November 9th, 2023
The drag legend is ready to be vulnerable.
In the dazzling world of drag, Ginger Minj is a name that needs no introduction. She is a legend. With a career spanning two decades, Ginger has conquered stages, screens and hearts around the globe. From her unforgettable serves on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to her roles in movies like Disney’s “Hocus Pocus 2” and Netflix’s “Dumplin’,” Ginger’s talents know no bounds. Did we mention she’s also an actress, singer, and now an author?
We sat down with the drag icon to chat about her new book, her tattoos that tell the story of her life and career, and more.
Hi Ginger! Can you introduce yourself for anyone who might not know you?
My name is Ginger Minj. I am an international cross-dresser of mystery. I’ve been doing drag for 20 years. I’ve been on TV, I’ve been in movies, I’ve been in plays, and now I’m writing books.
Amazing. Jack of all trades. We have so much to cover because you’ve been so busy lately. How are you holding up?
I’ve learned in my career, I’ve been doing this 20 years – I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since season 7 of Drag Race. That’s 10 years of massive touring. I’ve learned that whenever I stop is when I get tired. As long as I keep moving forward, it just doesn’t catch up with me. As soon as I have a break, though, I need like two weeks.
Yeah, no, I could imagine. I can’t believe it’s been ten years. I remember I literally used to watch you when I was in high school, and I grew up with you. It’s crazy.
Now you make me feel so old!
No, I’m sorry! [Laughing] Me and my friends used to just like sit around. We were like the weird little losers, and we would sit around watching you and everyone else, it’s a full circle moment.
I love it. But at least you had a group of losers. I didn’t even have that growing up. I was the only loser!
Well, you’re an icon. You’re a performer, a drag queen, a singer,actress, a writer. What came first? What were you really passionate about growing up?
I was passionate about connecting with people because I didn’t have that a lot growing up. Nobody really understood me. And as I wrote in the book, like my father’s only advice to me growing up was: “Don’t embarrass me.” Like be quiet, sit in the corner and just shut up. So I spent most of my childhood doing that. And once I started branching out into theater, as terrified as I was to be under the microscope in the spotlight, I really started to find my voice and use it and talk to people and hear their stories. And then I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. And so that’s kind of what the best part of drag to me is. Most of the other girls, especially when we’re doing group tours, they get so mad because my meet and greets take hours to do. And they just want to take a picture and move on. And I get it. It’s not everybody’s favorite part of the job, but for me, that’s the most rewarding part. A, it’s the only thing that changes from show to show is the audience. And B, you get to understand people a little bit more and why they connect with you the way that they do.
I love that. Is there something or someone that really pushed you to kind of just keep being you?
As much as I would love to say it was my mother, it was only my mother within the last like decade or so. It was my grandmother that saved me. She really did. She was the one that protected me. She was the one that would swoop in and kind of point me in the right direction. And I loved that my grandmother’s way of saving me was teaching me to save myself,not actually shielding me from anything. She would go, “This is the situation that you’re in. Recognize what it is, and these are the tools to get out of it.”
Absolutely. So you just released a cookbook and a memoir. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Why a cookbook and a memoir all in one?
Because when you think of me as a queen, I would hope you’d call me a jack of all trades. It’s not just one thing. Some queens are really great at makeup. Some queens are really great at fashion, some queens are great singers or actors, and I kind of do it all. So when it came time to do a book, I was like, there’s no other way to encompass me than by branching out into all these little different types of books and trying to make one great big glittery ball of fun. And that’s what we did, and I think we were actually very successful with it. Simon & Schuster was not thrilled with the concept.
No, because they wanted either a cookbook or a straightforward memoir. And then I was advocating, like, “No, I think it should be this, and this, and this.” That’s too many ideas. It’s not going to work. So I said, “Just give me a month. Let me figure something out.” I put together two chapters and sent it in. And they were like, “OK, I think this could work.” And the recipes, I thought it was gonna be the easy part, because I had the recipes from my grandmother. Not thinking in my head, my grandmother is a true Southern woman, and her recipes are a pinch of this, a dash of that, and you mix it up until it reaches up out of the bowl and slaps you across the face. And my editor was like, “You cannot put those instructions into a cookbook for midwestern housewives. They’re not gonna know what that means.”
That’s so funny. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?
It changes day to day. I think that the most nostalgic for me is my mom’s meatloaf. Mostly because my mother, she’s never been a good cook. We always told her she could burn water. But meatloaf, like for some reason, she’s just like got the Midas touch with it. It was always good. And, you know, growing up in the circumstances that we did in our town, nobody had a whole lot of money. So every Wednesday was meatloaf night in the entire neighborhood. And then every Thursday at school, everybody had meatloaf sandwiches. They’re all trying to trade each other. And they were all just like these dense hamburger loaves full of breadcrumbs. And my mother’s wasn’t. That’s the one time of the week I felt popular when they all wanted to come and trade me sandwiches.
That is so funny, oh my goodness. So you’ve worked on a lot of projects. You have your book now, you’ve been on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Disney’s Hocus Pocus, Netflix’s Dumplin, you’ve written and starred in the Golden Gals Live! and other stage musicals. What project is your favorite and the closest to your heart?
