Jackie Cox RuPaul’s Drag Race Interview

You recently got involved with It Gets Better to shoot a video talking about mental health. And I wanted to ask you is: A.) How did that come about? and B.) What drew you to being part of the project?

JC: So my first experience with It Gets Better was during the season. I got to live-tweet a couple times from their Twitter account — which the great thing about that account is that it reaches a lot of young people. And on RuPaul’s Drag Race, no matter what season, I think the best thing about the show, beyond the drag itself, is that you see a dozen queer people being honest and open about their experiences and their lives. This season had some really meaningful moments in the Werkroom, with Widow and the other queens who shared a lot about their personal lives and backgrounds, and I think that’s really important kids to see. So I was happy to live-tweet along with the show and share with the kids what my thoughts were.

For this event, in specific, my good drag sister here in New York City, Chelsea Piers, who’s helped me through so many things — in fact she designed half of my wigs that I wore on RuPaul’s Drag Race and has been a collaborator and co-writer with me on lots of projects — said, “Hey, I have this project from It Gets Better if you want to do it with me,” and I said, “Of course, let’s do it!” Let’s talk about mental health with young people, because I think it just helps just talking about your own experience and what that’s been like. For both of us being young, queer people of different backgrounds, who ultimately found success in what we chose to do, and all while being publicly queer people, is something that I hope is inspiring to kids or at least gives them the space to feel like they can do those things as well. And then also being open about our struggles, Chelsea and I talked a lot about our own struggles and how we deal with that.

Actually, that leads me to my next couple of questions. I did want to ask you, what advice would you give to young LGBTQ+ kids who are stuck at home right now and maybe struggling with anxiety or feelings of extreme isolation?

JC: Yeah, it’s very isolating right now and I struggle with this too. I think a big thing is to do what you can to put yourself out there, in whatever safe way you can. If there are friends that you can DM, if there are friends that you can FaceTime — I think that’s toughest for some kids who can’t even FaceTime, so it’s even harder for them to have that human connection. I know that there are big discussions around how difficult this quarantine has been for the mental health of so many young people. Luckily, we live in a world where most kids have access to each other and support resources [like It Gets Better] to help them to not feel so alone.

What techniques did you use in 2020 to help keep your mental health well?

JC: Well I’ll say this: it was difficult. One of the hardest things to do for me in isolation was drag, because I’d always associated drag with that feeling of joy of making an audience laugh or smile, or emotionally connecting to me on stage. And that’s the first thing that was really stripped away from us (queens) and it’s just not the same performing to a camera on Zoom. But, I think I learned to find that joy through reading comments, so when I’m on Instagram Live or on a Zoom performance, I am actually trying to connect with the folks watching over comments that they’re leaving me. Just trying different ways to rewire my brain where it’s like, even though I can’t hear their laughter when I see the laughter emoji, I can kind of get the rush I get from performing. And then a lot of positive self-talk, reminding myself how lucky I was to even able to do drag during this time, how lucky I was that people even wanted to see what I had to do on Instagram or on a Zoom video show. Remembering that I was lucky in 2020 and that RuPaul’s Drag Race gave me that platform to reach people all over the world.

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