Actress, singer, and Drag Race favorite Peppermint has been keeping busy.
The season 9 runner-up has gone on to the Great White Way, receiving critical and fan acclaim for her role in Head Over Heels and is a fixture on YouTube in videos featuring fellow Drag Race alum Bob the Drag Queen.
In addition, she’s had memorable appearances on Pose and God Friended Me and has a new series on Twitch called “Pepp Talks”, where she talks about influential black movies and discusses her life as a trans woman with Jiggly Caliente, Sonique and Carmen Carrera on the OUTtvgo series Translation.
As an activist, Peppermint has raised six-figure sums for prominent LGBT rights groups, partnered with MAC Cosmetics’ “M.A.C. AIDS Fund” and is involved in the HIV Vaccine trials network. She has partnered with Sasha Velour for a college speaking tour (virtually for now) that focuses on the challenges faced by transgender and non-binary people in today’s political climate among various other topics.
And, if that’s not enough, Peppermint is an accomplished singer. Her latest album, A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers, was released today and is the first in a trilogy of album releases about the three stages of her most recent relationship. Last week, she released the steamy video for her first single, “Best Sex.”
Peppermint took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her new album, her musical inspirations and the importance of transgender representation in our exclusive interview.
Let’s talk about the new video for “Best Sex”. It’s great!
Thank you! It’s a little bit sexy…(laughs)
How did it feel to put out something so sexy?
I was nervous to put it out, I was nervous to shoot it, I was nervous to release it, I was nervous about all of it and now that it’s out, I couldn’t be more proud. I was elated this morning when we were finally able to release it and share it with people and it seems to be getting a good reception. It’s certainly a departure from most of the types of stuff I’ve done before. It’s very sexy and I’ve never really done anything like that before.
What was the inspiration behind this new album?
Well, the inspiration was, I was in a relationship that lasted about a year and it was pretty much the best relationship I had ever had. And, obviously, we broke up after a year. I was devastated and went through all of the feelings, especially because to me, it was such a great relationship. It wasn’t perfect, but…and it took me about a year to heal from it.
I worked and wrote in my diary and then, afterward, I put the diary to music and that became this album. The album covers the beginning, middle and end of the relationship – the whole relationship over the course of a year. But there were too many songs to put on one collection, so we decided to break it up into a trilogy. The beginning is this first collection, which is called A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Well, at its core, like I said, I wrote in my diary – very personal writing – and anyone who’s ever kept a journal knows that once you get started it kind of comes naturally. That part was easy. Taking those ideas and turning them into songs was a little bit different. I worked with two very close friends who I enjoy working with a lot – Cory Tut and Adam Joseph – and they are both co-writers and co-producers on this whole project. The writing process was long. It took about a year to write and record everything and it was a very natural process.
The type of music was very different and so the approach was a lot more open, a lot more vulnerable, we took our time and I guarded it a lot more. In the past, we would write things and be like, “Oh, that rhymes, great, let’s just do it.” But this one was very different. I needed to ensure that this was coming across the right way, we wanted to make sure we were being responsible when we’re speaking about things to the community. Things like that were really important for me to pay attention to.
How did you decide how much of yourself you wanted to share?
Well, I guess I wanted to put as much of myself into this as possible – I mean I’m not naming names and addresses – but I wanted to be as direct and I wanted it to have a nice beat. I wanted to be as honest as possible while still being somewhat entertaining and true to the art form of music. In addition, and I really don’t talk about it too much, I wanted this to feel like a fresh take on 90s and early 2000s R&B. That’s the style of music I wanted to do.
That, coupled with wanting to be very straightforward in my lyrics. We’ve heard other really great vocalists – singers and other legendary artists who have since come out as queer in some way or at some time, but many of them – and I’m talking about the legends of yesteryear, not necessarily people like Troye Sivan and Shea Diamond and even Sam Smith – these are people who are queer, who are out now. Years ago, people at the height of their fame were not coming out until much later, like Ricky Martin.
Ricky was singing about women as his lovers and now we come to find out that might not have been the case. We never heard a song by Ricky Martin about another man. It would be great for young folks to be able to hear and see themselves reflected back in the art they like to consume and pay for.
You do an amazing cover of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. Are there any other songs you would like to cover?
