With a suitcase full of Middle Eastern garments and Lisa Rinna dusters, Jackie Cox has made a long-lasting impact on this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, even if she made it just shy of the Top 3 contestants. Bringing her Middle Eastern flair (and message) into the competition, Cox served as an inspiration to viewers and gave a voice to a community that truly needs it. We sat down as the world started to open up, and we talked about her family’s reaction to her Drag Race story, and why supporting artists, especially now is beyond important.
Michael Cook: I speak for New York City when I say, you made us all very proud. How does it feel now that the entire RuPaul’s Drag Race experience is over?
Jackie Cox: Part of it feels like a fever dream, like “Did all that really just happen”? Part of it feels like it still has not happened. There was the big expectation of us touring the world, meeting fans, and going out on the road and I am still inside my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen; thank God I like my apartment! (Laughs). I am excited to meet people and hear what they thought about the show, beyond just the limitations of our screens. Part of it feels surreal, but overwhelmingly I am glad that It happened. I am happy to have done as well as I did, to share my story, to be a voice for queer Middle Eastern kids who maybe have not seen themselves on television before. I am just so grateful that this all happened. I am honestly excited about what is going to happen next; it doesn’t feel like the end of anything, it feels like it’s the beginning of something very unknown.
MC: The story about your life and your background was groundbreaking on the show, as you were the first Persian doll to hit the Werk Room. Why was it so important for you to bring your culture and your story to the forefront?
JC: I think there have just been so many negative stories told about Middle Eastern folks in the last forty years. I think about my mom, who in her time living in the United States has dealt with the impression of Middle Eastern folks really being defined by the hostage crisis in 1979, then the Gulf War, then 09/11, and now today with the Muslim ban. These kinds of big moments in Western Culture are really defined by very negative things. I wanted to change the conversation a little bit around that and put a face to what that story is; that face really is my Mom. I think it is complicated and I certainly have lived my life in a very different position than her, or actually the people who have faced so much of this Islamaphobia first hand, I have definitely been lucky, I have not encountered it in nearly the same way that I know she has. I wanted to tell my story through her and her story, and bring a human face onto that. I think when we don’t understand or put a human face on problems, they are something that we can ignore or push aside and make it not matter. I wanted this to matter, it certainly matters a lot to me.
MC: The question now that many have is what do your parents think now of your run on the show?
JC: Well, you will see a little bit of that coming up at the reunion, what some of that resolution is with my mom. My father, in classic parental reaction, has a whole point of view on the show saying “I don’t like watching it because you’re not on tv the whole time” (laughs). Stay tuned for this Friday, we do talk about it at the reunion quite a bit. It's a real story. The other part that I did not expect is that people have used me on the show to kind of show their parents what drag is, or to help their parents be okay with it. They can see someone who approaches drag from my point of view and let that be a valid way to approach drag. I have been so happy that I get a lot of requests for Mothers Day messages and that has been so cool for me. How cool that I can help families come together like that.
MC: There is so much talent in New York City that is immensely accomplished, including the drag family you are a part of. Who do you think could come into the Drag Race Werk Room and just kill it?
JC: I have to say, my sis Chelsea Piers can do it all. I think that she is someone who, in addition to doing half of my hair for the season, is how many of my fans have found her through me being on the show and really connected with her on the show. I would love to see her shine. Really, my whole drag family-Sutton Lee Seymour, Paige Turner, all of them, I really want to see all of them do so well. For a lot of them though, this dream maybe has passed, I don’t know if all of them are even auditioning. Maybe now that I have done it they may want to give it another shot. It’s a big competitive New York community and I would be so thrilled if anyone in our community got to be a part of the show. It is such a life-changing experience; hopefully I did New York proud!
MC: Who is left in the competition that you think could grab the crown?
JC: Right now, I think all of the finalists are amazing and any of them are very well-deserving of the win. I have to root for Crystal Methyd because she is the queen that sent me home. She is so creative and her approach to drag is something that I have never seen before. I love being surprised and excited whenever she turns the corner and I see her, it's something new. It is so refreshing and beautiful and Crystal is a beautiful person. So are Gigi and Jaida; what an amazing group. I am beyond thrilled that I got as close to the end as I did with them as my competitors.
MC: What is next for Jackie Cox?
JC: As you know, my hit cabaret show I Dream Of Jackie is just waiting for a revival! In the meantime, I have written a new single that will serve as a fun new finale, its called "You Wish!" It is really fun, and I think it is very Jackie! If you are looking for something to dance to at the club this might not be it (laughs) but if you are looking for something to dance around in your living room to in your best harem pants, this is it. Although sweatpants will do anytime!
MC: It is such a crazy time for us all and you are ready to get out on the road and meet the fans and tour. How are you staying creative during this crazy time?
JC: I think the biggest thing is to find ways to keep collaborating with folks. I have been working with people on the West Coast, maybe even ten blocks away that I am not even seeing in person. I think the best creativity for me at least, comes from collaboration and from sharing ideas. Finding new ways to do that in this new normal has been kind of fun. I am going to be appearing in one of Jan’s music videos, which I think it is fun to find new ways to collaborate with people. For me, collaboration brings creativity. Even just talking to someone like Jan, who is in the exact same position as I am, hearing all of her ideas and what I want to do, maybe saying to myself “wait that is something I could do” helps. I think we are all such a supportive group, we are all in a group chat of queens sharing new looks we are working on, new ideas, and new songs. It is definitely something where we as a community can help each other.
MC: Your sage words to your fellow contestants seemed to really soothe their frayed nerves at times. Any equally inspiring words for readers?
JC: For the readers I would say support your favorite artists in whatever they are doing. Not all of it is going to be big hits, but support that they are creating. Support the fact that local New York City girls are doing their shows on social media, support those shows so that they have a home when the venues can reopen. Even if people don’t have the funds, they have the ability to send a positive comment or alike. If there are artists that you admire, go watch their stuff go give them support. For our local New York City queens, it's such an amazing group of girls who are used to having an audience, that is why we love New York and why it has s such a huge nightlife presence. It is the city that never sleeps for a reason. Keep it awake and keep it alive with positive energy. It’s amazing, the more you send out, the more you feel it come back!
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