Let in through the latched wooden doors of a small separated dressing room, we're greeted by the queens of Splash Bar's Friday night show in various stages of undress. Ginger Minj is at the end of the mirror, taking advantage of the twenty minutes between shows to re-apply. With her hair in a black bun, she's warm and gracious as we start to ask our questions.
“So the itinerary is Orlando, New York, London, then Akron? Are you hopping straight between them?” Still applying make-up, she nods dramatically, conveying a sense of the whirlwind its been since she found herself in the final three on this season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
I ask how long she'll keep up that torrid pace. “As long as they're stupid enough to pay me for it!,” she laughs brightly. I sense, though, that winking behind this response is the tacit admission that as a finalist she certainly commands more bookings and profile than she will if she isn't the finalist.
I ask her about the Orlando drag scene, her hometown and where she got her start. When she was coming up, it was “mostly T girls... I had to carve a niche for myself.” Ginger, who gleefully identifies as a “Glamour Toad,” does a mix of pageant queen and comedy. I ask if she found it difficult to break through? At first, yes, she responds, but once she did, she had a lot of success with her approach. When I ask if she sees a night-and-day situation going on in the Orlando scene, she says yes, to a degree. But she credits her success bridging that gap (and working a tourist crowd successfully) with her ten years' work in dinner theatre productions along the Orlando strip.
Her work in dinner theatre ultimately drew her to Hamburger Mary's, where she hosts Broadway Brunch with The Minx. She describes it as a family friendly show. “It's like Sonny & Cher, but with two dudes... it's not like we're just gonna go out there and drop an F bomb.” China Moon, the opener of the show and an eighteen-year local queen, chimes in, telling Ginger how much she respects that the Orlando scene has increasingly connected the tourist world with the queer communities who've lived there for years. China hopes they can do the same in the Panama City scene, performing the sort of outreach which lays the groundwork for cultural enlightenment in a still largely bigoted South.
Much of our interview revolved around her and her production company's charity work for BASE Camp Children's Cancer Foundation. Her manager (husband? handler?) Mama Rose gently prompted her to talk about Second Wishes. BASE Camp's Second Wish program allows children who've relapsed receive a “second wish,” as they'd received their once-in-a-lifetime wish during their first fight with cancer, and are thus ineligible to receive a second from some other foundation.
She met one fan, diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a prognosis of two weeks left to live, when she requested a drag performance as her Second Wish. When asked why, the fan told her it was to cross off her bucket list, as she'd never seen a drag show. After the show, the fan kept coming back to performances, and lived well over a year before she moved to hospice. “And then we packed up all the girls and everybody, and went on down there [and performed at the hospice] for her.”
She remarks that her work with BASE Camp is behind why she finally did RuPaul's Drag Race. “Did you feel like it gave you the courage?,” I ask. Well, yes, courage, but more so the desire to expand her platform, and reach as many people as possible. “Ministry,” she calls it in finger quotes, as tacky as it sounds. But as a known “Good Christian Bitch (GCB),” it certainly seems she means it.
We talk about how, after her success on the show, she's been received, in particular by underage fans who line up to meet her outside her many shows. “I just love listening to their stories,” so many of which discuss the hardships of adolescent queer life. “They tell me they'd have killed themselves... growing up, we didn't have all this,” she waves, referring to RuPaul, YouTube, the many prominent queer and trans celebrities of today. She's turned from the mirror now, and looking me in the eye, she says, “All I had as a fat queer kid was John Waters. I loved Divine.” She's affixed her blonde beehive, her lines are drawn sharply and boldly upward, and in the moment her resemblance to Divine moves from an avoidable comparison to an uncanny one.
So when are you coming to Atlanta?, I ask.
“Violet [Chachki] won't let me,” she says, laughing. But no, she hopes to be booked soon. She visits constantly, even though “I don't work,” she stresses ever so slightly. Growing up, she loved trips to Six Flags over Georgia, the way it paled in comparison to Orlando's peerless theme park trifecta. “I always felt like the [rollercoaster] would break down at any moment!” For now, at least, her pursuit of that risk and adventure over the safer scene in Orlando has paid off.
Watch her tonight on the season finale of RuPaul's Drag Race on LOGO TV.
Christopher Kaluzienski is assistant editor at Wussy in Atlanta, Georgia. He foolishly failed to record this interview, so blame any discrepancies or errors on editor-in-chief, Jon Dean.
Photos by Jon Dean