Ginger Minj on losing a queer role to a straight actor, and why she’d be perfect for Ursula

“If you’re gonna have a drag artist do it, I’m probably one of the most qualified to do it.”

It’s been three years since Ginger Minj made her debut on the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it’s fair to say she’s accomplished quiiiite a bit.

The fan-favourite crossdresser for Christ made a comeback on All Stars 2 (but was shafted, fact), and has since toured the world with her Drag Race sisters and released a full-length studio album, Sweet T.

Today sees the release of Dumplin’, a Netflix original musical comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as a former beauty queen whose self-proclaimed “fat” daughter competes in her local pageant, as a protest to spread the message of body positivity.

And guess who co-stars? Ginger fucking Minj. In celebration of the film’s release, we caught up with Ginger and discussed how she got the part, queer roles going to straight actors, a potential Drag Race comeback and why she’d be perfect for the role of Ursula in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid.

You recently toured the UK. How was that?
It’s always wonderful. There’s certain places in life where you step in and you get the feeling, ‘Oh this is where I belong, the people understand me.’ I’ve always felt that way about the UK in general, but particularly London.

You’re a Crossdresser for Christ from Orlando, Florida. What is the weirdest slang you’ve heard over here in the UK?
Well, quite frankly, I love that my name is so scandalous over there, because here nobody knows what the hell Ginger Minj is, other than, ‘Oh, that’s the little fat crossdresser.’ I go over there, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t say it.’ I have people come up to me and go, ‘When I first said I loved your name, my mother slapped me in the mouth for being vulgar.’ I’ve been very well embraced by the UK because of my name, my name is something that is an inside joke for you guys.

Did you get a chance to check out the drag scene in the UK?
Not this trip. This trip, we had one night off and we went to see Michelle in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which was great. I am now on a mission to play Hugo. I wanna play Loco Chanelle in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. I sat there and watched it and went, ‘This is me. I need to do this, this is my personality, I can sing these things.’ Then he came out with this red wig and I was like, ‘I think I own that wig.’

You currently star in the Netflix film Dumplin’. How did the role come about?
The novel was passed to me before they even decided to make the movie. I read the book and thought, ‘It’s a great story, it’s a timeless story.’ It’s like a more woman power version of Hairspray, which was already super, ‘Hey, we’re minorities and we’re fighting to be at the forefront.’ This is even more that, and it’s modern. I think that it’s an important story right now, so when they said they were gonna make a movie, I never thought I’d be a part of it. I just thought, ‘Isn’t that cool that Jennifer Aniston is doing this movie of this book that I really liked?’ We also get a stack of auditions, and you film 20 of them and hope that something comes through, and Dumplin’ was one that slipped through the cracks for me. I would get three reminders of it, and I was in the back of a nightclub in like Alabama or something, this strange nightclub somewhere, I probably had a few cocktails at that point. So, I sat down and filmed these two lines that probably didn’t make any sense, and I just tagged the video with, ‘Hey, I could really use this job right now, I love the book, I’m broke, give me your money.’ Two weeks later, I get a phone call from my agent saying, ‘Hey, the film’s producers would really like you to fly to Atlanta and have a meeting with them.’ I was on tour at the time and didn’t have a single day off. I had a connecting flight to Atlanta two days later, which I extended for like four hours, so I ran over to the studio and got up into drag. I didn’t even end up auditioning, I sat there and talked with Anne who directed it, and Kristen who wrote it. We just had a huge conversation about life in general, and I looked at the time and was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry I have to go, I don’t have time to do the audition.’ They drove me to the airport and they said, ‘I just wish this was more than two lines, you’re so talented.’ And I said, ‘You’re the director, you’re the writer, call the producers and rewrite it.’ Haha like a joke. I didn’t hear anything back for like almost a month. My agent called me and said, ‘Ginger, what the hell did you say to them when you went to that audition?’ I said, ‘Oh my god, why? Did I not get it?’ He said, ‘No, I want to know what you said to them.’ I said, ‘Well they said to me they wished there was more for me to do so I told them to write me a bigger role.’ He said, ‘Okay, well they did.’ Now, I’m no longer there for one day doing two lines, I’m there for two weeks. It just blew my mind. I got to set and everyone was so welcoming.

Wow. What was it like to work with Jennifer Aniston?
Jennifer actually brought coffee to my trailer on the first day. She welcomed me to the movie, because they had already been on set for like a month. She said, ‘Thank you so much for being part of our film’, and of course that was the closest I’ll ever get to her and ever will for the rest of my life. But it was just such a sweet moment, and then Anne would call down to the trailer and say, ‘Ginger, go to wardrobe, they have a costume for you, put it on and come down to the set.’ I didn’t have a script, I was just in my dress, and I walked down to set and she said, ‘Go over there in that corner and just play around on camera.’ So, I improvised about 45 minutes worth of stuff over a week’s timeframe, outside of the scripted stuff I already did. Anne said she couldn’t part with most of it, so a lot of my ad-libs are in there. It’s a very long story, I apologise!

