It’s safe to say that pop culture is experiencing a drag awakening. Thanks to the popularity of the Emmy-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queens have popped up everywhere from A Star is Born to The Simpsons to Saturday Night Live.
One of the hardest working queens to prance through the Drag Race werk room, Ginger Minj, has found a couple major projects with Netflix: she was a voice actor for a lead in animated drag superhero series Super Drags and, more recently, appears alongside Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald in Dumplin’, a coming-of-age beauty pageant film that centers around a Dolly Parton-obsessed teen.
The Dumplin’ soundtrack features six Parton originals, as well as six reimagined versions of the country legend’s classics. Among them is an EDM remix of “Jolene,” which was released alongside an extra fabulous music video. The visual starred Minj and featured her Drag Race sisters Alaska, BeBe Zahara Benet, BenDeLaCreme, Katya and Manila Luzon.
In between shows of her just-wrapped one-woman holiday tour, Minj talked to Billboard about Dumplin’ and Super Drags, who she’s rooting for on All Stars 4 and her upcoming album ClownF–ker (yes, it’s finally coming!): “I just want it to be as successful and as wonderful as it can be, not only for myself, but for the fans because they’ve waited for so long.”
Okay, so there were six queens on the set of this “Jolene” music video, so I’m sure there are stories. What went down?
Our very first day was all of us and we were on set in L.A. We’re out there and they take Bebe to the mechanical bull and she’s just sitting up there like, “Oh, darling, no I don’t want it to move. I’ll just pose on top of it.” Well, they insisted it move, and it turns out, she didn’t want it to because she had blown a tire — which is drag speak for her tuck had fallen out. So she was just trying to hide it and pose and be glamorous like Bebe does. But they turned the bull on, she fell off and they got a good glimpse.
And then Katya…we’re in the group dance scene, they had us each film a 45-second solo, “Whatever you want to do.” So we’re all out there dancing and then Katya goes to do the splits, but it’s on this old planked wooden floor. So she jumps and when she hits, both heels on her red boots snapped completely off. And she like fell into the split and it took us so long to pick all of the splinters out of her leg.
I’ve been on a lot sets, we’ve done a lot of videos and tours with these girls. This was probably the best experience I’ve had. There was no bitching, nothing. Even when shit was going wrong, we were all in it together and having a good time.
That sounds like a fun group. Let’s talk about Dumplin’ — what was it like on set? Did you get to interact with Jennifer Aniston?
The very first day that I was filming, I heard a knock on the door and it’s Jennifer Aniston with a cup of coffee. She said, “I just wanted to welcome you officially to our set, it’s wonderful to have you be a part of our film, thank you so much.” She was always extremely lovely to me.
I’ll never forget that we were shooting outside in this little bar outside of Atlanta, Ga. I was standing outside smoking and it started to drizzle rain. She was sitting in her car between shots because there wasn’t that much air conditioning in this bar. She rolled down the window and asked if I was O.K., or if I needed to come and sit in the car to get out of the rain. I didn’t know what to say. I was like, “Do not get in the car with Jennifer Aniston, no matter what you do, because you’re going to ask her about Ross and the baby and she’s going to think you’re stupid.” So I just said, “No, I’m good, thank you so much.” And the window went back up and I finished my cigarette and we went back to set. Our interactions were very brief, but were always very warm and genuine. She’s really lovely.
What would you say the message of Dumplin’ is?
Well, the message is certainly like that old Dolly Parton quote, “Find out who you are, and do that on purpose.” You’re never going to be anything that you’re not, don’t try to be what everybody else is, because that’s not you, and that’s not what you do. You have to find out what makes you, you. And then you have to commit to doing that.
Of course there’s a Dolly quote.
I swear, she is the Confucius of our time. There’s always a Dolly Parton quote for everything, and it’s usually right.
Dumplin’ is not your only Netflix venture. You were also on Super Drags. What was doing voice acting like?
If I could do more voice acting, I would in a heartbeat. The pay is not as good as doing a live-action movie, but you roll in your pajamas and you watch cartoons all day. And you just talk in a funny voice. It’s really cool.
I was very pleased to find out from the creators that they based my character [Lemon Chiffon]’s look on me from Drag Race season seven because they were fans. I was watching the cartoon when I was l doing the voiceover, going, “God, she looks so familiar,” and they said, “Well, she should, because she’s you.” Which was a huge compliment. To see myself through somebody else’s eyes, filtered through that artistic eye, to see how beautiful she comes across. It gave me confidence in myself. It made me sit there and go, “Oh, maybe I am a lot prettier than I think I am, maybe I am a lot more shapely and beautiful than I’m giving myself credit for.”
