Peppermint Says Now Is the Time to Be Loud, Proud, and Registered to Vote

Plus, the singer-actress dishes on her latest R&B tour and filming ‘Fire Island.’

Peppermint | Photo by Robert Frashure
Peppermint | Photo by Robert Frashure

Ever since her boundary-breaking appearance as the first out trans cast member of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Peppermint has been keeping rather busy. From performances on Broadway to co-hosting her own drag competition show, Call Me Mother, she gives new meaning to the term “multi-hyphenate.” She and I recently caught up via video chat to talk about her latest tour, the realities of dating while trans, and the importance of local politics.

Thrillist: How are you doing?

Peppermint: I’ve got an abundance of gratitude. Throughout the pandemic I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work and continue to pay the bills and to create. There certainly were some difficult times which meant I had to sacrifice one thing or another, or lean into something a little bit more than I might normally need. But it feels great.

These past couple of years have been transformative in many ways. It reminds me of experiences in the past. I used to work makeup full time and then ended up leaving that and having no other prospects and I was like, Well I guess I’m going to do drag full time! And so that’s what I did and I never looked back.

I need to talk about the choreography video you did to Janet Jackson’s “If.” I had the cassette single when I was 10 years old and it was my first introduction to Janet. What made you pick that song?

It’s definitely one of her most iconic in terms of dance. I’m not a professional dancer by trade, but I would argue that, for those who study choreography and who are interested in the history of pop dance, it’s probably one of the top ten pieces. It’s clearly inspired so many other pieces.

When it came out, I learned the choreography immediately. If you were around and we had some free time, you were learning that choreo! When I was in high school, when I was a camp counselor, I taught it to everyone. I remember doing it so much as a kid and never had a chance to commemorate it until now. So I was like, you know what, while I still have one good knee, let’s go back and do the moves and get it on video. Let’s make a tribute to Janet. Hopefully she’s pleased by it—she retweeted it. And I think we’re going to do another one.

Peppermint | Photo by Robert Frashure

Your tour that just wrapped up. Can you talk about that?

Speaking of Janet, a lot of my live performances have really been inspired by her style of presentation: dancers and a band and all this and that. This album, Letters to my Lovers, which is very ’90s R&B, doesn’t call for any of that. So was my first tour where I was out alone. Well, not alone; I have my musical director Daniel and musicians playing along with me on stage.

This was my first chance to watch people connect to this music, which is about my most recent relationship. It was the best one I’d been in so far. With a lot of the other relationships I’ve had, if you’re dating someone in the closet, it has a lot of the same, um, features as a lot of trans people and especially trans women experience dating people who don’t identify with being queer. They’re straight, but they don’t know how to publicly navigate their connection to dating a trans person, which oftentimes means a lot of secrecy, a lot of shame. This was the first time I dated someone who wasn’t in that situation. We were just out in public doing our thing. We would argue about the dumbest, regular things: what to watch, the toilet seat. It was refreshing.

That’s what the relationship was, and it ended. And I wrote three EPs worth of feelings and emotions—Taylor Swift and Adele-style [laughs]. It’s basically the beginning, middle, and end of the relationship. It’s about love and acceptance, relationships, fuck boys, dating drama…all that through a nineties, early 2000s R&B lens.

I loved seeing you in the movie Fire Island. What was that experience like?

It was so much fun. For me it was a quick experience, only one full day of filming. It was great to be with the entire cast and hang out with everybody. It feels good to be a part of movies and TV shows that are retelling classics.

I think Fire Island does a great job of really making the story their own. Joel Kim Booster did a great job of retelling the story in a completely new, queer, Asian-American way. I just love that the cast is so diverse and so strong in comedy. It’s a beautiful love story and I think it will provide a huge education for people who have never been to Fire Island.

Yeah, going to that part of Fire Island is a very specific experience. Anything else you want to talk about?

This is out of left field, but hopefully since there are some queer folks and allies reading this, I want to ask people to put extra energy into going out and specifically supporting queer folks and trans artists who are out there right now trying to create art and stay visible in a world—in a country—that’s in many states trying to make it harder for us to be visible legally right now.

In addition to that, just everyone register to vote right now because in a few months is the midterms, which means you have the opportunity to put a barrier between those who have higher aspirations in politics nationally who are coming up through the ranks in your cities and states. So please get into local elections. Find out who is in your city council, in your district, and vote for the person you think will do the best at each level. Take care, honey! Read up on it!

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John deBary is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book, Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book, Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.