With 15 seasons under its belt and even more spin-offs, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has become a global phenomenon. Just ask Jimbo, one of its international scene stealers.
The self-described drag clown has competed on three iterations of the hit reality series, expanding her entertainment empire with each appearance. She first captivated viewers on season one of “Canada’s Drag Race” in 2020, placing fourth, and returned to place seventh on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs. The World” in 2022.
Now she’s taken the crown, winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” season eight last month. The victory also came with a coveted place in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, making Jimbo the first international queen to win a placement.
The entertainer competed against 11 other fan favorites as an early frontrunner. She won four main challenges over its 12-episode run — which featured her massive breast plates, an instantly iconic Shirley Temple impersonation and the return of Casper the Baloney Ghost, her lunchmeat-flinging original character — setting her up to triumph over runner-up Kandy Muse.
“This season I fell in love with each of our All Stars all over again,” RuPaul said in a statement July 21. “But in the end, Jimbo’s ginormous talents were impossible to ignore. Long may they jiggle.”
Watermark spoke with Jimbo after her “All Stars” victory about her work and what comes next, including a worldwide tour visiting Florida next year.
WATERMARK: How do you describe the difference between a drag queen and a drag clown?
Jimbo: Every drag queen is different and each drag queen is kind of known for their own special little thing, so I am a drag clown because clowning is how I understand performance. And the type of planning I do is all about really listening to an audience and connecting with them and kind of going with, as it says, your worst idea. You kind of just live in the moment, you’re spontaneous and you tap into being a conduit for your audience for joy and laughter.
That’s the difference between I think, maybe typical drag and clown drag; typical drag is a performance that is prepared, and you present it start to finish, and it lives within its own isolated performance. I kind of do it interchangeably. Clown performance is specific in that moment and in that night with those specific audience members — the things that happen, that I say and I do, change and they don’t happen again in that way.
When you’re clowning, you kind of open yourself up to all the different possibilities and all of those things that you maybe planned on doing, they don’t necessarily happen. You just go with what’s happening, so it’s all about shared surprise. It’s all about spontaneity and just going with the flow.
Is that what draws you to performance, connecting with an audience that way?
I think it’s connecting with an audience and not being overly prepared. That was a barrier for me coming into performance. Before, I understood performance as something that you had to preconceive. That you had to rehearse and learn to a place where you could perform it exactly the same way to present that material to the audience so they take it in and laugh when you want them to laugh and feel what you want them to feel.
That whole process was really a barrier for me; clowning is really more about showing up willing to say “yes.” You are there in service of your audience, you have the best time and you share that with your audience.
How did you overcome that for “Drag Race?”
I think it was just trying to do as best as I could to be prepared and have everything I needed there with me, and then in the moment, try to make choices and do things that felt spontaneous and fresh to fulfill my personal need to do that. So that was making the choice to be Joan Rivers at the last minute [on an “All Stars” Roast challenge]. I had my Joan Rivers wig there, but I didn’t really know that it was going to be a roast and that I would do that. So that was me being able to make a choice there that felt spontaneous and truthful when the girls were all saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t do a character because that makes it too hard.” My brain thought, “okay, well, I’m doing a character then. I need to do it like this,” and I was able to do that because I had stuff there.
It was the same with Casper. I didn’t know if I was gonna do Casper, but I had that there with me and I was able to listen to their critiques and what they were looking for. I thought, “okay, I can do a Casper performance and maybe win this lip sync. So it’s a combination of being prepared and kind of being spontaneous.
What has “Drag Race” taught you about yourself as an artist?
I think it’s taught me to just really believe in myself, my voice and my ideas. When you’re an artist on a small island like I was on the west coast of Canada, with my own community and my own audience, everything was very small and I got the sense from everybody that it was entertaining, and that people connected to it and people loved it. I was celebrated and encouraged, but it wasn’t until I reached a much bigger audience base and platform that I was able to see really the scale to which people love my art and love my take on it. That was really encouraging and showed me, okay, I can really experiment and I have an audience that is wanting to see it.
Did you approach “All Stars” differently than your other seasons?
Yeah, I did. This time I wanted to try to be a bit calmer and a bit more measured in my reactions and my response. I was having fun in the past with being a little bit frivolous with how I acted, or what I did, just because you can.