I really love it, and I hope that it moves on into another season, because I feel like we’re just finding our footing.
We’ve gotten backlash from the LGBTQ community because they don’t like the stories that were told. They don’t like some of the content. I don’t love everything about it, I’m not going to sit here and say it’s perfect and that you have to love it wholly — it has its issues. But this wouldn’t have happened ten years ago — or even five years ago. We’ve made such strides in the community that we now have a mainstream superhero cartoon that revolves around drag. So I think that it’s important to get feedback what does work, and then try to tailor the experience to more what the community wants to see in the future.
I’ve gotten into conversations with people about why they watch ten minutes of the show, and now they’re boycotting it and they never want to see it again, because they didn’t like one thing or another. I said, “Well, if you had continued to watch, episode two deals with body-shaming, catfishing and the results of that, and it deals with confidence. Episode three deals with conversion therapy.” So we’re tackling these really important subjects in a way that keeps it lighthearted and funny for everybody to digest it while still learning about it. I think that it’s absolutely important to support it and find the good in it so that we can continue to have more opportunities as a community.
All Stars has started back up. Who are you rooting for this season?
I love all the girls and I work with them all the time, but there are three that I would really love to see be crowned. Latrice, of course, because everybody loves Latrice. She’s a Florida girl; we did pageants together way back before Drag Race was a thing. I would love to see not only a queen of color be crowned on an All Stars season, but I would love to see our first big girl winner. If it can’t be me, it might as well be Latrice.
I would also love to see Trinity Taylor because, well me being a pageant queen it’s something that we’ve fought against. We don’t want to be taken too seriously. We want people to understand that we have a sense of humor as well. And she has proven you can be pretty and still be funny. I love her, I think she’s great. I think she would be fantastic as a winner.
And then after spending time with her on a couple of tours, I also really, really adore Monique. I think that she’s a star. She possesses this star quality that I haven’t seen in a lot of people, queens in particular. There’s just something about her that makes you want to listen to her and see what she’s going to do, or hear what’s going to pop out of her mouth next, and she’s smart and beautiful and she’s very, very talented.
I would love to see any of them win because I do genuinely love them all, and I think they would bring something to the title. But those three in particular stand out to me.
Now that they’re bringing back former All Stars competitors, would you ever return?
Oh, I would in a heartbeat. There’s so many people that say, “You must be so bitter at Drag Race because everybody thought you should’ve won season seven, but you didn’t.” And to that I say, “Well, not everybody thought that I should’ve won season seven.” I have the text messages and the Reddit posts to prove it.
There are plenty of things I can bitch about, as far as Drag Race is concerned. It’s a job and you can always find something to bitch about with your job. But it has given me more than it has taken away from me. If I hadn’t been on Drag Race, I wouldn’t have a quarter of the opportunities that I have. I wouldn’t be sitting here speaking to you now about my upcoming movie, or my cartoon series, or any of that. It’s certainly opened a lot of doors for me and I love the people that are involved in it. I love World of Wonder. I know a lot of people have their issues with them, but I have genuinely enjoyed working with and for them. I would love to be included in another All Stars.
I wasn’t ready for All Stars 2. I didn’t have the time to prepare myself for it physically or mentally and I was not in the right headspace to be competitive. But now I’m separated from it for four years and I think that I have that competitive itch again. I want to get in there and say, “O.K., now, you thought you could get rid of me last time, but bitch, I ain’t going nowhere now. You can call me Effie White and we’re about to do a production of Dream Girls, because I’m telling you I’m not going.”
Before I let you go, where’s the album, girl?
I feel so bad, because this album’s been in the works for two years now, and we’ve been talking about it and teasing it. The album is done, but it has to be released at the right time. Right now, we’ve got all of this Christmas stuff. We have all the mainstream Christmas albums coming out and the Christmas Queens album that came out that I’m a part of. We don’t want to compete with ourselves.
So we’re going to push it back a little bit longer. I just want it to be as successful and as wonderful as it can be, not only for myself, but for the fans, because they’ve waited for so long. I don’t want to be lackluster. I think people, even the ones that don’t particularly love me or follow me, I think that it’s gonna surprise them because they’re not used to hearing something like this from somebody like me.