No, don’t worry. You rarely hear about roles happening like that.
Well you know, it’s the stuff you take super seriously and you’re really hyper focused on, that you don’t usually get. There’s been plenty of roles where I’m like, ‘This was written for me.’ There was this role in this movie that just came out, that was written for a thirty-something, fat gay couple of drag queens who are trying to have a baby. That’s literally my life. I thought, ‘The story is so fresh and current to me, I’m living it, I’d love to share my story through this character.’ I fought so hard for the role, and I ended up losing out to some tall thin straight man from California, and I was devastated. I had less ambition for Dumplin’ because I never expected to get it. All of a sudden, in the midst of my devastation for that other role, Dumplin’ comes through, and it turned into this big beautiful experience.

I wasn’t planning on asking this, but it seems relevant. What are your thoughts on straight people getting queer roles over LGBTQ actors?
I’m an actor first and foremost. I have played men, I have played women, I have played gay people, I have played straight people, I’ve played everybody under the sun. And I think that if you’re a good enough actor, you can pretty much play anything. But when our representation is so low, I don’t believe that it’s ethically correct for straight people to take the roles away, ones that are actually written for us. Look at this whole debacle a few weeks ago with Scarlett Johansson playing that trans man. First of all, she’s not the right age, she didn’t look anything like the actual man looked in real life. I felt like if anybody queer from our greater umbrella was going to play that role, it should’ve gone to Lea DeLaria because she embodies what that character was. That aside, I think Scarlett Johansson is a fabulous actress. I have loved her in so many movies, and I will gladly support her in anything. But this is such a huge milestone for the trans community to have that kind of representation in mainstream film. To have that story taken away from the community that created that story, that lived that story, I felt like it was a slap in the face. She’s already a star and she didn’t need that. That could’ve been somebody else’s, a trans actresses’ big break.

This year, we’ve had Dumplin’ and A Star Is Born with Willam and Shangela. Do you think we’re about to see drag artists and trans people in more mainstream films?
I think that we certainly will, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take for us to really break through because we’re a novelty right now and we have to prove ourselves. People are going, ‘Oh okay, well there is a market for drag and the RuPaul’s Drag Race brand, there’s a huge market for it.’ Now, we’re given more opportunities, we really have to not only open the door, but knock them all down, and walk in and say, ‘We’re talented, we’re artists and we’re here and deserve more representation.’

It feels like there’s been a long time since we’ve had a proper cult classic drag film like To Wong Foo or Priscilla. Do you think the world is ready soon for a big blockbuster film with drag queens?
I would love for another Priscilla or To Wong Foo with actual drag artists. Those films are iconic and I love them, and I grew up on both of those movies, but Patrick Swayze at the end of the day was Patrick Swayze. I’m glad we had that representation on film, and it made drag a little less scary for mainstream audiences, but I think we’re at a time in place where we are able and capable of telling our own stories. Did you see that movie last year, Girls Trip? I feel like we need a drag version of that. You need to throw me, Phi Phi O’Hara and BenDeLaCreme in a car and send us across country on some kind of trip, and see how it plays out. I think the story opportunities are endless and the comedy is endless. I think it would just be really important right now. I think people would really see the joy and the sparkle in drag, so I wouldn’t mind doing something that really focuses on the serious side of a drag artist. A lot of people don’t realise that I live in Orlando and w have joint custody of my two nephews, we have a fully realised family that we’re taking care of. We go through the same exact struggles that every family goes through, every single day. A lot of people don’t realise that, so I’d love to be able to tell that story. This is why I was so gung-ho to do that other movie. I didn’t particularly care that the role went to someone straight, my biggest concern was that they were gonna tailor that role to that person, and cut all the important parts out of what the actual storyline was. I’m from Florida, where we don’t really have gay adoption here. They’re very very against it, and it goes all the way back to the 70s with Anita Bryant and all that bullshit. It’s something that we’re constantly fighting against here in Florida. I thought, ‘This would be the perfect opportunity to shed a little light on this subject, and maybe open up that conversation.’ I’m afraid that that’s not gonna happen now.

