The wider world may have met Peppermint back when she slayed the competition on the ninth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But if there’s one thing Miss Pepp is going to do, it’s remind you that she always has been—and always will be—the moment.
Where to begin? Peppermint’s had acting roles in everything from Pose to SNL to Fire Island. On stage, she’s made herstory as the first trans woman to originate a Broadway role in the Go-Gos musical Head Over Heels. She’s continued to drop bop after bop, including her ambitious R&B trilogy project, Letters To My Lovers. And, somehow, she still makes time to be a vocal trans activist, LGBTQ rights advocate, and veritable meme queen.
And this November, she’ll be co-headling a one-of-a-kind tour with Drag Race mainstay Jujubee. As they travel across the country, Pep promises her “Letters Live” show will be “something completely different” with live vocals, a live band, and so much R&B goodness. She sees the tour as an opportunity to show off the breadth of her talent, proving that drag entertainers have so much more to offer than “lip-sync [to] a Whitney Houston or Cher song.”
But, before she hits the road, Peppermint graced Queerty with her presence as the latest celebrity guest of our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our hilarious and enlightening conversation, the star touches on everything from her go-to roadtrip snack, to the Prince-Janet Jackson jukebox musical of her dreams, to the unused Drag Race look that’s still haunting the back of her closet to this day. But is it fashion? Well, depends who you ask…
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Is there a piece of pop-culture—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, etc…—that you consider a big part of your coming-out journey? Why does it stand out to you?
Being trans, I had the opportunity to come out for myself—like, big life coming-outs—more than once. The first time was as [someone] who likes boys. The second time was as trans. So, a book that was really useful, helpful, instrumental to me was Transgender History by Susan Stryker. There’s just a lot of great quotes to pull from that book, and for me it really was the book that was like, “Okay, basically, trans people ain’t nothin’ new. We’ve been around for a long time, and even though that history isn’t really recorded that well, here’s some connections for you.” And that was really helpful—it’s very grounding.
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In November, you’ll embark on your “Letters Live” tour traveling all across America. What’s your go-to airport/rest stop snack and why?
Oh it’s gummi bears! And not just any brand—I will not just eat gummi bears. I only eat one brand of gummi bear: Haribo. If you bring me something else, I’ll know it immediately, and I’m not interested. [Laughs.]
If I were reincarnated from a previous life, I do believe I was a fruit bat. Because I love fruit! I could just live off of fruit all day, every day. So, obviously, I also like fruit-flavored candy. There’s something about those Haribo gummi bears; they really do taste like the fruits that they’re saying that they are!
And of course this is a joint tour with the one and only Jujubee—what makes Juju an ideal tour-mate? You two have known each other for a few years now—what’s something you can tell us about Jujubee that might surprise her fans?
I haven’t yet toured with Juju, but we have obviously worked together many, many times for many years. We’re both East Coast gals, and that is a very particular vibe. So we hit it off amazingly every single time—so famously. We’re often booked together on the same [shows,] so then we’re in each other’s hotel room, eating together, playing cards, and hanging out. And that part of our relationship is so fierce, so I’m excited to have those tour bus hangs with Juju.
But Juju has such great writing, beautiful music, and her albums are critically acclaimed! The vibe of her music is like pop-R&B, whereas I’m going straight for the R&B jugular, so the music sits really nice next to each other. R&B is as a total vibe, it’s a feeling—you can relax a little bit, you can get into the groove, you can listen to the words, and understand the music; it’s not just about sound effects.
It’s about being able to show people: This is what queer entertainers can be and can do, unapologetically. Yes, it’s wonderful if you want to listen to all the hottest remixes of your—non-queer—icons, but if you want to support queer artists in a way that’s not just seeing us do a number at the gay bar, then come to our show!
You originated the role of Pythio in the Broadway musical Head Over Heels, which was based on the music of The Go-Gos. If you could build a musical around another artist’s catalogue, who would it be and why?
Well, it would be a very, very, very intense tug of war between Prince and Janet Jackson.
Okay, I think we could spin this and like tell both of their stories in one musical, right?
