On Point With: Ginger Minj

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On “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 7, where most of the competing queens shared a certain… sameness, this self-described “Glamour Toad” was an undeniable standout with her majestic singing voice, sassy-brassy-molasses southern charm, fiercely full figure and all-around slay-ability. With an amazing post-season career that included touring the globe, recording an album and returning to the “Drag Race” family for “All-Stars Season 2,” this queen has tales to tell–and we can’t wait to hear them when she returns to NYC for a cabaret show later this month. ‘Til then, Thotyssey chills on the lilypad with the lovely Miss Ginger Minj!


Thotyssey: Ginger, hello and thanks so much for talking to us! So, how was your Pride Month?

Ginger Minj: Busy, but incredible! I got to revisit a few of my favorite places, and headline in a few new ones! That’s the best part of my job … I get to travel the world, meeting new folks and celebrating life!

I think the last time you were in New York, it was for the event that introduced this last season’s Drag Race cast back in March. Were you able to guess who was gonna do well in that season just from that event?

What a loaded question! Hahaha! Honestly, the premiere night was such a busy blur that I didn’t get to spend too much one-on-one with any of the girls, so I got no good gossip! Having worked with many of them before, though, I had my own ideas of who might fall where in the competition. Some surprised me, some didn’t–but it was fun to watch it all play out.

In general, how did you like Season 9?

I would be lying if I said, “I loved it! Best season ever!” because it just felt a little “off” to me. Like new furniture in an old house: all the pieces were there, they were just different. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t my favorite. Some of the dirtiness and fun was gone.

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Many of the girls in this season seemed to have a lot of trouble with negativity and threats coming from fans, particularly Valentina’s. When you and your castmates were coming off of Season 7, did any of you face levels of negativity like that from overzealous viewers?

Listen, I still get death threats all the time. People say some truly evil things when they are all alone, caught up in their feelings behind a keyboard. It’s just a part of the gig. When you acknowledge it and constantly apologize for–or defend–something you said or did, it: a) does nothing to change the situation, and b) makes you come across as wishy-washy and insincere.

Own it. Even if it really was the editing (which it sometimes is!), own everything–the good and the bad. Because, like it or not, once it’s out there in the world, it shapes how people perceive you. You won’t change their mind by telling them “I didn’t mean it! It wasn’t me!” You’ll change their mind by showing them what kind of a person you truly are.

As an incredible live-singing queen who also turned out some fierce lip syncs on the show, did you give a little side eye to Charlie Hides after her lackluster final moment in the competition, and her claim that live singing queens don’t lip sync?

Nah. We are all given the same platform, and it is up to us to use it however we feel is best for us. That’s how she chose to present herself, and I can’t be mad at her for it.

I was always taught in theatre to be a jack-of-all-trades instead of putting all of your eggs, eggs, eggs! in one basket. I forced myself to sing, act, lip sync, and dance. I’m working on the sewing now. It’s important to be well-rounded… and they really don’t come rounder than me!

Between Season 7 and All-Stars 2, you’ve more than earned your place as a huge part of the Drag Race legacy. Has this huge platform made you more of a creative person, do you think?

It has completely changed my life in so many ways. I don’t know that it’s made me more creative, but it has certainly opened up a lot more doors to show off that creativity. I’m recognized all around the world, everywhere I go, for doing the things I love to do. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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I will always love your Edith “Eggs Eggs Eggs!” Massey interpretation for the Season 7 musical challenge. Have you gotten any more feedback from John Waters, who was a guest judge that episode, since the show?

John has become one of my biggest fans, and it’s such a surreal honor for me! I always thought of myself as a little Divine–never as Edith Massey. So to get to play her, and then be praised for it by Mr. Waters himself, was like winning the crown and check right there! My time with that world is not over yet, stay tuned for some divinely fabulous things coming soon!

By the way, I see that you and your fellow Season 7 queen Pearl share a birthday. Would someone who’s into astrology say that you two have similar traits?

Definitely. We are both very giving, loving people with a dry sense of humor who get our feelings hurt easily. And we have gorgeous dog babies. I love Pearlie-girl. Always.

You were definitely a standout in Season 7, but we didn’t get to see as much of you as we would’ve liked for your return to the franchise with All-Stars 2. Were there just too many big personalities in the room?

I was exhausted. We had barely put the crown on Violet’s head, and I came straight from a world tour back into the workroom. My grandfather had just passed away, I had just lost the crown, I had just lost 75 pounds, an eleven year relationship had ended, and I just wasn’t mentally in the right space to fight for the crown. I would love a chance to go back again, now that the dust has settled. I’m back at my fightin’ weight, and I’d love to show the world how much I’ve grown … as an artist, a person, and physically!