The book, honestly, because I feel like everything else, every time you’re performing for somebody, you only get bits and pieces of the story. And particularly for the fans that have watched me, like you for 10 years, yes, you’ve known me for 10 years, and I’ve been on three seasons, but you only see these little bits and pieces of who I am or what I’ve done. You know what I’ve done, but you don’t know why I’ve done it or why I’ve said it or why I’ve acted that way. So that’s why I wanted to write the book to kind of fill in those gaps so that people could understand my motivation a little bit more. I feel like there’s a real power in connection. And I learned that on Drag Race and my grandmother always said, “You’ll never see yourself until you see yourself through somebody else’s eyes” and that’s what being on something like Drag Race does for you. It’s horrifying because you sit back and you have this idea in your head of what this experience is and all of a sudden it’s not that. The whole world is seeing it from a very different skewed perspective. And it’s traumatic because you’re not ready for that. But it does force you to kind of look inward and go, “OK, well, maybe this is not how I meant it, but how else could I have said it? What else could I have done?” And when I suddenly started traveling the world and getting all these people coming up to me and finding reasons through my mistakes to connect with me, I was like, “Oh, that’s really powerful,” and I think that that’s something that we should all share a little bit more of. And so that’s why I wanted to do it. As scary as this is, I was literally just telling my team over here, I haven’t slept, I’m having like massive panic attacks, and I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t do any of it, because this is the most raw and vulnerable I’ve ever allowed myself to be and it’s terrifying.
Yeah, it’s beautiful though too.
It is and it’s cathartic and I know that once the day is over and the books are out there and the people are reading them I understand that it’s going to take on a life of its own but in this moment it’s like I feel like I’m giving birth, you know and it’s painful.
Well, thank you for being vulnerable with us, because I think a lot of people need it.
I need it. To be completely honest with you, I need it. I need this to remind me ofwho I am and where I came from and why I do what I do.
What is one message that you really want people to get from your book?
You have to own exactly who you are. You have to understand who you are and sometimes it takes a while to get to that place. So don’t be afraid to make the mistakes. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Of course we want to know a bit about your tattoos. Could you give us a little tattoo tour?
My very first one is actually a teeny tiny one on my shoulder. I was 15 years old. I was doing a production of Grease, like everybody does at 15. But for some reason, I was doing it with a bunch of 30-year-olds. So they would go out and drink every night and have a good time and party. And somehow I got kind of swept up in that. Times were different. It was the 90s. And one night I went out with them after rehearsal and I woke up the next day and my grandmother was like, “What? Why is there blood on the pillow?” I said, “What are you talking about?” And then I feel something on my arm and I look over and I’m like, “Oh, I guess I got a tattoo last night.” So I got a teeny tiny little comedy and tragedy mask tattoo that I’ve had with me since I was 15 years old. I don’t even know how I got it or who signed for it at this point. That was my first one and it was the only one I had until I did Drag Race. And then all of a sudden I was like, “You know what, I want to celebrate that.” So I got my season 7 and All Stars 2 right here. And I don’t know what I’m going to add for All Stars 6 yet. I was going to add a crown, but that didn’t work out. And then down here, I’ve got my character Lemon Chiffon from “Super Drags” on Netflix. My arms have basically turned into my resume. I’ve got Drag Winifred from “Hocus Pocus 2” on Disney+. And then “Dumplin'” right here, the title character, which is also Netflix. And then over on this shoulder, it’s my dog dressed up like Stitch because it’s my two favorite things. I’m a Frenchie Mommy. And then over here on this side is me and my husband as gummy bears. Because we’re sweet and soft and squishy, and we’ll probably give you cavities.
Are there any tattoo red flags that make you want to stay away from someone?
[Laughing] I don’t think I have any red flags as far as tattoos go, I think it’s all self-expression. There’s nothing that I love more than like, awful tattoos and there are so many people who have awful tattoos of me on their bodies. And even when people get the most beautiful tattoos of me, I’m always like a little taken aback because I’m like, I don’t want to live with Ginger for the entirety of my life. I’m very happy with her right now, but I don’t know if when I’m 90 years old, I want to still be dealing with Ginger. So that’s a bigger commitment from you than it is for me.
Have you seen a lot of people get tattoos that reference you?
Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of people who have gotten tattoos of me. The signature, that one’s always really interesting. I like that. That’s cool. And it’s also subtle, you know, but there’s also people who, my favorite ones are the ones that have gotten me as Ursula, because there was like this whole big push to cast me. It didn’t happen, spoiler alert, but there was a lot of really great fan art that came out of that, and a lot of people got that tattooed on themselves. And those are really beautiful, but there’s a lot of tattoos of me right after season seven, like within the year or two after that, where it’s just like me covered in eggs because of the eggs, eggs, eggs challenge for John Waters, and they’re never good. Well, I won’t say never. There’s a few that I’ve seen that are actually, like, really good, but for the most part, I’m like, I don’t recognize me or the egg. [Laughs]
Ginger’s new book, “Southern Fried Sass” is available to purchase here.
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