I mean, they are both connected to Minneapolis. Janet obviously isn’t from Minneapolis, but her rebirth as an as a solo artist really came out of the Minneapolis sound—connected by her two most popular producers: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were a part of Morris Day’s band, The Time. And that was a subset group for Prince, who also helped produce for those guys. So Janet and Prince are very connected. And I just really worked that, huh? [Laughs.] There’s a story there for sure.
The latest in your Letters To My Lovers trilogy is called “Moment Of Weakness”—what’s a moment in your career you’d say you maybe felt weak or vulnerable and how did you overcome it?
Once I was helping raise money in an auction for a popular LGBT charity group. They had asked to host, which meant I would have to go and get in front of the audience, speak to the celebrities and all the donors that were in the room. There was lots of money involved—like thousands and thousands of dollars that was going to be generated and moving around.
But I remember not having enough money to even go to the event. I didn’t have enough money for a taxi, I didn’t even have enough money for the bus. And, on top of that, there were these accusations of transphobia going around with this organization. And so it didn’t feel very good to know that I was literally taking my last couple of dollars—I had to dig in the couch to find some actual coins to have enough to take the subway down to the [venue.]
It was the fact that I was using my last dime to help them make more than their last dime—especially for a corporation that was being accused of transphobia… It felt very the opposite of what I needed to be doing. And it certainly didn’t feel like I was taking care of myself. I felt very weak and powerless that moment.
But! I will never do that again. Lesson learned, baby!
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You always bring the visuals in your music videos, so—with that in mind—what would you say in an underrated music video that everyone should stop and go watch right now? What makes it so great?
I’d say I’d have to go back to my past for this—just seeing these music videos moved me so much. Actually, I have three…
Certainly Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which, there’s no reason to explain that. I was a kid during that time, and I was actually afraid of that music video. I liked watching it with my family, but then there was this time when my babysitter [pretended to] turn into a zombie after we watched the video and she was chasing me around the house. I just remember I was so afraid [Laughs.] Now that I think about it, that was really cruel of her! But, no, that video was major.
The next one I would have to say, definitely, is Missy Elliott’s “The Rain.” That was her first big music video with the trash bag thing that she’s wearing where she’s full of all the air. I don’t know what it’s like to be on acid, but I think it’s probably a lot like that.
And then the last one I’m going to say is more somber, and it’s got some controversy online. But, as a child, seeing the music video for the song “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam really affected me deeply. It’s obviously very violent. But to have that play out in what I believe to be an artful way really rocked me to my core.
Who is a queer artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?
Obviously, Saucy Santana is one. I mean, there’s so many—I’m almost at a loss for words! In terms of indie folks, I love Michael Blume—check them out. I did a guest feature on a remix of one of their songs with Shea Coulée called “R U MAD,” which is fire.
And there’s another person named Be Steadwell—oh my gosh, please go watch a video of theirs. How they create music is so spectacular. A wonderful artist, and they create the sound on their own—they’re almost like a queer, Black version of Klaus Nomi. It’s such a masterpiece, and it’s so rare to see a queer person doing that and, you know, singing about anal sex, or whatever. It’s so cool.
Have you held onto any keepsakes from your time on Drag Race—a specific garment you wore, something from the Werk Room, etc…— why is it sentimental to you?
Surprisingly, I still have probably half of the garments that I wore on the show even though most of them do not fit anymore.
But the thing that I probably should get rid of is a dress that I actually never wore! It’s a dress that was supposed to be like the one that Kim Kardashian wore to the Met Gala when she was pregnant. And I’m not a fashion girl, but, honey, this was not something I would recommend. [Laughs.] And so I had that dress made, but I didn’t even wear it. Instead, Shea Coulée wore it on our season when we did a skit where she had to be a pregnant person.
And the other thing I still have that I should probably get rid of—because it’s not even really a dress—is my promo outfit. That was like a long turquoise thing. It’s actually not a dress because there’s no opening. And you can’t put it on unless you’ve got a team of people sewing you into it. So I should probably get rid of it. [Laughs.] But I love it; it’s so special to me.
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Check out Peppermint’s latest visuals for “Broken Home”—off the Moment Of Weakness: Letters To My Lovers album—below. And you can head to her site for tickets and more info on the “Letters Live” tour.