Well, there are more songs that I do cover on this project – not on this album, but the subsequent ones, the middle and end of the relationship. I cover…well, I’m not going to say which ones they are yet, am I? (Laughs) I do some other covers of songs by some of my big musical inspirations and Carole King is certainly an inspiration. She wrote and penned some of the most successful songs of the last century and her influence is undeniable.
In terms of the musical style and genre, I love R&B, funk and soul music. I’m really into Stevie Wonder, Prince, Lauryn Hill, people like that. And so, I do a cover per album, and so there’s another couple of covers coming down the pike. So, people will have to stay tuned and see what we come up with on the next album! (Laughs)
I think the lyrics for “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” are obviously about, from what I can interpret, a one-night stand that is probably a really good one-night stand but this person, we don’t know if he’ll stick around or if it’s going to be a one-night stand and that’s it and then we’ll never see each other that’s it or what is this going to turn into? And I think everyone has that question after a really hot night of sex that’s their first night, right? I think that’s why it’s universal. For me, it really spoke to my experience. I was kind of jilted and jaded about love and I was just looking to have a hot night of sex.
I had experienced other hot nights of sex, like the single “Sex Talk” is about, and I invited someone over and he ended up becoming my boyfriend. It was some of the best sex I’d ever had, the best first night of anything where we had wonderful conversation and cuddling. It was sweet and it was the exact opposite of what I was even looking for. And that’s why the song resonates with me.
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
The title track, “A Girl Like Me” is definitely the heartbeat of the album – of the whole project honestly. It’s a love song to oneself kind of, and it really asks the question, “Do you think I’m loveable?” I think that’s something a lot of people can understand. I also wanted to have lyrics that acknowledge what trans people can go through. That we can be some of the sweetest, nicest, most talented people who are still not worthy in other people’s eyes of love or public adoration. I won’t name any names, but I have friends who are Emmy-nominated trans women – who I’ve probably singled out because there’s not that many – who don’t even necessarily have success on the dating apps. The guys on there are like, “You’re still trans, so no.” And that’s a problem. I think people need to speak of being loved publicly, being uplifted publicly. They need to speak to people they care about.
I’m crushed that I didn’t get to see you in Head Over Heels. Do you have any aspirations to return to the theater?
Oh, absolutely. We clearly, narrowly missed COVID with Head Over Heels, which I’m grateful for. I’m really happy and grateful but I do feel for everyone who’s currently employed by a Broadway show. Yes, I would love to come back to Broadway. I really do think we’re in a time of great change for Broadway, where just like everything else is different post-2020, after COVID, after Black Lives Matter, hopefully after Trump is out. And so, we’re in a real sort of precipice of being able to make some great change. And Broadway, as wonderful as it is, is really anchored in the past with its traditions.
Some of those traditions are great, but many of them are problematic and I think now is the perfect time for Broadway to take a look at itself and do the same sort of cleansing that many other industries are voluntarily going through. And, once that happens, there will probably be more roles for people like me on Broadway. I mean, unfortunately, there weren’t that many, to begin with, except for stunt casting. You can always put someone whose obviously doesn’t belong in a show. You can throw anybody into any role because they have a million followers. But, in terms of really being able to present art, in the mood I’ve been in lately I would like it to be something that feels very genuine and it would be great for Broadway producers to want to put queer blackness on stage.
You have a new show on Twitch, “Pepp Talks”, where you discuss films that have had an impact on you (like the recent episode on Poetic Justice). What film has impacted you the most?
Well, I can’t say there’s only been one, but the film I keep coming back to is one of my favorites and from one of my favorite artists, Poetic Justice – which we just watched, so, obviously, it’s right at the top of my mind. I think you have those impressionable years, where music and film and television make a bigger impact on you than maybe other times in my life. When I was an early teenager, Poetic Justice had come out and Janet Jackson released her janet. album, which coincided with that movie. It was very influential to me. It spoke so much to the woman’s experience in the world of living in South Central LA, that’s something I can’t understand.
The film deals with racism and police brutality and even gang violence, which I don’t think a lot of people pay attention to as much anymore. Some of the themes are clearly, and not surprisingly, were prevalent then just as they are now and so, it made its mark on me. Some other films we’re watching are American Gangster with Shea Couleé this week and coming up are Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and one movie I want to add is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which is about Maya Angelou’s life.
These are films that many people who aren’t black haven’t seen because black films were never really important, I don’t think, for the average person to see, at least not in this country. And I think there’s something about black films, whether it’s an all-black cast, or stars, or that was created by black folks that might have been something that people were like, “that’s not my history, not my identity, I don’t want to see it” sort of thing. That’s what I gathered from hearing from my non-black friends about seeing black movies, so I wanted to change that a little bit.
The recent documentary Disclosure shed some light on representations of transgender people in the movies and TV. What do you think can be done to have the media present more positive, real representations of the trans community?
I think there needs to be community members in the media, behind the media. I think no matter which way you slice it, the media are people who don’t consider themselves part of the community. Then they’re just gatekeepers and that’s not good, because they’re just making really sort of crucial decisions about us, on our behalf, without really knowing us. That’s the way they’ve been doing it and we know that doesn’t work. So, we need to have more BIPOC people, more queer people in positions of power in Hollywood and in media so we can really do things in a very tasteful way that people can understand.
November is Transgender Awareness Month. What does that mean to you?
It means an opportunity for other people to really learn about the trans people in their lives that they don’t necessarily know much about. It’s an opportunity for everyone to watch Disclosure, which, it’s so funny, I have had a couple of exchanges with people in the film and television world over the past few months and you can kind of tell who has seen Disclosure and who hasn’t – based on the kind of work they’re putting out or how they’re speaking about certain subjects. I think that’s really important. I think everyone should see the film because it does an exceptional job of driving that issue home.
My assistant is gay and an activist and really progressive and hadn’t seen the film and we watched it together and he was in tears. And then he took the film to his straight barber and encouraged him to watch it and he and his barber had a conversation about it – and I think that’s those are the types of actions that need to happen. And it would be great if it happened all year, but if it takes something like Transgender Awareness Month where we can not only learn about the horrible murders of the transgender people in this country and around the world– we’re up to 32 so far this year – we not only learn about that but also about the great contributions of people in the trans and queer community and the things we’ve done.
Also taking the opportunity to volunteer or get involved and engage yourself directly with an organization or an individual that will help make things a little easier, less hard from them.
With everything you’ve got going on, I have to ask. Do you sleep?
You know what? It’s so funny that you asked that. I’m always thinking and working; and it wasn’t until my assistant said he just needed a day off for some personal stuff that I realized he works seven days a week because I work seven days a week and I literally work seven days a week. I never stop. I work until I can’t keep my eyes open, then I go to sleep, then I wake up and I start working. I’ve been in a hotel because I’m working on something and I think I have watched one hour of TV for the whole week. I get up, I eat, I work, and I eat lunch and I work and when I’m tired, I’ll take a shower and go to bed. And then I get up and do it again. Forever. I don’t know if that’s good or bad or what! (Laughs)
What other projects are in the works for you?
Well, of course I’m working on the next two albums. I also have a show coming up at the end of the month. It’s an album release show with a live concert which will be on my Twitch channel. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this one more thing – Bob the Drag Queen and I are teaming up again for a new music video called “The Most Office” which is our way of sort of jazzing up the post office so that people understand it’s perfectly safe to mail in your ballot for voting.
You told ET you’d absolutely come back for All-Stars. A lot of fans have a dream of you eventually taking over the show as host. Would that be something you’d be interested in?
If they called me and asked me to be the new host, I would pass out and then I would be like, “Honey, where’s my plane ticket?” (Laughs)
Peppermint Answers the Socialite Seven
Who has had the biggest influence on your music?
What type of music or artist that you listen to frequently do you think your fans would be surprised to learn that you’re a fan of?
What are three things you can’t live without?
Popcorn, mint chocolate chip ice cream and horror movies.
What skill or talent would you love to wake up with tomorrow?
I’d love the skill of computer programming.
If given the choice, would you want to continue living your life as is or restart it knowing what you know now?
I think I’d want to start it over.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
There’s no one way to be transgender, which was told to me by my counselor and friend, we share the same birthday. Laverne Cox also told me a story of hers that basically said that when you are discriminated against, it’s more about the person who is doing the discriminating, and who you are and your identity, in my case, my womanhood as a trans woman, is not at stake when those people try to take it away from you.
What are you most grateful for?
My empathy. My ability to really understand the feelings and emotions of other people.