How Monét X Change Has Used Her Voice After Drag Race Win
We chat with the NYC queen about her podcast, new summer anthem, and future makeup line.
Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars season four winner Monét X Change has had an extremely full schedule ever since her win. With albums, podcasts, even a guest spot on Lovecraft Country, this queen is now beloved for so much more than just knowing how to properly wear a kitchen sponge. I caught up with her on a summer afternoon to chat about NYC versus LA drag culture, podcasting, and why local queens deserve more respect.
John deBary: What’s life like right now for you, as someone who is a performer, now that the pandemic is easing?
Monet X Change: I think life is definitely getting back to normal as much as possible. People still have a bit of trepidation about what they do and where they’re going, but I think people also really need to get out of the house and do stuff. I’ve been doing a bunch of shows, debuting two of the singles from my upcoming album. Honestly, COVID made me realize that I wanted to do more of my own music. There is always this scariness of “no one wants to listen to my music,” but people actually do want to hear my stuff.
JdB: “Soak It Up” was a banger…
MXC: Aww, thank you. The new album is so different from that. Definitely more of a soul, R&B vibe type of music as opposed to a clubby sound. “Love Like This” is the first single and we shot the music video over in Malibu but I’ve been telling everyone it’s Jamaica because it felt like Jamaica and with cameras you can make people think you’re anywhere. My family is from St. Lucia and I grew up on reggae and a lot of reggae is problematic and homophobic, so I thought, I’m going to make this very gay reggae song and let people live.
JdB: I’ve been following you for a while but I just learned that Honey Davenport is your drag mother.
MXC: Years ago in New York I was just out and about and she had just won a show, had a residence at New World Stages, and was doing a lot of the things I wanted to do and that I wanted my drag to emulate. Like, she would do half-bald, half-hair looks. So I asked her, and she said yes.
JdB: Can you explain the concept of drag family to the layperson?
MXC: Well, you know, in New York City it’s not really a thing. It’s not about the drag family as many other southern cities are and in the Midwest. People have drag mothers, and that’s a staple, but a drag family like you see with the Imans in Atlanta or the Davenports in Texas, they’re really a family. But the through line of choosing your own queer family is a thing you do. Bob the Drag Queen is part of my chosen family and I learned so much going to his shows as well as Peppermint’s, and just hanging out with them a lot in the city.
JdB: You’re living in LA now, but do you still consider yourself a New York City queen?
MXC: Oh yeah, for sure, I am definitely a NYC queen. Not to shade LA queens, but New York queens perform in a particular way. In New York, it’s just you on stage for two hours and you have to hold your own. We don’t bring a whole bunch of costumes. We bring one look and a pair of shoes and that’s what you’ve got from when you leave your apartment to when you get back.
JdB: And the venues are so small. When I saw you at the Laurie Beechman Theatre I think you actually changed on stage.
MXC: God bless Laurie Beechman, but it’s such a small venue. There’s no backstage. You gotta just make it work. You don’t have the luxury of a dressing room, like, what’s a dressing room? You bring everything that can fit in a purse for the whole night.
JdB: And you recently just launched a podcast with Lady Bunny, Ebony and Irony. Tell me about that.
MXC: Bunny and I have been friends for a while now and she’s so interesting. Bunny’s from an older school of drag kind of before this sanitization of drag, when drag was nightlife, when drag was seedy and grungy. We would always trade anecdotes and opinions about things and they would often contrast. So we thought a lot of people would want to hear that. The charm of our podcast is old-school meets new-school. We’ve had guests like Linda Simpson, Michael Musto, Joey Arias, and Margaret Cho. All these people who came up in nightlife in the ’80s and ’90s when it was so different, before cancel culture and before Drag Race and it’s always nice to talk to these people about their experiences and what their expectations of what drag was going to be and what it ended up being for them.
JdB: What’s something you wish more people knew about drag?
MXC: Drag is expensive! Things like makeup and tights are fucking expensive. Fishnet tights are 36 bucks and, when I was still a local queen, they were like 19 bucks. You’re doing a gig for like 150 bucks and on a really good night you make $300 in tips and then you have to take a cab both ways, especially in New York—I’ve taken the subway at 4, 5 in the morning and it’s not the safest thing to do. I just want people to realize that drag costs money and to give local girls more respect when you see something that’s not up to your standards. Nine times out of ten, when you put those $40 tights on for the first time you rip them. I always want people to think about that before they over-critique.
JdB: Beyond the new album, what’s next for you?
MXC: Bob and I are doing a makeup line, BoMo Cosmetics, that’s coming out this fall. So we’d love to have two black drag queens put out a makeup line because our needs and desires are different from other people. It will be nice to just pick up a compact and it will just show up on your skin without having to prime it and do all these things. Other than that, we’re working on some other grand ideas, a movie, and a lot of planning for that. And we’ll still be podcasting—we love everyone that listens and it’s a good time.