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You’re a popular dream casting as Ursula the Sea Witch in a planned Disney live action film version of The Little Mermaid. Would you do it?

In a heartbeat! She was the first drag queen I ever saw! I’ve been singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” in my act since I can remember. I love that she was based on Divine. It would pay homage to two of my favorite things at one time. Sign me up!

Your rendition of “I Am What I Am” that honored Harvey Fierstein at Logo’s Trailblazer Awards has become iconic. Is that song now part of your performing repertoire?

It always has been. Most people don’t realize what a theatre geek I am. I want to play Albin in a big, splashy production of La Cage more than anything! A very good friend of mine from Orlando was in the original Broadway company of that show, and I love listening to all of his stories about it. It was truly groundbreaking. And I got to share that moment with my love, CJ, who was more of an emotional wreck than I was, haha!

In general, when you perform these days is it mostly live singing?

It depends on the gig. I like to switch it up and keep the audience interested. I’m currently obsessed with Lizzo and Beth Ditto, so I’ve been trying to incorporate their music into my act lately.

Your MAC-winning album Sweet T  is an interesting mix of originals and covers. Was recording a full-length album something you’ve always wanted to do?

Always. I would sit around and design my own album covers when I was younger, imagining what it must be like the have a piece of you preserved forever. That’s why it took me a year and a half to write and record the album:
I wanted to tell my story, not just spout catchphrases over a dance track.

On Sweet T, you and Carnie Wilson duet on a really adorable cover of “God Only Knows.” That was originally recorded by the Beach Boys, who of course were fronted by Carnie’s legendary father Brian Wilson. How did that duet come about?

I actually opened for [Carnie’s famous band] Wilson Phillips at DC Pride right after season 7 ended. I was supposed to do a fifteen-minute set, but it started pouring and the girls couldn’t go on–so I stayed out for 45 minutes in the rain until it was safe for them to set up and take over. When I was coming offstage, there was Carnie screaming, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I love you!” and I shouted back, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m tired of being mistaken for you!” She cackled, we tweeted a pic of us, and realized we shared a lot of the same fan base.

We met for lunch the next time I was in LA, lunch turned into dinner, dinner turned into froyo with her husband and daughters, and we have been great friends ever since. “God Only Knows” was a pretty prominent part of both our childhoods, so it seemed like the right fit. I love the way it turned out! It’s not as slow and sad as most covers of the song.

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And R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is a pretty interesting, somber choice for you to sing on the record. What meaning does that song have for you?

I’ve always loved the song, and–even though I was born and raised Southern Baptist–at that point in my life so much was changing, so quickly. I felt like I was sometimes losing the foundation that I was built on … my religion. I know that’s not what the song is actually about, but it made sense for me.

What are your favorites of the original songs on Sweet T?

They’re like my children, I can’t choose one over another! I will say the one that is the most meaningful to me is “Save Me,” because we wrote it as our response to the Pulse tragedy. I’m from Orlando, and I responded to the tragedy the only way I knew how: through music. It’s an uplifting song about not persecuting us, letting us all live our lives as we see fit, and that “love is love is love is love is love!”

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On Thursday, July 27th (and again on Saturday the 29th), you’re returning to New York and the Laurie Beechman Theatre for a new cabaret showcase, singing selections from Sweet T. You’ve become a favorite returning performer there. What can we expect this time around?

Life. Happiness, sadness, laughter, mental instability and loss … all set to some fabulous music! I think that’s why I’ve become such a “repeat offender” at the Beechman. The audience seems to respond to my raw honesty. I lay it all out there for everyone to see, warts and all, and there’s something that everyone can relate to, I think.

Do you think you might be popping in any other venues while you’re here, to turn a number or just to spy on the local girls?

You never know where I might pop up! In fact, I’m popping up right now!

Who are some of your favorite NYC queens, by the way?

Aside from my gal pals Jiggly Caliente, Phi Phi O’Hara and Sherry Vine, I am Team Tina Burner through and through. She is a terrible mess of a human being, and I love her for it! Her sense of humor is so warped and so creative.

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Anything else you wanna mention?

Please see my show at the Beechman, and please buy my album. Available on iTunes, Amazon and GingerMinj.com.

Okay, last question: These are trying times for our country and our queer community… what should we be doing to get through this?

We should be creating as much art as possible. Art helps you work through pain… until you can find the beauty in it.

Thank you, Ginger!


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Catch Ginger Minj and her show “Sweet T” at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on Thursday, July 27th (9:30pm) and Saturday, July 29th (7pm). Follow Ginger on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  and her website.

 

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