Taking sublimely ridiculous surrealism to dizzying heights with cadre of like-minded queerdos, one of the stars of Brooklyn’s noteworthy ” Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore” prepares for that show’s next epic phase as New York nightlife is reborn. Behold the minty fresh Menthol Menthol! [Cover photo: Chris Sorensen]
Thotyssey: Hello Menthol! How is March treating you?
Menthol Menthol: March has been okay so far! I’m excited to see some stuff reopening, and we’re getting to do our first Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore (socially distanced and safe) show this Saturday afternoon in Chelsea!
We’ll get to that exciting development in a a bit! Have you had any experiences doing digital drag at all this year?
I did a few! I did a couple of shows I was booked for during the start of the pandemic, and my other show group (The Dumptruck, with me, Esther, Pinwheel Pinwheel and DJ Foster) put together a bizarre and fun livestream. I also did some Instagram livestreams where I had people stream Bones from Hulu, and then watch me talking over it. So much of my drag is my fixation on useless and arbitrary things, so the pandemic was a solid time to capitalize on that. Some stuff only works if there’s nothing else going on in the world!
Lol, did you learn anything new about Bones from the livestream?
It just confirmed my suspicions that it’s really fun to overanalyze “bad” TV. And it’s more fun to do it at people than alone!
Where are you from originally, and what were your early interests that ultimately put you on a drag path?
I’m from the East Coast: bopped around CT, upstate NY, PA. I was always interested in art, and obsessed with kitsch and “bad art,” which definitely translates in my drag! I ended up going to school for social work for a while, actually. I didn’t realize I could be a part of an art scene–that my art had something to offer beyond my own amusement.
I started going to gay bars when I moved to Harlem, then Brooklyn… and wound up in drag one night with a friend of mine. I kept going out in drag and loved it. Definitely didn’t know what I was doing or what I wanted to do at first, just that it felt correct and great. It took me about a year to realize I could do whatever I wanted and get comfortable in my drag. Then I found my drag family, and figured out my path from there!
Once upon a time, you were a more “traditional” presenting queen named Misty Menthol.
Yeah, I definitely made a huge change in my drag. That’s the point when I realized I could do what I wanted and that “traditional” drag is really not where I excel, primarily performance-wise. I started my “improv” (?) ridiculous drag at my first Mx. Nobody pageant in 2018, when I just talked for five minutes about my experiences in high school with drugs: specifically Robitussin and ether. Dumb, and bluntly honest. That’s actually how I became friends with Pinwheel (who I’ve lived with now for two years and produce my shows with.) The bizarre positive encouragement I got from that made me realize that that’s a valid direction I could go in. My look evolved as “Menthol” became more of a full character than just me in drag.
And are you a menthol smoker, by the way?
Yeah! I usually have a pack of Newport’s. I don’t really have a preference, but hey… my branding is stayin’ strong.
In a way, your style of drag (and Pinwheel’s, as well as your other co-stars) might harken back to the more surreal trailblazers of drag from the 80s and 90s East Village nightlife scene, like Lypsinka.
Ah, thank you! We’ve definitely leaned into an experimental style, especially within the Unforgivable family (and Dumptruck, which is the perhaps stupider counterpart if that’s possible.) Between Pinwheel, God Complex, Esther, and myself, we definitely have a mix of different surreal / absurd styles. It’s been the most amazing experience to work with them and grow with them, especially since I admired and respected them so much as artists before they became family. It’s definitely surrealism. Our shows end up as loose narrative structures mashing different things together. If we say it makes sense, it just makes sense. No questions, just acceptance!
Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore was the monthly surreal showcase you all were doing at Brooklyn’s gone-too-soon venue, The Vault. Can you describe how that showcase came about, and what those early shows were like?
Pinwheel and I had a show idea called Unforgivable, and Pinwheel and God Complex had one called Emotional Carnivore–so they got smooshed together. Esther joined us in June, and Ten Yards became our DJ a couple months later. The five of us really learned how to work with and off each other quickly and seamlessly. We figured out how to streamline our chaos as the group came together, and we learned what worked and was the most fun. Our early shows were ridiculous and a blast. There was shucking corn onstage, a Gravel Raffle, and making sandwiches with way, way too much Mayo.
I think we adopted a loose narrative structure a few months in. One of my favorites was November 2019 with Sherry Poppins–our “Martha Stewart goes to Jail” month, where Sherry as “Martha” was arrested for murdering me, a turkey, on our “live” cooking show. I think we figured out how to have everything make both more and less sense as it became the show we wanted.
Pinwheel now is an in-demand drag designer whose work often appears on RuGirls, and Ten Yards is also expanding as a designer as well.
Endlessly proud of both of them and the work they’ve done.
Are you active in the design end of things?
I’m actually Pinwheel’s artist assistant, and help with the crafts-part of the garments. I have strong little transmasc hands that are good for pliers… but I’m not a designer, and can’t really sew. In terms of art, aside from drag and performance I’m mostly involved in creating visual art, primarily collage.
You’re responsible for so many of those incredible posters for the UEC shows, right?
Oh yeah! All of them that are collage were made by me. It became really fun to blast my maximalist aesthetic into our show. And super fun for posters in general (I do take commissions!).
Tell us about the long-awaited live stage return of Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore, courtesy now of the Cell Theatre in Chelsea this Saturday (6pm).
Well first things first: we are so excited. We connected with the venue when the four of us did videos for Rachel Rampleman’s show Life is Drag, which is up at the Cell Theatre (go see it!). I was able to give my very real and good life’s theory “Milk or Tetris” the long-winded explanation it deserves.
I understand this new show will be teeth-centric!
Our Dentistry show has been something we’ve wanted to do for a weirdly long time! All of us have wanted to do something with teeth for some reason. I had a friend in college who did “DIY dentistry,” which is exactly what it sounds like, and I’ve wanted to play with that concept for a while.
What else should the kids know?
Watch my performance for Life is Drag! You can learn all about real legitimate science and the importance of Milk or Tetris. Also DM me for any commissions: art, posters, acrylic nails (photos are all on my page). And follow Unforgivable and The Dumptruck on Instagram for updates as the world opens up.
Also, watch Riverdale. I’m gonna use my interview to plug Riverdale. I want more people to scream with about it! Join my book club from hell! It’s the hill I’ve chosen to die on.
And what a glorious hill! Okay. In closing… we’re finally winding down to the final weeks of Drag Race Season 13! Whose team are you on now?
I’m on Team Chaos. Team Pointless Drama! But also Symone.
Thank you thank you, Menthol Menthol!