BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon Get Ready for the Holidays
The drag duo dish all the fun before their new 18-city tour.
Two of our favorite drag performers, BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, are readying to hit the road for their biggest holiday tour to date, LIVE! The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show. The tour includes 24 shows across U.S. 18 cities, as well as four shows in the United Kingdom and five in Canada. Everything gets started with two special preview performances at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida on November 11 and 12.
The holiday show is sure to be a fun and festive — and campy! — way to celebrate the end of the year. Visit jinkxanddela.com for more information, tickets, merchandise, VIP packages, meet-and-greet options, and more; please note that several of the performances are already sold out, and many others have few tickets remaining.
We caught up with the girls recently to talk about how they’re doing, what inspires them, and what audiences should expect in this year’s show.
OT: The pandemic was so tough for many artists, from singers to comedians to drag performers. How did each of you get through it from both a professional and mental standpoint?
Jinkx: What we joked about during the pandemic was that drag queens are like cockroaches and will survive anything. But what I truly saw during the pandemic was that a lot of artists had to make rapid shifts, and a lot of live entertainers had to start doing digital work. What I was astounded by was how rapidly our audience shifted as well. And also how supportive they became of our online content and our digital content — which was all we could do at the time. And that support fueled us in writing.
Producing and directing the Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special on Hulu was kind of the most glamorous way we could make that shift from live entertainment to digital content. We were like, “We can’t be on stage this year. Let’s make a fucking film.” And through the support of that community and the support of our audience, we were able to do that. And that’s kind of like the story of what all artists had to do.
DeLa: We have been so devoted and dedicated to live performance and we love it so much. That’s really where we have put most of our love and time and attention. Having to pivot during the pandemic and create the holiday special, I think not only awoke a love in both of us for creating content for the screen, but we were thinking of it as a way to continue what we started with this tour that we created in 2018. The reality is, we came out of the pandemic with a bigger fan base. We bizarrely and uniquely came out on the other end in a better position than we started; it really was out of having to get creative and making work for the love of the work. As a result, when we hopped back into touring, it was bigger and better than ever because we had — without planning it — been forced to do something that found us a larger audience.
We watched your Hulu holiday special a few years ago and thought it was brilliant, not to mention so needed in those dark days of the pandemic. Tell us about the 2022 version — how do you think it’s different from your previous shows? And what should the audiences most look forward to in the new show?
DeLa: Well, every year, we really find a new way to do a take on what we do — while keeping the heart of the Jinkx and DeLa dynamic, which is about the differences in our characters, but also the underlying love between them. And it’s always a show about reclaiming the idea of the holidays for people who have a wide range of feelings about the holidays. There’s an emphasis on community, chosen family, and creating your own version of traditions. So those things are always the same. But every year, we dig in, in a new way, to find out what it is we have to say about this current time in history.
Jinkx: What I love about working together every year, right before we go on tour, is we get to really take the pulse of what’s going on in our community and in the world and incorporate that into the material that we put on stage. Last year, the show was very much about coming out of the pandemic and the collective trauma we experienced — and how that affected our holiday season. This year, we’re in this weird limbo land of, “We’re getting back at it. We all want to return to how things were before, but that can’t happen. Yeah, what do we do with the holidays this year?”
This is the fifth holiday show for the two of you. What’s the reason for the continued focus on the holidays? And do you harbor any fears that Mariah Carey is going to sue you for infringing on her territory?
Jinkx: Mariah Carey — I would love to have a lawsuit battle with her.
DeLa: Can you even imagine? It would be the best! Oh, my God!
Jinkx: Ryan Murphy will write a series about it someday! Well, DeLa has been producing holiday live spectaculars for over a decade. For many of those years, I was a cast member in the shows that she’s created. So, I knew for a long time the kind of work ethic and creativity that DeLa puts into her productions. The first year DeLa asked me, “Should we do a holiday show together?” it just felt like a no-brainer. I knew no matter what we created, it was going to be just fantastic. I don’t think either of us thought when we signed on to do a holiday show together, that we would be writing our annual magnum opus.
But what I love about it is through the celebration of the holidays and that complex relationship that the queer community has with the holidays, we’ve been able profess our manifesto as drag queens through the lens of the holiday season. At this point, it’s less about the holidays and more about us getting on stage and telling the world what we think about things.
DeLa: The holidays are the perfect container for what it is we love about drag and what we do — because it is pretty inherently queer. It’s so camp, the visuals are over the top with crazy, bright colors. Everybody’s singing, there’s lights blinking. It’s the time of year where everyone is suddenly real gay. Aesthetically, it is a no-brainer to tie that to drag. We also have these strong stances and ideas and thoughts to share. It’s the perfect marriage of being able to do something with some meaning and sentiment that also is consistently funny and fun to watch.
