One of the city’s breakthrough drag entertainers of the past year, FIT’s crown-winning queen Jasmine Kennedie is known for igniting venues with her electrifying “shablams” and gorgeously glam looks. She’s now in the cast of the popular revue TURNt at the Ritz, which celebrates its second anniversary this week. Thotyssey learned how Jasmine got here, and where she’s going next!
Thotyssey: Jasmine, hello! So last week you performed at the East Village Standard’s Narcbar for their RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party hosted by Rify Royalty, Bootsie LeFaris and Lucy Balls. Kim Chi was there too, as a special guest! How did it go?
Jasmine Kennedie: It was an amazing viewing party! Kim Chi was such a sweetheart, and the audience was amazing. I love Rify, and I’ve worked with Bootsie in the past. Always a fun time. And it was my first time working with Lucy Balls–such a sweetheart, and a really smart entertainer.
That’s a crowded panel of performers! Did you get your chance to slay?
Of course! Or at least I tried. The crowd was amazing, and had amazing energy. And everyone at Narcbar and the Standard were amazing. It’s a great venue, because of the outside and inside space. It gave me room to do the shablams.
You’ve become one of nightlife’s go-to Shablammer over the course of this past year! You bring beauty and showstopping dance to every show that you appear in. How long have you been at this?
I’ve been doing drag for four years now, but the first two years were more “playing in drag.”
Where are you from?
I was born in Binghamton, and lived there and Morgantown, West Virginia for the majority of my life.
What were your early creative interests / pursuits?
I wasn’t into a lot of arts, as a lot of people may think. I was really into sports. I played soccer for eight years, I swam and dove for three. I played lacrosse, did cross country and track as well as cheering–which was my number one passion for three years. But I used to always play in my mom’s makeup and clothes as any drag queen did. And I always use to say when I was a kid, “I’m going to Hollywood, Mom!” So that’s always been in the back of my head since I was a child.
I’m guessing it was RuPaul who exposed you first to drag?
Yes and no, I like to say. I remember when It was Raja’s season; it was the reunion. I was flipping through the channels, and it was Raja with just a spotlight on her… and I was in such awe at what I thought was a woman. After that, drag left my life until my senior year of high school, where I found videos of pageantry drag like Continental and EOY and Miss Gay USofA, and I fell in love with drag from there. From then on, I started watching Drag Race.
How did you begin experimenting with makeup and looks?
At first, I had my sister teach me the basics of makeup when I was playing in drag. And than I watched the really old, 45 minute YouTube tutorials where it was all fast forwards, and looked like it was filmed on a laptop. But I found out the basics from there, and than just experimented from there. I feel I paint more on the “old way” of drag: a lot of powder, and seven different colors for contour. Taking off my makeup takes as much effort as getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop!
How did you Drag Name yourself?
So when I first started drag I wanted to be a slutty drag queen, as everyone does when they start. So I was originally Jasmine Rikers, like the jail! But then, when my mom (not drag mom) found out I did drag, she said “if you’re going to be a drag queen. you’re gonna be a classy one.” ”
Good work, Mom!
Right! Gotta love Joy. So I got “Jasmine” from Aladdin, and “Kennedy” from JFK. But Instagram already had a user with that name, so I switched the “y” in Kennedy to “ie!
And you’re an FIT student now. What are you majoring in?
Right now I’m in advertising and marketing, but in the winter I am switching my major to fashion design. Coming to NYC and seeing how cutthroat NYC drag is, it pushed me to use more of my sewing skills, and it made me realize my true passion. Now I am no expert at making clothes, but I wanna further educate myself so I can make a business out of it–as well as be a drag queen–at the same time.
Sounds like you have it all worked out! Where did you start going out as Jasmine?
I started in upstate NY, and my town only had one gay bar–that was the only bar exposure I had before coming to the city. When I came here, Shequida’s Drag Wars is where I started.
Shequida was probably an important figure in your “dragucation.”
She was a big help when it came to behavior and getting myself out there, and she really gave me the initial push. But my drag mother Mancie Mandell really took me in and helped me shape my character into who Jasmine is. As well as Maddelynn Hatter giving me such an amazing opportunity as being part of the the cast at the Ritz. Also, Look Queen! Dusty Ray Bottoms really helped me, and let me perform at her show she used to have at Hardware on Wednesdays, before the Ritz.
All great queens! Mancie is a New Jersey pageant queen, how did you meet up with her?
