This Canadian-born queen – and the first queen of Iranian descent to compete on the show – turned in some memorable performances in the challenges, like her spot-on impersonation of Lisa Rinna in the Snatch Game and dazzled on the runway (she was the first queen to wear a Muslim hijab on the main stage.) While Jackie placed fourth in her season, she’s definitely a winner in our book.
Post-Drag Race, Jackie hit the road with her one-queen show “JackieVision” and appeared alongside Lisa Rinna on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives. And now, Jackie, a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, is taking to the stage in a new production of the beloved Broadway musical Grease. In the Musical Theatre West’s summer production, which runs through July 24 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Jackie plays two roles – no-nonsense English teacher, Miss Lynch, and the iconic Teen Angel.
In this production, the character is reimagined as a drag queen. Of the role, Jackie said, “Drag was underground in the 50s and 60s but it certainly existed. In the way I see my Teen Angel, I’ve come up with a backstory where Frenchie met some queer people in beauty school who introduced her to whatever underground drag shows are happening near Rydell. So her vision of Teen Angel just happens to be a fabulous drag queen!”
The fabulous Jackie graciously chatted with me during a break in her 12-hour rehearsal day (while getting her nails done) to talk about the new production and her love of theater. We also got to know a little more about her as she answered the Socialite Seven.
How did you get involved with this production of Grease?
I got an email from the director. I guess he had seen me doing a show in New York City and he had this idea of Teen Angel and Ms. Lynch being played by a drag queen…and he thought of me. So, they reached out and asked me if I’d be interested and I said, “Definitely! What a fun opportunity.”
Where did the idea to reimagine the Teen Angel come from?
Well, all they stressed was that it was some kind of form of me in drag. And so I thought I’m gonna push it to be the most glamorous drag queen, which is what I envisioned that Frenchy would imagine. So that’s kind of how I interpreted the idea.
Is it hard for you to switch roles between the teacher and the Teen Angel in the show?
Oh, it’s so much fun. I get to have a lot of fun in both roles. I mean, both roles are there to kind of poke at the kids a little bit. So, I get to do it in different ways – one from the more maybe conservative side as the teacher and then one that’s a little more progressive as Teen Angel.
I know you were a theater major, but how did you get bitten by the theater bug?
Oh my gosh. Way back when I was in elementary school, I remember we used to do little plays and my teacher told me, “you’re good at being emotional when you have to do these parts”…and I think it was a sad ghost. I had to play a sad ghost and the teacher told me, “I believe that you were sad.” I was like, “Oh my God, I’m an actress. Amazing.”
Do you remember your first theater memory?
I mean, my mom took me to the opera since before I could even remember. She would just put me in a little suit and take me to the opera. But the one that kind of sticks with me as like the most intense theater thing I experienced was seeing Cats for the first time and when those cats came through the audience, I was terrified.
What has been your favorite role that you’ve played on stage?
I think the most important one for me was Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I did a production in 2009, before I even had thought of Jackie, because that role really informed a lot of my ideas around drag, around gender, on my own gender expression and identity. That was a really important role for me and I think in who I’ve become today,
What is your dream role? What role would you love to have on stage that you haven’t yet?
I mean, I was a little young when I did Hedwig, so I’d love to come back and do it again. I think there’s a lot of amazing roles beyond that, that could be played by someone that plays a little bit with the gender spectrum and the gender binary. I think there’s a lot of openness to that.
There are so many amazing roles out there that I haven’t even thought of which one would be perfect for me, but I love creative casting. I think there’s new ways to bring, you know, a middle Eastern gender expansive person in on the drag spectrum into any and into any show.
The one that I’m excited about – I wanna play George McFly, in the new Back to the Future musical. I think that’s gonna be a fun one and George McFly is my favorite character.
As far as doing drag or acting, Is there one you prefer over the other or do you like them equally?
Oh, it’s hard to say. Drag is so different. The difference between drag and theater, you know, drag on the personal level is so much more about what you bring to the table. Whereas theater is much more collaborative and you’re working with the director’s vision and choreographer’s vision. Whereas oftentimes in drag, you decide and you call the shots
Do you have any plans for anything else down the pike?
I’ll be back touring and there’s still a few more Prides to be had. So I’ll be appearing in a few different Prides and then there’s some things that I’ll be able to announce very soon coming up in the fall.
Jackie Answers the Socialite Seven
Who has been the biggest influence on you in your career?
Oh, God. Good question. The biggest influence on me…hmmm…probably the most inspirational to me is Jinkx Monsoon.
What would your fans be surprised to learn that you’re a fan of?
People might be surprised to learn I’m a fan of Hitchcock movies and my favorite is Vertigo. I think it’s beautiful. I lived in San Francisco for a time, so I think it’s important for that period of my life too.
What are three things that you can’t live without?
Elmer’s glue, big lashes, and caffeine.
What skill or talent or even superpower would you love to wake up with tomorrow?
The ability to teleport anywhere.
If they made a movie of your life, who would you want to play you?
Maybe Zachary Quinto.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who think that they’re owed anything.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice is what Whoopi Goldberg told me on season 12, which was, “don’t worry about being funny. Just tell me something true.”
You can catch Jackie in Grease through July 24 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available by phone at 562-856-1999 or online at musical.org. Keep up with all things Jackie by following her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.