Canada’s Drag Race: Victoria queen Jimbo on hypersexualized drag, judging backlash, and eating on air

This B.C.–based drag clown and fan favourite has a few critiques for the Canada's Drag Race judges—and the food

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      When the 12 contestants strutted into the Canada’s Drag Race workroom back in July, one queen turned heads more than others: Victoria-based Jimbo.

      Originally from London, Ontario, Jimbo is a costume designer, production designer and drag clown with a penchant for buxom breastplates, freaky original fashion creations, and a seemingly insatiable oral fixation.

      Jimbo instantly became a cult favourite, earning shout-outs from fan-favourite queens from the U.S. version of RuPaul’s Drag Race and racking up more than 200,000 followers on Instagram—more than any other queen on Canada’s Drag Race.

      Despite the hype, Jimbo pulled off only one maxi-challenge win—albeit a good one—the Snatch Game. Her Joan Rivers impersonation snatched a possible win from Lemon’s Jojo Siwa. But in runway after runway, the judges read Jimbo for messy makeup and a lack of attention to details.

      Jimbo’s sexed-up shtick also seemed a bit much for judges Brooke Lynn Hytes, Stacey McKenzie, and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman. “Jimbo was robbed” became a common refrain on social media, and in recent weeks fan backlash to Bowyer-Chapman in particular—as well as other contestants—led Bell Media-owned streaming platform Crave to ask fans to silence the “hateful comments.”

      Jimbo’s memorable run included eating a sandwich on the air, blowing Bowyer-Chapman’s microphone in the pageant challenge, and a full-coverage denim look for the Canadian Tux-shedo: Denim On Denim On Denim runway.

      Unfortunately, the devil-clown is in the details, and Jimbo’s three Snow Ball looks in Episode 9 failed to impress guest judge Michelle Visage—the queen of harsh critiques from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Jimbo exited as memorably as she arrived after a lip sync face-off with Rita Baga to Tegan and Sara’s "Closer".

      The day after elimination day, we caught up with Jimbo to talk about being an outsider in Victoria’s drag scene, the Canada’s Drag Race judging backlash and what they feed the queens behind the scenes.

      How did you become a drag performer?

      I became a drag queen over the course of many years. Practising my clowning, practising my performance and weaving in the feminine side of my personality. I love wearing glamorous outfits, being sparkly and feeling fabulous. I’ve developed into a drag clown. I was stealing my mom and my grandma’s clothes when I was five and six years old. I didn’t like the same thing as most of the other boys; I liked sparkly things, I liked to play with the girls. It was a shameful thing for a long time then it became a really amazing thing that empowered me.

      Are your mother and grandmother’s style represented by the outfits we’ve seen you wear?

      Definitely my mom. She loves looking at my drag and seeing herself. She can see a lot of herself in me: She had big breasts and long nails and she liked tight dresses that flowed out. I remember her in crinoline and she always wore big fur coats. She likes her jewels. She likes feeling the fantasy and she can see that in me and she loves it. It brings her a lot of joy.

      When you walked into the work room, people didn’t know who you were. You were like the mystery player. Tell me about the reception you’ve had—Drag Race queens like Shea Couleé, Jujubee, and Latrice Royale immediately pegged you as one to watch.

      When we were waiting for [the show] to come out, we really wondered how it would be received by the fandom and how we’d be received by our American sisters. It was really beautiful and encouraging to know that they were watching, they were interested and really excited for what Canada has to offer in its drag scene. All of us were over the moon, and I’m still blown away by how much the love and support and all the shout-outs from these iconic people inspired me along the way.

      Would you say being so unknown gave you an advantage?

      A lot of the other competitors had history with the judges. They had history with viewers. Much of the time, the judges were looking beyond what [the queens] were doing on the stage and referencing things they know from their time performing together. When I was on the main stage, I was judged on what I was doing in that moment, with no preconceived notions of who I was. Whereas a lot of the other people on the show, they had a baseline understanding of who they were. When they didn’t perform to their best, in the back of their head [the judges] would say, “Oh, well I know you’re an amazing performer.” When [fashion designer] Evan Biddell was there, he told Tynomi [Banks], “You’re my favourite performer.” But having the judges know you obviously didn’t work out for Tynomi. The fact that the judges have that prior knowledge of you and your skills, it can be an advantage or a disadvantage. So I would say it was both.

      How big of a presence are you in the Victoria drag scene?

      I wasn’t really accepted by the drag community here. I created my own stage in my home and we host our own shows here. I perform with a local Vaudeville troupe. My drag doesn’t focus around lip syncing. My drag is mostly around stand-up. It’s about connection and character and eventually I do weave in the element of lip syncing. That only really gets you so far in terms of the feelings you get from performing. I get the most joy out of connecting live and seeing what happens.

      My reputation here is I put on an amazing show, I put on weird shows and to expect the unexpected. The main drag queen in town never booked me for a single show for the past 10 years. Once you’re on the show everyone’s like, “Oh wow! You are amazing!” and you’re like, “Okay. Cool. Thank you so much. I remember when you didn’t give a shit about what I was doing for so long.” So it’s fine.

      Jimbo is very hypersexual. Can you talk about where that aspect of your drag comes from?