We actually met at Look Queen. She was there with one of her friends, and we kind of just clicked. And then a month or so went on, and I made a joke saying “you’re practically my mom.” The next day she called me and asked if I wanted to be her daughter, and it all started there.
You have a very high-energy, splits-and-flips performing style. We mentioned an athletic background, but where did those particular moves come from? And also, where does that great onstage confidence come from?
My cheer coaches [trained us to be a] very dance-driven team. My head coach, who used to cheer as a Buffalo Jill, really helped me clean up my technique.
I used to wear heels in my living room at my mom’s house, and when I started performing I used to practice routines and all the “shablams” and backflips. I practiced on carpet, and then over time I got more control of my body and more confident in my dancing and performing.
And my confidence on stage comes from the work I put into drag. Over the last months, I’ve been making all my clothes and doing all my hair. Thinking of new things. And when I can say I made my entire look, I feel ten times better about what I’m giving to the audience, as well as the confidence to not hold back and just be myself.
Congratulations on recently winning FIT’s 12th annual drag pageant! What was that whole experience like for you?
It was honestly such an accomplishment for me. Ever since I applied for the school–and I knew about the pageant before applying–I wanted that to be a personal goal I reached. And it was a lot of work! We didn’t know any of the categories, or how the pageant ran, until three weeks before the event. So I had that amount of time to make and conceptualize everything. It was a lot of fun, and I had a blast doing it.
No, lol! But she was in need of oil sheen, which I did have, and she was an amazing host. Very nice queen. I really like how she treated everyone the same, and was very raw and real with her personality.
You’ve been a frequent guest performer at TURNt–the high-energy, late night dance party and show at the Ritz on Wednesdays that Maddelynn runs–and you’ve recently become a regular weekly cast member there. It’s an insanely popular night! What’s your experience been like thus far, being a part of TURNt?
It’s honestly been amazing. To be so lucky to get to perform with girls like Maddelynn and Sherry Pie–who are so amazing in their craft–and we are all like a lil’ family there. We are really about making the show an epic nightlife party. Even though it is already crazy amazing, we are trying to push it to new limits! And Maddelynn has everyone involved in the show. It’s really a team effort, and it’s my favorite gig to perform at.
We all are the “newbies” in that sense! Us three are always just giving each other reads and messing around in the fitting room. They’re really good friends to have.
This week, the show is about to turn 2 years-old, and it looks to be pretty epic. First of all, Jasmine Rice LaBeija is joining the cast! Is there room in the Ritz for two amazing Jasmines?
Haha, of course there is! And that’s the best thing about TURNt: we have such a variety of queens there, and we all get along. We all encourage each other to be ourselves, and we really try to help each other out. And Jasmine is also my drag father Ken Mandell LaBeija’s mom, so I’ve worked with her in the past as well! She’s super funny, and always a blast. And Aja and Miz Cracker, both former castmembers, are returning as well.
Yes! I love them both. Aja is alway crazy, and I love her–she’s so sweet. And Miz! She was always a blast, and always had a funny thing to add to a convo. And Katelynn her assistant, I love. I would hang out with her a lot when we weren’t performing, and we were in the changing room.
So this anniversary show will basically be Everything.
It is going to be CRAZY! We have really big productions planned, and it’s going to be a show you don’t wanna miss!
What else is coming up for you?
I just shot for a music video, actually! For an artist named John Presnell, which should be coming out in October if I’m correct. And than other than that, I’m just trying to better my drag and getting out there! Always open to new adventures!
Also, I’m at Sinful Saturdays with Bootsie and Merrie Cherry every second Saturday at Pieces, which is always fun! I like that Bootsie and Merrie are both from two different scenes, and they are really great hosts.
Okay, final question: what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about drag since you started?
The most surprising this I’ve learned is that if you put in the effort and you really give yourself the time and the tools, you can achieve anything you want with your drag–as long as you’re always open to learn. That’s probably the hardest part of drag: learning about so many different things, and then using what you learned and adapting it to your drag.
Also, I’ve always tried to be nice to everyone: patrons of the bar, the queens, the bar staff… everyone. Not only to keep a reputation for being nice, but also for myself. I’ll always talk to someone who comes up and has questions. Because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. And I want to live with myself being nice to people. Not mean, because you never know what someone else is going through.
Preach! Thanks, Jasmine!
Jasmine Kennedie is part of the cast of TURNt Wednesdays (11pm) at the Ritz. She also performs every second Saturday of the month (11pm) for Sinful Saturdays at Pieces. Check Thotyssey’s calendar for a full list of scheduled appearances, and follow Jasmine on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.