I HAVE to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arriving at the hotel where Jerick Hoffer was staying.
Was I going to be greeted with Jinkx Monsoon, the winner of season five of the worldwide hit television show Ru Paul’s Drag Race? Or would I find the person behind the outfit?
It didn’t take long for me to realise that they are in fact one and the same.
The character of Jinkx Monsoon is, in its simplest form, a slightly over-the-top Jewish mother.
But, despite being halachically Jewish, Jerick — who identifies as non-binary (hence the use of they as the pronoun in this interview) — was brought up Catholic in their home town of Portland, Oregon.
Speaking to me during their latest UK tour Ginger Snapped, Jerick said: “We were holiday Catholics. I knew the fundamentals of the religion, but my family wasn’t very devout.
“We rarely went to church, and when we did my grandma and mother would just sit there and cry the whole time.
“It was as if they were going to church to feel guilty and feel bad about themselves.”
It was when the 31-year-old was aged around 18 that the Jewish connection on their mother’s side came to light.
Their grandma, who had died after suffering a stroke, had been adopted. But nobody knew this information until Jerick’s mother became executor of her estate.
They said: “She was raised in a stereotypical Irish-Catholic family, but the older she got, the more Slavic-looking she became.
“We used to joke about her being an old babushka.
“Having found out that she was originally from a Jewish family, it was then that I decided that Jinkx should be Jewish, as I had this new element of my personality which I had never known about.”
The discovery of their Polish grandmother’s Jewish identity gave Jerick the chance to learn more about Judaism, the heritage and what being Jewish means. They even did a DNA test.
They recalled: “We thought she had Russian heritage, so I did a DNA test and there was absolutely no Russian in me at all!
“But there is a lot of Finnish and Polish.
“I talked to a lot of my Jewish friends and heard their stories.
“I don’t really believe in any organised religion, but I was fascinated about the traditions and rituals.
“I became interested in what growing up Jewish in America meant and took it in like I would take in anything else I was interested in learning about.”
They first performed in drag at the age of 16.
Jerick — who suffers from narcolepsy — worked as a janitor through college and graduated with a BFA in theatre from Cornish College of the Arts in 2010.
They have lived in Seattle, Washington, since 2006, where they wrote and created with creative partner Nick Sahoyah the web series Monsoon Season.
In 2011, Jerick appeared in the Wes Hurley film Waxie Moon in Fallen Jewel before starring in the rock musical Spring Awakening at the Balagan Theatre, Seattle, the following year.
They also starred in a production of the musical Rent, the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the musical Hairspray.
In addition, Jerick has appeared in TV drama Blue Bloods and comedy series Capitol Hill.
They have also been the subject of a YouTube docu-series, Drag Becomes Him, by Alex Berry, which was revived after the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Jerick was inspired to appear on RuPaul’s show after seeing drag queen Sharon Needles in the previous season.
They sang Can I Get an Amen? during the show which helped benefit the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centre.
Jerick’s latest tour will make stops at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre on November 21 and Manchester’s HOME on March 28-30.
The tour also takes in Lancaster, Birmingham, Hull and various southern venues.
The tour is named after their latest album, The Ginger Snapped, the follow-up to 2014’s The Inevitable Album.
“I wanted Jinkx to be a single mother, but this added another element so she is now a single Jewish mother,” they explained.
“I’ve always found it really entertaining that she is a Jewish woman of Slavic descent with a Mexican son.
“The culture clash is kind of ridiculous.
“I wouldn’t want to claim to be representing the Jewish community, or a voice for it, as I wasn’t raised Jewish.
“The only way it affects the character is that it is just another detail of a multidimensional creation.”
Jerick has a large following in Israel — known for its massive LGBT+ community.
They visited the country in 2017 to take part in the LGBT film festival, ignoring calls to boycott the event.
They said: “It was very inclusive and included Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers.
“It was a big decision with the divisive war going on.
“My thought in the end was that I have queer people there who want to see what I do.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to punish Israel’s queer community for something their government is doing.
“I wouldn’t want queer people to punish me because Donald Trump is my president — I have nothing to do with that and claim no responsibility.
“I don’t think it’s fair to blame communities for governments they did not ask for.”
While their television victory has seen their career take off, Jerick has no plans to slow down.
But they would like to extend their career to more on-screen roles in the film world.
Jerick said: “There are so many cool things happening in television and film, especially with Netflix and Hulu.
“People are willing to take more risks on these platforms that don’t have to abide by normal television rules.
“Communities are being represented in new ways.
“I’d also love to do a stint on Broadway — that is the ultimate goal.
“When people ask drag queens to be a part of things, it can sometimes feel almost typecast.
“I would like to do more than just appear, say a line and leave.”
While Jerick doesn’t feel like they can represent the Jewish community overall, they do admit to representing the LGBT+ Jewish community
They said: “I’ve always experienced Jewish people feeling excited by having a representative in that community.
“They are used to the community only every wanting to tackle being Jewish or queer, never both.
“You don’t see a lot of perspectives on being queer and Jewish.”
* Details: jinkxmonsoon.com
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