 

We’re still in an era where they’re favouring straight, cisgender actors over people who have actually lived those experiences.
Yeah, and my biggest goal right now is to play Ursula in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid. I grew up watching Divine, she was my saviour, she was my RuPaul. She was the drag superstar. And I’ve always referred to her as the Marilyn Monroe of the gay community, because she was this blonde bombshell who died way before she reached her greatest success. She was a legitimate movie star, and it’s crazy that we haven’t had a legitimate drag mainstream movie star since her. Even Ru, she’s dabbled in movies, but her success has been in movies and television. I’ve always felt like, ‘Okay, I’m next in line, I’m gonna be the new Divine.’ And Ursula was based on Divine. Divine would’ve voiced Ursula if she hadn’t died when she did, so I feel like it would be right to have a drag artist do the role. If you’re gonna have a drag artist do it, I’m probably one of the most qualified to do it. I can sing and I can act it, I love that role and I cherish it, it’s a huge part of my life. I think that I should at least be given the opportunity to fight for that role.

Out of all the queens that have been on Drag Race, there’s no doubt whatsoever that you’re the most qualified to play the role.
When people think of Drag Race and theatre queens, they think of Jinkx, Ben and myself. We’re really the three that they go to. The talent pool of Drag Race is very wide and very amazing, but when it comes to those specific boxes to check, singing, acting and dancing, there’s only a handful of us to do it. I think I happen to be the only plus-size girl that checks those boxes as well. There’s rumours online that they’re giving it to Lady Gaga, there’s rumours that they’re giving it to Monique. I think Monique would be great, but Gaga is probably not the right type for the role. She should be a larger girl, and that’s all I’m truly worried about at the end of that, that Ursula remains what Ursula always was, which was voluptuous, confident and beautiful. That’s what bothered me about the Broadway production. They hired a teeny beautiful woman, and I said, ‘It makes sense because Ursula hasn’t transformed in Vanessa, and it’ll be easier to just take a fat suit off of her.’ But then they cut Vanessa from the musical altogether, and she didn’t transform. In order to combat the fact that they cast this beautiful tiny woman, they gave her moles and warts and turned her into this very ugly hag, and that offended me more than anything. They were equating plus-size with ugly, and Ursula was never ugly. She was glamorous, she was painted, her hair was done… She was stunning, and it really bothered me. I sat there and wanted to cry the entire time, and not just because of Ursula, it was the entire concept, which wasn’t very magical and not very Disney.

It would be a massive disappointment for a lot of people if a drag artist isn’t cast as Ursula.
I think it really will be, for a lot of people. It’s always been a goal of mine to do it, but I never thought that it was an attainable goal until I woke up one day and Billboard magazine said why I should play the role. All these petitions started online, and it was being signed and shared by people who I never in a million years thought would support. That’s what made me go, ‘Okay, well maybe the world is actually ready for it.’ That’s why I’ve been doing everything I can to do to remain relevant, to keep reinventing and keep myself fresh. That’s why I did the Super Drags cartoon for Netflix, because it was new and it was different. I don’t completely 100% agree with all the storytelling, of course. But I think it’s an extremely important moment in queer culture, we suddenly have a drag mainstream cartoon. Someone said on Twitter, ‘This show is so offensive, it sets us back 15 years.’ I said, ‘Sweetheart, we wouldn’t have had this 15 years ago. This wouldn’t have been on the table. This is the farthest thing from getting greenlit 15 years ago.’ I know that because I’m 34-years-old, I’ve been around and I’ve seen it. I hate it because I feel like I’m turning into my mother, but you’ll understand it when you get older!

The fact that it’s on Netflix, the biggest source of watching television in the world, shows how far we’ve come.
It’s getting so much flack that my character within the first five minutes of the first episode gropes an unconscious bus driver. First of all, I didn’t write it. It’s not my story I’m telling. People were going online and saying, ‘Ginger Minj assaulted an unconscious bus driver.’ No, Ginger Minj did not! She had nothing to do with it. When you’re doing voiceover work in a booth, and it clicks in your ear three times, you read your lines. That’s exactly how it happened. I didn’t have a full script. If you make it past that moment into the next episode, the character has this full transformation, emotionally, about love and self-care. It was a really important lesson. The third episode deals with conversion therapy. There are important lessons in there and it’s something that we need to talk about. We need to talk about it within our community, outside our community on a broader level, and I think that it’s bringing up these conversations that have to happen. Be grateful that this has happened.

It’s funny how they don’t say this about other animated series, like Family Guy or American Dad. I’m a massive fan of both, but there’s a lot of violence.
There was just an episode of Family Guy where Stewie and his girlfriend where they were murdering people all over the world and making a game out of it. No one’s offended by that because it’s mainstream, and they’re conditioned to say that it’s humour and because it’s not real life. I understand drag queens and the gay community as a whole, we want amazing representation, we wanted to come out with this show and have everybody go, ‘Okay, I get it now.’ But that’s never gonna happen. There’s gonna be good and there’s gonna be bad in everything, and we’re always going to react to everything differently. But we should all be really grateful that it’s there, and it’s starting this conversation and started the ball rolling. If this is successful, there’s no telling how this will influence other television shows and films about drag queens.

