Gifted vocalist and aspiring Broadway star Charlie Mantione stumbled into a pretty extraordinary niche just a short while ago, having established himself as an uncanny drag impersonator of reality TV matriarch Kris Jenner. Now as Jan Sport, she is kageling her place all over NYC nightlife royalty, with a weekly show about to debut, as well as her own cabaret stage show on the horizon. Now’s the time to become a fan of Jan!
Thotyssey: Jan, hello and thank you for this chat! So much to talk about, but let’s get right into a hot topic: Logo’s Fire Island trailer? Um… thoughts?
Jan Sport: Hey Jim! Thanks so much for chatting with ME! Oooooh hot topics. I actually just watched it a couple of minutes ago and all I have to say is NOPE! I’m allllll set.
I’m sure someone will watch it somewhere. You know, not to be sacrilegious, but many gays believe that the Kardashians ruined Fire Island when they went there that one time, so now it’s all come full circle!
Well, that’s the circle of life, I guess! Now it’ll be up to me to make the Pines great again!
If anyone can, it’s you!
Well thank you for believing in me! I won’t let you down.
So, Jan Sport is owning the universe lately, and there’s a lot on the horizon. I know you filled in for Cacophony Daniels at Hardware recently, and that was your first full-time hosting gig! How did that go?
Another thank you for thinking I’m owning the universe! I like the way that sounds. That’s a great goal for the future!
I loved filling in for Cacophony at Hardware! When I got asked, I was so excited because I knew it was going to be difficult… but I was ready for the challenge. Cacophony is one of the best drag queens in the city in my opinion, and I just wanted to make the audience feel as entertained as I am when I watch her. And for the most part, I think I did that!
I’m my own harshest critic, so in all honesty–right after it ended, I felt like there was so much more I could do. But the feedback from the audience was great! I have a lot to learn about hosting still but this was a step in the right direction!
You’ve already had a pretty interesting career, so we better start at the beginning now.
A very good place to start.
You’re a New Jersey native, correct?
How long have you been singing and performing?
I’ve been singing and performing since I was 11!
Did you go to school for performing?
I did! I went to the Boston Conservatory for musical theatre!
Conservatories are hardcore!
Yes! It was super-challenging, but definitely rewarding.
What were the dream roles you wanted at that time, assuming it was musical theatre you were into?
I’m still very much into musical theatre. I’ve given it a bit of a rest for now, but I’m definitely still trying to pursue an acting career. Some of my dream roles are Frankie Vali in Jersey Boys, the Referee Angel in Kinky Boots… I’d love to be Jack in Into The Woods, and I’d love to play Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat again!
The first time I heard of you, you won the grand prize for performing at the New York Talent Show at Hudson Terrace that Vincent Cooper and Monica Blewinsky
orchestrated. You were doing Kris Jenner… was that your drag debut?
Yes! That was my first time performing in drag! I didn’t even go by the name Jan Sport yet, just Charlie. I was so unsure of what I wanted to be or do, and so I kind of just entered as myself and did what I thought was a variety act… and it ended up winning!
And it all started with Kris. You embody her so well! Were you always obsessed with Mother Kris, or did you just find yourself looking exactly her and going with that?
It’s funny! So my friend said to me, “hey you look like Kris Jenner! You should do your makeup like her!” And so I did! I had never watched a single episode of the show before. So the day I decided to go ahead and watch it, I put on a random season of the show. It was season 9. About the third episode in, I was about to be done with my makeup and this episode of Kris trying to get on Broadway came on! I said to myself “I have to do something with this.”
As lame as it sounds, it was just fate! If I didn’t put that exact season on, and I didn’t take that long to do my makeup, I would have never seen it. And the rest is herstory.
She seems hard to embody, because she’s ridiculous… but not in a very specific way. Did you catch Selma Blair’s portrayal of her on The People v. OJ Simpson?
You know, I haven’t had the time to sit down and watch the whole series but I’ve seen some clips and she really does look like her.
Doesn’t she!? So what’s the single best Kris soundbite you’ve worked into a mix?
There are so many good ones, but I have to say the one that really gets me and the audience every time I do it is “the family that kegels together, stays together.”
Was it difficult for you to evolve from this strictly-Kris persona to a more general drag character, as you continued being Jan?
It’s still an ongoing evolution! I’m starting to step away from more Kris numbers in my current gigs, but she will always be a part of me. Jan is becoming someone, but I’m not sure if she’ll ever be something you can put in a box.
While I love doing gigs and being pretty, I also have such a fascination with club kid and Leigh Bowery-inspired faces. We’ll see where she lands!
I loved your performance at the GLAMs, by the way! It was a definite highlight. Was that nerve-wracking, or are you totally at ease on the stage by now?
Thank you so much! I wasn’t really that nervous! At the end of the day, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to showcase what I love to do, and I was just more focused on proving that to everyone rather than being nervous about failing.
Does the energy feel much different when you are singing as Charlie for a theatre or cabaret audience, as opposed to performing as Jan drag in a bar? Are they two different animals, or is performing just performing?
A little bit of both! Performing is performing, but the way I approach them is different. Stage characterization, I feel, is a lot less personal with the audience. Most of the time, you’re really not breaking the fourth wall, where in drag that’s really all I do.
Why “Jan Sport” by the way? Was there a backpack in the room when you picked the name?
Haha yes! I was back at school, and someone had a JanSport bag, and I remember sitting in class and looking at it and saying, that’s funny! And so it kind of just stuck!
I actually didn’t do drag until a year after that. Drag was never really in my plan, I always just joked and said “oh when I do drag” and well.. here I am!
Here you are indeed! And this is exciting: your weekly show debut is upon us: Snatched Wednesdays at Pieces, with your co-host Shuga Cain! How’d this come about, and how excited are you?
Yes! I couldn’t be more excited about it! Pieces reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in taking the slot at 10 with Shuga Cain, and I couldn’t have said yes faster. She is my girl, and Pieces is truly one of my favorite bars in the city. I go there the most!
And let’s talk about I Am Kris! That’s a stage show you’ll be bringing to us on April 8th at Green Room 42. I’m guessing I know who will be the focus of the show. When did you start putting this together?
After I won Miss Lady Liberty, I decided I wanted to keep growing and raising the bar. My finale number was basically a 15-minute cabaret about how we got Kris and the Kardashians on this global scale. After I saw that people really loved it, it gave me the idea that I wanted to expand on the idea and do more! So now instead of this story for 15 minutes, we’re gonna give you an hour long cabaret with a brand new story and brand new never before seen Kris material!
I think Kris would be delighted that she’s inspired so much art!
[Laughs] of course! She loves art!
And I see that on March 26th, you’ll be joining Marti Gould Cummings for some gigs! You’ve probably performed with Marti a bunch of times by now, right?
Yes! Marti is so wonderful. I really look up to her, so the fact that I’m doing a double-header with her is really awesome!
I’ll be doing Pink Eggs and Glam with Marti up in Connecticut…
…and then her weekly show at Hardware that same night!
Werk! Anything else?
Just to buy tickets for I Am Kris at the Green Room 42 at the Yotel! Can’t stress that enough!
Yes! Lasty, in honor of Kris: if Jan Sport had a reality show, what would the title be?
[Laughs] to pay homage to the family, I’d love to call it Keeping Up With Jan Sport.
I would binge watch that! Thanks Jan!
Jan Sport co-hosts Snatched Wednesdays with Shuga Cain at Pieces (10pm). Her stage show “I Am Kris” will be at the Yotel’s Green Room 42 on April 8th (9pm). Check here for other future appearances. Jan can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.