It’s a made-up world, you’re on reality TV, so it’s a choose your own adventure. But when you exit and you watch it all back, you have to live with those decisions and you have to live with the fandom and all those things. So that definitely shaped my performance and my time on there. I thought, “okay, I have to be really cautious of the choices that I make, because they have repercussions for myself on the show and with my sisters in their lives and everything.”
Casper and Shirley Temple were big hits. How do you conceptualize your characters and why do you think they resonate with fans?
I think people like seeing a little bit of everything. We are all very similar to each other in all sorts of different little ways that maybe are not so apparent on the outside at first glance.
So I think seeing somebody embody all these different ways of being, and feeling free and comfortable, to kind of flow through them and try them on for a bit and feel them out and then share that, it allows the audience to kind of share in that experience. To go those places without having to go there themselves necessarily, so they’re able to go like, “Holy shit. That was weird and crazy and I’m so glad I didn’t have to do that. But I got to watch you do it.” So I think it’s kind of funny that way.
What was it like to find out you won?
It makes me cry every time I watch [the results video.] It was so exciting and crazy. It’s just my dream coming true.
In that moment I knew it could go either way. Obviously I felt like I had a huge support base around the world of people that were Team Jimbo. But at the end of the day, it’s up to Mama Ru and the network and all of those other voices, the people and the fans, and you never know what it’s all going to boil down to. So I thought in that moment, I just wanted it so badly. I wanted to be in the Hall of Fame and have my crown and so I’m so glad it happened.
How does it feel to be the first international queen to enter the hall of fame?
It feels really inspirational. We have this amazing family of drag now that’s around the world, and everyone wants a chance to connect and to be celebrated and to show their art. So I feel like me being able to do this, and being able to do it in such a way that was able to resonate with so many people, it kind of gives hope to other drag queens around the world that maybe they’ll have an opportunity to do something similar, or to go on to a larger platform and have an experience like that.
What can fans expect from your “Jimbo’s Drag Circus” world tour coming to Florida next year?
The tour is basically my first large theatre solo tour. I have a background in production design and theater, and this is my first time where I’m focusing all of my energy and all of my past experience in theater and performance and I’m putting it all into my own show. It’s gonna be a cast of a lot of the characters that we saw on “Drag Race,” but put them all together and create a narrative between them all.
It’s basically a one-woman show where I cycle through and kind of skip around between each character doing performances. I’m also going to be doing live music. I love singing and performing music so it’s going to be an opportunity to weave in that with some characters and some visual beauty.
Is it difficult to have so many well-known characters fans hope to see?
No, I think it’s great. When someone knows a little bit about the character, the performance, it is kind of half the battle.
They’re excited to see it rather than going in with, “okay, what’s going on?” and then being excited. It’s kind of like listening to a song when you know the words … it’s a little bit more fun. I think it’s the same with performance, when you know where [the show] might go, it really allows the audience to say, “okay, I can really watch and I can really take this all in.”
So I think it’s fun and exciting to reference things that people have a little grasp of so that they’re able to share it.
Have any bologna companies reached out for sponsorship?
They haven’t. (Laughs.) I’ve reached out to a few of them, but I don’t know if they appreciate using it like I am — you’re not supposed to play with your food, so maybe they don’t like me throwing it all around … I had to travel around the world finding bologna in 17 countries last year. It was funny.
What message do you have for fans where LGBTQ+ rights are under attack?
Stay strong and know that this fight has been going on for a long time, and that there is progress, even when it feels like there’s not and it feels like we’re going backwards. As long as we still remain, fighting for what we believe is right, for our truth and our personal freedoms and our rights to be healthy and happy, as long as we’re doing that, and we’re pushing forward for our next generations, then we’re doing the right thing.
I think it’s when we start believing the false rhetoric, when we start being small and making ourselves less visible out of fear, that’s when they start winning. We have to really be visible and we have to be brave and we have to say, “there is nothing wrong with who we are. There’s nothing wrong with wanting love and rights and freedoms just like everyone else.”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” season eight is now streaming on Paramount+. For more information about Jimbo and her upcoming tours, visit HouseOfJimbo.com.