Following the success of the annual RuPaul’s DragCon in Los Angeles, the world’s largest celebration of drag culture makes its New York City debut Sept. 9 and 10 at the Javits Center. Despite her busy schedule, Ginger Minj wouldn’t miss it for the world.
After using skill, smarts, and shade to become a runner-up on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7, Ginger — the drag persona of Florida native Joshua Eads — competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 2 and released her debut album, Sweet T, last fall. Every step of the way, the plus-sized “crossdresser for Christ” has made the most of her roots in musical theater, pageants, and the Southern Baptist church.
We caught up with Ginger between gigs for a taste of what she’s got cooking now.
You’ve been a staple at RuPaul’s DragCon in L.A. since it launched in 2015. What do you enjoy about the event?
DragCon brings all of us weird kids together. In the ’90s, our only safe spot was the mall. DragCon is our mall, where we can hang out, take pictures together, and talk about cool things like makeup and wigs.
You’re connected to fans through social media. Why is the face-to-face interaction at DragCon so important?
A lot of fans still view us as television characters. One comment I always get is, “Oh, my God, you’re actually real!” I know I’d look better with a Drag Race season 1 filter, but in person you can see all the pores, tape, and glue. That grounds the fans and helps them realize that this is a serious job for us, not just fun and games on TV.
Describe a typical Ginger Minj fan encounter.
I hear about a lot of dead grandmas and sick cats. “You were my grandmother’s favorite, but she’s dead now.” “Every time my cat’s sick, I put on your episodes.” I’ve also received a lot of strange, wonderful gifts. The weirdest gift I ever got was a Ginger Minj voodoo doll from somebody who said, “I hated you on season 7, so had this voodoo doll made of you. But I’ve changed my opinion since All-Stars, so now you should have it.” I guess that explains the back pain.
At DragCon in L.A. you gave drag makeovers to Jerry O’Connell and Wil Wheaton. Do you have a makeover planned for DragCon NYC?
Remember the viral clip of Bianca Del Rio onstage interviewing Lactacia, the 8-year-old drag queen? Well, since Lactacia said that I’m her favorite queen, I’m going to give her a makeover. It’ll be the first time we’re meeting in person and I’m so nervous. Jerry and Wil? Yeah, cool, whatever. But an 8-year-old queen who looks up to me? I can’t screw this up, because it’s such an important moment for both of us.
Is their any competition among the queens at DragCon to see who can sell more merchandise at her booth?
Some may be in it for money, but I don’t pay attention to what the other girls do. I’m not rich by any means, but I do well for myself on the road. So if I sell some stuff at DragCon, that’s great, but the interaction with fans is more important to me.
What merch will you be selling?
I have some new T-shirts, including an exclusive for DragCon NYC. I get a lot of fan art, but this one particular artist’s work really stuck out, so we created a shirt that shows her beautiful artwork of me. It’s super special.
You were the queen of catchphrases on Drag Race, labeling yourself a “glamour toad” and quipping about men who “flooded your basement.” Were you conscious that you were building a brand?
Not at all. I don’t think, I just speak. That’s what helped me make it as far as I did, but that’s also what got me in trouble with some fans. Honestly, there were so many catchphrases because I just ran my mouth until they told me to shut up. I do want to put out a whole series of catchphrase T-shirts at some point.
Are branding and merchandising integral to a queen’s success after Drag Race?
It’s an important piece of the puzzle. But the most important thing you can do to stay relevant is to stay connected with the fans. That’s why I spend at least an hour on social media every single day, responding to messages and talking to everybody. When I do a gig and have a meet-and-greet for 20 people, I’ll wait until a thousand people go through the line. If it weren’t for the fans, we wouldn’t have a job.
Your debut album, Sweet T, seems to blur the line between Ginger and Joshua. Ginger may be the face selling records, but the songs come from Joshua’s heart. Is that a fair assessment?
Absolutely, and that’s very intentional. There isn’t much distinction between Ginger and Joshua in everyday life. I’m just a little country boy, and I never try to hide where I came from or what made me who I am, because I feel like that’s what’s going to connect with and help people.
For a comedy queen, you explored some pretty serious personal issues on Sweet T. Why did you go that route?
When I watched myself on season 7 of Drag Race, I had no clue who that was. While doing meet-and-greets, I realized that these kids didn’t really know who I was, either. So I wanted offer a deeper glimpse into my life. It took us a year and a half to write and record the album because we were going through boxes of my journals, letters, pictures, and videos from the last 25 years, making sure the album told my story. Even if I ended up with a paperweight, it needed to be a paperweight that my mom was proud of.
As an All-Stars alum, what advice do you have for the queens competing on the upcoming All-Stars 3?
Enjoy every moment and don’t be afraid to keep putting it all out there. I was so nervous when I did All-Stars, because I was still getting backlash for things I said and did in season 7. Now that a couple years have passed, I’m like, “Oh, you need me to be a villain and make good TV? Sure, I’ll come flip some tables!”
Which queen should get a second shot at superstardom on All-Stars 3?
I would love to see Mrs. Kasha Davis get another chance. She’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom! She’s so funny, and I wish the world could see more of that.
It was recently announced that you’ll appear with Jennifer Aniston in the movie Dumplin’, based on Julie Murphy’s YA novel about a plus-size teen who enters a beauty pageant. Can you tease anything about your role?
It has a lot of heart, and that’s really all I can say. It’s such an important story with everything that’s going on in the world, because it teaches people to love themselves. As Ru says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” But Dumplin’ is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got so much going on right now.
Let’s hear it.
I’m doing Miss Arizona, another pageant-centric movie where I get to play a good ol’ Southern bitch. I’ve also been working for two years on a one-woman show about Divine’s life, and I’m about ready to debut it next year and hopefully take it on a world tour. On top of that, Jiggly Caliente and I just filmed an entire season of our new YouTube cooking show, Wigs in a Blanket. It’s the funniest, sweetest little cooking show you could ever want to see, and the recipes are actually good. We’re good cooks!
Is there any new music in the works?
I’m actually working with some writers and producers right now, and we’re going into the studio to record a new album when I get a break in November. It’s going to be a lot lighter and more dance-oriented than my last album. Shake up Meghan Trainor in a test tube with Lizzo and Beth Ditto — that’s what I’m going for. I cried my way through Sweet T, so this one’s going to be a party.
What’s inspiring you?
I’m just in a much happier place in my life. When season 7 was filming and airing, I wasn’t a happy person, and I was working through some sad, difficult stuff. But now I’m content. When I wake up in the morning, I’m ready to celebrate. That’s what I want to share with everybody.
Patrick Crowley, the founder and editor of Billboard Pride will be moderating Ginger Minj’s makeover session with Lactatia on Saturday, Sept 9 at 3:00pm. Purchase tickets to RuPaul’s DragCon NYC here.