A lot of the queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race have found their stride working in pairs; not just the two of you, but Trixie and Katya or Monet and Bob. Why do you think that is? Is this some sort of a new age of comedy duos, harkening back to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis?
DeLa: We’re happy to have started this trend [laughs]. It’s funny that you say Bing and Bob, because that’s something that I feel inspired by all the time. Jinkx has talked about this trend with sort of a Chicago background.
Jinkx: I have my joke version of what I think’s happening. And then I have my astute version. The joke version is, this is the point in Chicago where the thrill of a singing murderer has died down. That doesn’t sell the tickets anymore, so you’ve got to get two singing murderers. I feel like, that’s kind of the nihilistic view; we’re at the point in the drag boom where it’s not enough to have one queen and you’ve got to have two.
What I am seeing as an artist who works in comedy, is that a lot of duos are having a big renaissance right now in comedy overall. And I know that I create my best work when I’m collaborating with one of my many talented collaborators, such as DeLa. We create magic together. I always feel like I’m putting my best foot forward when I’m working with someone else. I think we’re at a point in time where we just really want to celebrate authenticity as well as friendships and joy. Seeing drag queen duos, who have a lot of fun on stage together — that’s kind of what the world needs right now.
DeLa: Yes, it makes sense that after a few years of isolation being everyone’s main experience, that there would be a lot of joy in watching connection and watching closeness. I do think that’s something big that we bring to it. Also, our styles and our voices as artists are very complementary and fill in each other’s gaps. When we work together, it really elevates what we do in general, we get to take on each other’s strengths. It’s like …
Jinkx: It’s like a vaudeville act, but there’s no straight man.
You’re stuck on a deserted island for a year, and you can only bring two other Drag Race queens to help you (and you can’t pick each other). Who are they, and why?
DeLa: Because my strengths have always lied in not quite listening to the assignment, I’m going to go ahead and expand this beyond Drag Race, because I’d like to encourage all our readers at home to think beyond the show. We already had the opportunity to work with Varla Jean Merman on our holiday special, and she’s been a huge inspiration for me, so I would have to take her with me. She’s somebody who has inspired me since I was 18 years old to take the path I took. Then I would also want to take Coco Peru, who is a master storyteller, innovator, and her shows are brilliant. She finds new ways to look at the world, take the negative around you, and make it into something funny and beautiful. And hey, that’s what we need if we were starving on an island.
Jinkx: I think DeLa just revealed that she only works with redheads! I am going to keep it real simple, because I could echo everything that DeLa just said. But I’m gonna say: Bob and Bianca, because those two are the most resourceful, smart, dominant personalities that I know. And I have no survival skills. So, I just want to like cook the fish they bring home.
DeLa: Yeah, and if you’re stranded on an island with no tools and you need to build something out of trees or something, Bianca’s teeth can cut through anything!
How do you write for your shows? You’re both so quick witted and snappy. Where do you find your inspiration to come up with the different gags?
Jinkx: This is true for our show, and it’s true for drag. The work never stops. You never stop thinking about the next number you’re going to do you … ideas come to you in the middle of a conversation. Your work is so intrinsically tied to who you are as a person — because drag is not just our career, it’s also our lifestyle, it’s our identity. It’s like our gender identity, woven into who we are, and vice versa. So, when you’re so intrinsically tied to your work, the work never ends. We’re always working on the holiday show, we’re always coming up with ideas for it. But the way we create it is that we block out like a month of time where we live in a hotel together, and it’s very much like Misery. DeLa hobbles me, and during my recovery, we write a holiday show.
DeLa: We’re pretty evenly matched as writers, which is part of what makes it so, so good. I think we have different strengths that we bring to the process, in the same way that we have different strengths that we bring to the stage. One thing I’ve really noticed over the years is that we will have conversations about a bit in a show, a set of jokes, an idea, a narrative — and we will not be able to remember who initiated the idea! That really speaks to the kind of hive mind that the two of us have found. We write dialogue and can write each other’s voices just as well as we can write in our own. We write a lot of each other’s content as well as our own in the show. We’re just really in each other’s heads. And it makes it a really fun and affirming process.
Someone’s on the fence about coming to your holiday show this year. What do you say to convince them to come?
DeLa: Well, it’s already almost sold out, so they better make their decision quick. I would say that like there is really nothing like live performance — and Jinkx and I flourish in those circumstances. If people enjoyed watching us on television, just wait till you see us in our actual element — because we have so much fun on stage, we’re so passionate about it.
Jinkx joked about how we force ourselves to make a magnum opus every year. But it feels that way, it really feels like this is us at our absolute best. I’d also encourage people to remember the last couple of years when you didn’t have the opportunity to see live things. Hey, we have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. We were just taught that we’ve got to seize the moment. We don’t know when we won’t get to be entertained live anymore. Maybe we’ll have plenty of time to watch TV in the future, so get out to live theater while you can.