx depending on who’s asking) and that is enough!
It most definitely it! Thanks Jackie, and see you at the Beechman!
Jackie Cox performs in the holiday showcase “She Came Upon a Midnight Clear” at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on December 8th, 9th, 20th and 21st (7:30pm). She can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
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