Some people just like to be offended…
They do. I also told them when they told me about the bus driver scene, when they asked me if I was offended by that, I said, ‘Yeah, I’m offended by it, but it’s starting a conversation, we’re talking about consent and we’re talking about sexual harassment and what the line is.’ Is it completely a bad thing if it’s bringing up this conversation?

You were quite vocal recently about some publications not including you in the article’s headline for Super Drags. Why do you think some outlets only gravitate to certain queens?
I’m the first one to admit that I’m not one of the mainstream popular queens. I would say I’m probably in the top 15-20 because I’ve constantly worked since my season, I book really great gigs, and I’ve not faded back into my old job. I’ve always been on an upward trajectory. But, I’m always not a Trixie Mattel or a Katya or an Alaska, who have the biggest and most vocal fanbase. My fanbase is typically, and I’m not going to exclude anyone because I have fans everywhere, of all shapes and sizes and ages, but for the most part they are middle aged housewives and gays. They don’t get online and share everything and make it go viral. That’s not my fanbase and I’m okay with that. You look at girls like Trixie, and her fanbase is really young and very very vocal. So all day online, you see these Trixie and Katya fan accounts talking about them and sharing things about them, and keeping them very relevant on social media. When it comes to doing online articles, you want to – and I think you’ll probably agree – to make it as attractive overall for everybody, for the regular viewer who may not know who Ginger Minj is. There’s also an issue when it says, ‘Trixie Mattel, Shangela, Willam and others.’ There’s only one other, and it’s me. It takes just as much effort and space to write ‘Ginger’ as it does ‘and others’. So with some of these publications that were doing that, especially the gay ones, it did feel like a personal flight. ‘Oh, I didn’t like her on her season so I’m not going to include her.’ And while my husband tells me I’m just paranoid, I’m like, ‘No, I’m not, I’ve been around this for five years now, I know how this cycle works.’ It did hurt my feelings. Trixie and Willam are fantastic in the show, but their roles are smaller. Shangela, Rod Keller and I are at the forefront.

I wanted to ask you about All Stars. The general consensus is that you were a bit shafted on All Stars 2, just like Manila and Latrice were on the first season. Would you also return, like they have?
I knew on All Stars 2 that I was going to be shafted, whether it was by production or by myself, because I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t in the mental state to do it. I had just lost to Violet. And not only did I lose, but the marriage I was in, after eleven years, had finally ended. It was just a bad situation. My grandfather that raised me passed away in the same time. There was a lot going on, and the fanbase was really evil towards me after season seven. There was reasons for it, I was not a happy person at that time, so it came across as bitter and insecure. I have changed so much now, and I’m a completely different person who possesses the same ability, so I would love to go back and give it another shot. I knew going in, my head wasn’t in it and I didn’t wanna be there. I was looking for a way out the entire time, whether I realised it or not. But now, I sit here and think, ‘I would’ve slayed All Stars 3.’ Those challenges were right up my alley. All Stars 4 is a great group of girls who I’ve worked with, and I know that if it’s anything like All Stars 2 or 3, I would slay those challenges. I’m ready to go back now!

I think fans are going to be very happy with that response…
I would go back in a heartbeat. I was not upset that I wasn’t invited back for All Stars 4, I was very upset that I wasn’t invited back to the Christmas special. I am Christmas. I’m fat and jolly and I wear white hair a lot! So I hope that becomes an annual thing that I could eventually be a part of, more than an All Stars.

Who are you rooting for on All Stars 4 and the Christmas special?
For the Christmas special, I really want Shangela to win, mostly so she doesn’t have to come back again. That poor girl, her knees must have it bad from popping out of all those boxes. For All Stars, I don’t know… I love Latrice, and I would love to see a big girl finally win, and I think Latrice is the most well loved out of all the big girls. It would also be nice to see a queen of colour in the Hall of Fame because we’ve got three very pale girls right now. I would love to see a splash of colour in there as well. And outside of Latrice, I’ll give you three.Trinity Taylor, she’s an Orlando girl and I’ve been friends for years. Monique, there’s something about her that brings me so much joy, and she’s so happy and she’s so bitter all at the same time. She’s the amalgamation of the best things about being a drag queen and I root for her whether I want to or not. I’d be happy to see any of those three winning.

And finally, you’re about to tour the UK with your Christmas special, what can we expect?
I love the show, it’s one of my favourite one-woman shows that I’ve put together. It’s all about Christmas memories, and it’s silly, it’s got some really touching moments in it, and every Christmas song that you absolutely love – or hate. It’s just jam-packed full of holiday goodness, and it’s me, it’s jokes and it’s super fun. I think it’s a nice little gift wrapped package for the holidays.

You can buy tickets for Ginger Minj’s upcoming UK tour, Crossdresser for Christ-mas, here. 

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