      A clown is all about making things bigger and more extreme. Drag is about pushing boundaries. It’s about testing social norms. For me, sexuality was a huge part of growing up. There was a lot of repression around sexuality. There was a lot of shame around sexuality. So there’s a lot of power in owning sexuality and not fearing sexuality and challenging preconceived notions around what is sexy, what is beautiful and what’s appropriate for a man and what’s appropriate for a woman. There’s something funny and beautiful about everything in life. It’s okay to be sexy. It’s okay to be slutty. No one should feel ashamed of anything.

      Bell Media

      How do you feel that was received on the show? The judges were freaked out by your sexy sisters drag in the family makeover challenge.

      Brooke Lynn is a pageant queen so there are certain ways of going about drag from the point of view of a pageant queen. Most of the ways I express myself, Brooke Lynn would never express herself that way. It’s hard for her to look at me and go “Yesss!” because it’s not what she sees in herself. There’s lots of love there, but I hope looking back at the show the judges go, “I don’t really know what our problem was. That was actually awesome and so funny. I don’t know why we didn’t celebrate it.”

      I don’t know what their problem was. They had to have something to say about it so that’s what it was. Maybe they were afraid to say that was really funny? For all the critiques they gave me around makeup, my breastplate matching and my padding, they didn’t say anything about all of that work I did. In the end, it wasn’t for them. It’s for my fans. As a clown, everything I do is for my audience and for myself. The fact that three random people didn’t’ get it is a drop in the bucket of the many, many people in this world that do.

      You’re the most followed Canada’s Drag Race contestant on Instagram. How does this level of exposure feel? On one hand, you have the positive feedback from the fandom, but on the other there was this “Jimbo was robbed” chatter that turned into bullying Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman. What’s your take on the chatter around the judging and the role the “Jimbo was robbed” contingent played in that?

      There were several issues that JBC faced that weren’t just about me. It was mostly the fans’ response to his demeanour, attitude, and comments on the show, alongside Brooke Lynn and Stacey. The audience didn’t agree with the decisions and the choices. But the audience also has the benefit of being there at the end and looking back over the bigger picture.

      I say to my partner all the time, “If I didn’t do something every time someone told me not to, I would never have done anything.” Every step along the way there’s someone saying no. It’s not unusual for me to do something and be misunderstood or not be seen. That is the struggle of my life and me being an artist. That’s what’s driven me to be the artist I am. I hope that by being me—and being on that show and presenting the way I did—that it helps open up their eyes to future contestants, so when they come through they are seen and valued and acknowledged for their point of view and their drag. A critique of what you would do instead of looking at what the person does—that’s not a critique. That’s someone saying, “This is what I would do if I were on the show.”

      In terms of JBC, I love JBC so much. I felt terrible for him. This is his dream come true to be a judge on the show, to support all these queens, to be seen in the world on this platform. I can’t imagine how disappointing and sad it would be to be received by the world so negatively, when really you wanted to be a star like everyone else wants to. He was cast as the bitchy judge-y Judy and he took it really far. I’m sure he’s watching and going, “Well, next year I’m going to tone it down a little bit.” I’m sure the writers are going, “Next year we’re going to tone it down a little bit.” It was all done to make a reality TV show. It’s not real. The only thing that is real are the people on the show. They have feelings and are real people. In the case of JBC, that was extremely hurtful.

      That was [the judges’] first time doing that and everyone needs at some time to learn. They obviously need to learn a few things about judging and that’s okay. No one is expected to know how to be an amazing judge right away.

      Bell Media

      The judging worked out for you on the Snatch Game episode. Tell me about impersonating Joan Rivers and what she means to you.

      She was a huge boundary pusher and sometimes she would go too far and it was very cringey. But many times it was very beautiful and hilarious, and she captured the essence of so many hilarious thing about life. That was the second time I’d done that—the first time was my audition tape. I’ve watched Joan Rivers my whole life so I have a little bit of her inside. I had no idea how it would go and I was so grateful and really happy that I did it so well and the show went so well, and that I won.

      You were also filmed eating in the work room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone eat on Drag Race.

      I was just so hungry and the food came at weird times. Sometimes we’d be all dressed and they’d be like, “Okay, here’s a plate of meatballs.” And all of us are like, “Meatballs! How the fuck are we supposed to eat meatballs with our makeup on?” If one thing drops, you go home. All of us were like, “We’re not eating.” And they were like, “You need to eat because you were working so much.” And we’re like, “We can’t eat because you’re not feeding us at the times we need to be fed.” I snuck my sandwich in, stuck it on my tray, hunched down, and pretended to go get something. I was snacking away and I peeked up to watch the girls as I was having my snack. They filmed me and were like, “What the hell are you doing?” Havin’ my snack, watching the girls.

      They need to do a challenge where the queens eat meatballs with a straw.

      That’d be good! [Slurps] I’ll have that one no problem!

      Do you feel like you’ve upped your game as a drag queen?

      Big time. One of the biggest things was meeting my drag sisters and learning a lot from them. As a clown, my focus is less on precision in the makeup and more about embodying a character and being entertaining. It wasn’t until I was on the show that the girls said, “Your makeup is broke down.” Like I said, I didn’t have drag queen friends at the time. My one friend was Vivian Vanderpuss. I have more now, but she was showing me makeup tips. On the show I was reminded repeatedly about how ugly my makeup was. I’ve tried my hardest to up my game.

      What’s the story with the name Jimbo?

      Jimbo is my childhood nickname. It’s another name for the name James. My dad used to call me Jimbo and Jimbalina. When I moved out west, my partner at the time started to call me Jimbo and it just stuck. People get a sense of familiarity and friendship right away, which is what I love.

      This interview has been edited for length and clarity.