“Drag Becomes Him” is a documentary that follows the life of Jinkx Monsoon, drag queen and winner of the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Seattle based filmmaker Alex Berry shot, directed, and edited the film independently, and he visited Bellevue College on Oct. 21 for a screen filming and Q-and-A.
Jinkx said he wants to be “known as an artist, and not just a female impersonator.” Jinkx, who is known offstage as Jerick Hoffer, attended Cornish College of the Arts. Hoffer trained in theater and used the skills he acquired during his education to enhance his drag performances, as well as the character of Jinkx Monsoon.
Hoffer began performing as a drag queen at the age of 15. He had familial support early on, especially that of his grandmother who stored his costumes at her home, and helped him get ready sometimes.
“It wasn’t scripted or anything, and that’s how I like to work,” said Berry describing the film. “Drag Becomes Him” began as a sit down interview between Berry and Hoffer, which got so much positive feedback that it spawned a 5-part online series. This was before Hoffer auditioned for RuPaul’s Drag race, and Berry was the one who filmed Hoffer’s audition tape, which lead to him getting accepted into the competition.
“Capturing reality as it really is,” was Berry’s intent with the casual format of the film, often showing scenes of Hoffer getting into or out of costume, putting makeup on or taking a wig off.
“I knew he was going to be famous,” said Hoffer’s mother in the film. Initially, Hoffer hid his drag queen lifestyle from his mother, electing to spend weekends at his grandmother’s house and perform at nightclubs and bars while he was away.
Berry tries to capture and depict “the full spectrum of a person” in his films, and within “Drag Becomes Him” we see one individual take on the role of sibling, role model, performer, celebrity, caregiver and more.
Jinkx Monsoon was composed of elements from inspirations from Hoffer’s childhood, including Meryl Streep, Jessica Rabbit and Catwoman, but Hoffer said he really found his drag persona more after he moved to Seattle from Portland. He said Seattle audiences “put the performance above anything else,” and that they look past the visual to what the performer is actually doing.
“He’s always had this funny quirky side. He’s always been so imaginative,” said Hoffer’s mother. Performances by Jinkx Monsoon are multifaceted, ranging from impersonations and parody song covers, to stand-up comedy and opera singing.
Berry has an associates in media arts from the University of Arizona, but he said filmmaking as an art can’t really be taught. He said schooling is helpful but that film education ultimately has to improve to include different techniques and visions as a means to a creative end.