Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

COVID-19 can’t keep Jackie Cox down

Drag performers keeping busy in digital realm

Published

on

Jackie Cox, gay news, Washington Blade
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ season 12 contestant Jackie Cox. (Photo courtesy of VH1)

We’re navigating the current COVID-19 crisis as best we can—but each day forces us to admit how little we’ve learned from what pandemic-themed science fiction, countries with universal health care, and people who cut their own hair have been trying to tell us for years.

Yeah, everybody’s pretty much making it up as they go along—and in the case of entertainers displaced from shuttered clubs, bars, and theaters that are sources of income as well as community, stay-at-home drag queens are keeping the cobwebs off their wigs by entertaining fans in the digital realm.

The Blade recently reached out and touched one such indefatigable gal (via email), to get her take on innovation in this time of isolation.

Thanks to her presence as a contestant on the currently airing season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the whole world has been discovering what New York City has known for years: There’s nobody out there quite like Jackie Cox.

Born in Canada, the Star Trek-loving “Persian princess of drag” wears her nerdy nature, Iranian heritage, obsession with Disney, and love of ’80s/’90s pop culture as badges of honor. Pin those badges on a dress as pick-and-choose accessories, and they work just as well on the “Drag Race” runway as they have on the cabaret stages of New York City, where writer/performer Cox fashioned and refined the sharp, sassy, clever, campy, and occasionally political persona that’s put more than one smile on the hard-to-please faces of Mama Ru and Michelle Visage.

That persona changes slightly according to the hat Cox wears. As writer/star, she put her own spin on Barbara Eden’s iconic bottle-dweller, in the three-part “I Dream of Jackie” series, which followed the adventures of a magical genie who emerged from underneath the stage of Manhattan’s Laurie Beechman Theatre to find a chaotic and cynical world that was no match for her sweet, optimistic nature. Also at the Beechman, Cox appeared in a series of shows with The Hell’s Kitchenettes, an Andrew Sisters-like trio of singing waitresses whose wacky schemes to save their diner always backfire, but never fail to bring it back from the brink of disaster. And last year, also at the Beechman, Cox and frequent collaborator Chelsea Piers put the Romy and Michelle/Laverne & Shirley friendship dynamic into a blender, added some iconic songs from the ’80s/’90s, and created the tasty comedic smoothie that was “Jackie & Chelsea’s High School Reunion.”

The Blade: On April 18, you presented “The Jackie Cox Variety Show” as part of StageIt.com’s Digital Drag Fest series. What songs and segments did you serve fans, and how was the experience? Can we expect to see more of you on the Digital Drag Fest platform?

Jackie Cox: I’ve now done two editions of the “The Jackie Cox Variety Show,” with a new, politically minded version performed on April 21, as part of the campaign to “Drag Out The Vote,” and get the LGBTQ+ community registered to vote! Both versions keep a similar structure, in that it’s a variety show with different comedy segments and songs. I do a cooking segment, a faux-news segment, and recurring gags that happen throughout. It very much harkens back to that 1960s and 1970s variety show feel. I hope to continue doing them, and it’s a great creative space for me to try new ideas in this format. Visit stageit.com/digitaldragfest for the latest information on all their upcoming events.

Blade: Has this forced time away from public performance impacted your creativity, creative output, and approach to using online/social media as an expression of your artistry?

Cox: I think this time away from performing on stage has definitely given us a new frontier of what drag can be in the future, and live performance in general. Having the ability to connect with fans through live streaming platforms presents a lot of fun ways to creatively think outside the box. I’ve been finding myself actually able to engage with fans online in meaningful ways that I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I had been traveling and performing all over the country, as was originally planned.

Blade: Spoilers and gag orders aside, tell us everything you can/want, about part of “RDPR” Season 12?

Cox: Participating in this season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has truly been a dream come true. I learned so much about myself and about my drag from participating in the competition. Spoilers aside—I think from what the audience has already seen, this season is filled with so much talent, personality, and heart.

Blade: Have you had any notable virtual interactions with fans during this period of social distancing?

Cox: Well, the fans have CERTAINLY been vocal and I must say, I feel a bit behind in how the kids talk these days, but I’m learning. (Cool Aunt here.) That said, I’ve been trying to engage with fans as much as I can. I have had so many fans reach out saying they feel represented by who I am and what I’m doing on the show. I’ve also had fans who are either too far away, or otherwise would be unable to come see a live show, and are just so thrilled they get to see live drag from the comfort of their own homes.

Blade: How did you come to be involved in the April 25 Community Strong Identity panel (via witch.tv/popculturehero)? What can we expect?

Cox: I have known Randy Frank, the founding member of the Lambda Quadrant non-profit, which is putting on the event, for a number of years, since we originally connected through our love of “Star Trek.” (It’s not just the glasses—I really am a nerd!)

The panel will be moderated by Chase Masterson (from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) and Raymond Lister, in support of their “Pop Culture Her Coalition”—the first-ever organization to teach empathy, resilience, and real-life heroism over bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQ-bullying, cyberbullying, and other forms of hate, by using stories from TV, comics, and movies, which kids find relatable and accessible. In our panel (which includes “Drag Race” alums Silky Nutmeg Ganache and Pandora Boxx, among others), we will be discussing how we tackle these issues in our lives, and share our experiences.

Blade: Are there any other ways, now or upcoming, that fans can access you in the digital realm?

Cox: Yes! I’m @jackiecoxnyc across all social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… even TikTok!), where I will post the latest information on any and all upcoming shows and appearances.

Blade: The all-clear is called and we’re allowed to gather in public again. What are the first things you’re going to do?

Cox: Definitely go have a good laugh and a margarita (and HUGS!) with friends at any of my favorite bars in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC! I miss salty rims!

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

Published

on

A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Continue Reading

Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

Published

on

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

Continue Reading

Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

Published

on

(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular