What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
Jackie Cox Taught Jeff Goldblum a Powerful Lesson About Intersectionality. Next Up, Everyone Else.
Pride has never looked like this before. Parades are canceled. Gatherings are a public health concern. But that hardly means that Pride is canceled. This month, Esquire is examining what Pride means now, beyond the parade and for the next 50 years—whether it’s advocating for justice over Zoom, discovering the intersectionality too often missing from Pride, or simply existing as a trans father. The protest continues.
In an April episode of Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jackie Cox stunned the audience and judges by walking down the runway in a glitzy blue-starred hijab with a red-and-white striped caftan. The powerful statement drew high praise from the judges panel. One judge, however, had questions.
“Are you religious? May I ask?” guest judge Jeff Goldblum asked Jackie after she showed off her look for the “Stars and Stripes” themed runway. Jackie, a Canadian-born, New York-based queen of Persian heritage, chose to don American flag-inspired religious garb to make a statement on equality and freedom of religion in the United States. It sparked an immediate conversation.
Referencing the hijab and caftan, Goldblum wondered aloud to Jackie: “Is there something in this religion that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman? Does that complicate the issue? I’m just raising it and thinking out loud and maybe being stupid.”
The drag performer fielded the question with grace and measured intelligence, explaining that the complexities of intertwining multiple, perhaps conflicting identities does not negate the importance of representation and equality in America. After delivering a short masterclass on intersectionality, Jackie Cox landed in the bottom two, but scraped by to another week of the competition by beating Widow Von’Du in a lip sync to Katy Perry’s Firework.
This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
Jeff Goldblum’s comments sparked passionate outrage online, with critics pointing out that nearly every organized religion, as well as the United States itself, is traditionally and systemically “anti-homosexuality” and “anti-woman” in its own way. If anything, the implication of Goldblum’s words solidified the importance of the statement Jackie Cox set out to make on the runway that night and throughout the season, where she made her mark by sticking to her mission of representing and advocating for Middle Eastern queer people.
Jackie Cox’s star-spangled hijab on the runway was one of the most politically powerful fashion moments in the show’s history, one which underscored the queen’s commitment to embracing intersectionality. And in a Pride month of protests and demonstrations about police brutality and anti-Black racism, intersectionality and the fight against systemic injustice remain at the center of the conversation. To Jackie, this June is about “trying to reconnect back to the origins of Pride, and this moment in our history has really helped me feel that energy.”
ESQ: How would you say your culture shaped and influenced you as a drag queen?
Jackie Cox: For a long time I didn’t connect my Persian culture and heritage to my drag. I kind of put the two things in a separate box, and it really wasn’t until the election in 2016 that I realized I have a platform that is drag, and I have a lot of things to say about how the current administration was treating people from Iran as a Muslim majority country—that’s when I really started to incorporate that into my drag. Up until and through Drag Race, I wanted that to be something for people to see, cause I’d never experienced that.
There has been so little Middle Eastern representation at all in Western media and certainly a lack of positive representation, and I knew that this was a chance to actually be that voice for people who hadn’t ever seen themselves on TV before. So I took that responsibility on with pride because I knew that if there was even just one kid who could see me and see themselves in me then that would be important.
That’s incredible. I did not realize it was a post-election thing.
Yeah, if you go back to my posts prior to 2016 it was, you know, sequin dresses and fun songs, and I certainly was still connected to causes and still raising money for various charities and such but hadn’t really been out and proud as a Persian drag queen. I realized that there was no need to hide anymore and that I could hopefully make a difference if I was just a little bit more vocal about who I really am and share that with people.
How has the response been from the Persian community since the show aired?
It’s been incredible. I see so many Persian queer people but also not queer people just happy to see some representation, happy to see someone they can show their parents. I hear that a lot. I hear a lot of people saying, I showed Drag Race to my parents so that they could maybe understand what it is through you, and that’s been really cool. There’s definitely an older generation that needs a social awakening in every culture, but certainly in Persian culture. The Black Lives Matter movement is another example where I started to post content specifically for Persian folks who haven’t necessarily connected with this movement or this moment in our history, just pointing out why it’s important. That’s been something that I’m proud to do, and it’s never over, right? I think we can continue to evolve our conversations in our own culture and then in the greater culture at large and I’m excited that that work is beginning. It’s definitely something that motivates me.
Do you have a specific fan story that struck or surprised you in particular that comes to mind?
I’ve seen a couple videos of parents crying, either when I got eliminated or when I was wearing the hijab in the stars and stripes challenge and that’s been very cool. Just to see an older generation connecting with me, because we think of drag in the United States as something for younger people. But to see people in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s connecting to it, and people from a different culture—one that RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t built for connecting to—has been very moving for me. It’s something that I never thought was possible. When I started watching Season One 12 years ago it really was a show that I felt was for me, a gay man living an urban lifestyle. So to see people from all over the country, not just the big cities, in all different age groups, actually connecting to it, has been incredible.
At an intersection, you stop and you look and you listen. This is a moment for us to stop, look and listen, not just with me and my story, but with what’s happening in the world.
Speaking of the hijab runway look, what was the thought behind it and why did you choose it for that challenge?
I knew when the prompt was stars and stripes that this was a chance to be political. I knew that this was a moment to say something, and I wanted to really talk about the racism that Muslim women, especially in the United States, feel when they wear hijabs. I’ve been with friends and family members and I’ve seen them experience that. I have privilege in that I can walk down the street and most of the time no one thinks twice, but I know for Muslim women who are practicing, wearing a head scarf can be scary.
It can be something that they’re not sure if people are going to say something, or worse. So it was a chance for me to stand up for those women especially, and to show that this is part of America and certainly a part that we shouldn’t shy away from. This country is founded on the principles of freedom of religion, and that includes all religions. I encourage anyone, no matter what their personal faith is, to feel empowered to represent themselves in this country. Sometimes I worry that that doesn’t always happen. So this was a chance to just put that out there and say, you can be yourself here and you should be proud of that.
Did you feel like Jeff Goldblum’s question after that runway was legitimate?
I think the legitimacy question points to a lot of people’s lack of knowledge or education on the true expanse of what Islam is or what people who are practicing Muslims actually feel. I think that there’s so much conflating that happens in the Western media between terrorist groups, which are something completely separate, and conflating with extremist, fundamentalist, oppressive governments, which is something again completely separate, and then people who actually have a personal faith, right? I think that, unfortunately, there’s just been a lack of transparency or really understanding. I have seen too many large brushstrokes in terms of how the media covers the Middle East, and so whether or not this was legitimate points to what your actual exposure or knowledge of the realities of being a Middle Eastern person in the United States in 2020 is. So it points to his own experiences, I would imagine.
How did you feel about that line of questioning?
I felt a responsibility to at least explain why I was wearing this and what I wanted to get across. And that was to help articulate and clarify that there’s a difference between a government or those that believe in parts of Islam that are potentially problematic and the plenty of queer Muslims and non-queer Muslims who don’t share all of those beliefs. Just like there are in almost every organized religion. That was something that I know that he got a lot of criticism for, that there are examples in every religion of problematic stances towards women and the LGBTQ community and I think it’s important to share that that’s not how all people feel, and not how all Muslims believe or actually interpret their own faith.
CHOOSE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
Talk to me about how it felt to have AOC come on the show and more generally what you think her coming on the show to guest judge meant for the country.
I think it’s amazing that Drag Race is so big that we have huge politicians coming onto the show. I’m glad I just had the opportunity to talk to her and thank her because I think what she’s doing is so inspiring and incredible. And the fact that she’s younger than me and has been able to make all of these changes and talk about these issues and help articulate a lot of the arguments in ways that people can understand is really heartening. It lifts me up to see a woman of color actually going out and making the change that we all want to see happen in the world.
I just wanted to thank you for delivering to the country a very important lesson in intersectionality, as well as a wonderful season of course.
That’s the thing, too, right? I think as we explore this idea of intersectionality, we’re gonna come up to the intersections and—not to be cheesy about it—but at an intersection, you stop and you look and you listen. This is a moment for us to stop, look and listen, not just with me and my story, but with what’s happening in the world. The intersection of Black America and the rest of America finally paying attention is something where you have to stop, look, and listen and actually see what’s going on if you want to move forward through the intersection.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire and Masters student at New York University.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
This commenting section is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page. You may be able to find more information on their web site.