It seems drag legend Ginger Minj was always destined for showbiz. Born in the world’s capital of theme parks, Orlando, Minj discovered performing, and drag, as a kid and ended up a finalist in Season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and a two-time cast member on Drag Race All-Stars.
Halloween seems to be the greatest time of year for Minj, who is currently appearing in Disney +’s Hocus Pocus 2, touring the country in the Hocus Pocus Halloween Tour and serving up new music on your favorite streaming service. We caught up with Minj to talk all things spooky, below.
You're from Orlando. Do you feel like that contributed at all to you being a showbiz legend? It's such a performer kind of place.
Yeah, I've been in my whole life. I grew up through all the boy bands and everything, and I wanted to be in a boy band. But, more than anything, I really wanted to be a Spice Girl, particularly Ginger Spice. I just had to wait it out and find a way to make that happen.
Mission accomplished. Do you like Halloween?
I love that Halloween is the one night of the year where all the drag babies are born. And I think it's always been such a safe space for anybody queer, particularly those who are like, "If you can dress up like a ghost or a werewolf or a vampire, why can't we put on a wig and heel?"
Do you have a favorite Halloween costume that you've ever worn?
I always wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the East with the black and white tights, and the ruby slippers and all that. Being from Leesburg, Florida, where I’m from, everybody's like, "Oh, you can't do that! You can't dress up like a woman! You can't do that!" And then finally, my Aunt Glenda Faye had dressed up like a witch for her office Halloween party, so my mom said, "All right, since we've already got the costume, I'm gonna let you do it this year." And I wore that thing for the next four years.
Well, I think it's appropriate that it came from Glenda Faye.
How old were you in that this was?
Probably nine or 10.
Bless your mother's heart for letting you do it. I was Cinderella when I was five, but I imagined a big tulle gown and a tiara. My mother bought a box costume from Walgreens that was basically like wearing a garbage bag, so yours turned out much better than mine. Do you like candy?
When I was growing up, I didn't like candy at all. I liked the savory. I liked mashed potatoes and breads and those kinds of things. But as I've gotten older, I found myself looking forward to dinner, not for the food, but for the dessert. Sweet and sour to me is my favorite. Like Sour Patch Kids, I'll eat those all day long.
Tell me about your first time in drag. Was that the Wicked Witch of the East? Or does that not count?
The first time I ever did drag intentionally would have to have been when I was 17 and we had one gay bar in Leesburg that opened up in an old biker bar. It was called "Attitude." And it was one of those places where you had to park in the ditch across the street and run across the highway, while all the rednecks were throwing rocks and beer bottles at you. I wanted to go so bad, and I looked enough like my cousin Jennifer's fiancé that if I had dressed in drag, the facial features were similar enough that I could get away with it. I lathered on the cheapest Walgreens makeup you can buy, a wig I borrowed from the community theater and I squeezed in some of my sister's clothes. They let me in, and I had a good time and I found my tribe. I found myself dressing in drag just to be around the people that I liked, not necessarily because I was like, "Oh, I want to perform.” It wasn't until later that I realized if I keep this wig on, I can trick people into giving me money.
Was doing Hocus Pocus 2 a dream come true?
I’m a huge Hocus Pocus fan. I was very blessed in the sense that it happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to get nervous. When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money, so we could never go see movies when they came out. We had to wait until they went to the dollar theater down the street. Hocus Pocus was released in July, but by the time October rolled around, that's when they hit the dollar theater, so I would save money every single week and I would go every weekend and watch Hocus Pocus a couple times during the day — like as many times as I could, I was obsessed with it.
There was something about how powerful the three women were, and how outrageous costumes and wigs and makeup were. And that "I Put A Spell On You" scene... I mean, it really just put a spell on me. I was so obsessed with that song, I still am. That's the whole reason I recorded my own version of it. Flash forward all these years later, of course every Halloween, I played every Sanderson sister in every drag bar you can ever think of.
I was over in the UK playing my other favorite villain, which was Ursula, the Sea Witch, in this villains tour and my phone started going off at like three in the morning, and it was Anne Fletcher, who's the director of the movie. She also directed Dumplin', which I was in a couple years ago. I texted her back, and I was like, "It's 3 AM here. Can this wait until tomorrow?" She said, "No, call me right now." I called her and she said, "You know, I'm doing Hocus Pocus 2." "Ok, you want to call me to rub it in?" She said, "No, I have created this spot for you. It's not big, but I think that you would really love it and you'd be great at it. And I want you to give us a list of other girls you'd want to work with."
So she told me it was Winifred and they changed my flight. I went there to my fitting. They took two of the girls off my list that I loved — Kahmora and Kornbread — and then we got there and the three of us are so nervous in the trailer going to set the first day. We're like, "Oh my god, what if we screw it up? What if they hate us? What if we make a fool of ourselves?" We didn't have a chance for that because we stepped on set, the ladies were already there, and Bette Midler turns around and looks at me and goes, "Oh my god, you were robbed." It was right after All Stars and I don't think Bette Midler's ever watched an episode of Drag Race in her life, I'm just gonna say that.
You were robbed.
Well, she knew the facts, actually. Someone was informing her the correct information, Exactly. Then Kathy went up to Kornbread and told her, "You know, you're so gorgeous and talented, you should be on Drag Race. I'll call RuPaul and get you on the show." Meanwhile, Kornbread had already been on. And then, SJP went up to Kahmora and started like, "Oh, your skin is so gorgeous. What is your routine?" But you could tell that the three of them respected us enough to think about what they were going to say to kind of disarm us right at the beginning.
They made us so comfortable, they made us feel like we were on their level, which we are not. We will never be, but they made us feel like peers instead of fans. It wasn't until the very last day — like a week later — we're standing there on the little grassy knoll, and the three of them take off flying over our heads for the shot, and we just grabbed each other's hands and kind of cried a little bit because that's when it really sank in that, "Oh my god, we're part of Hocus Pocus. We're a part of something that was so important to us and the drag community as a whole for many years."
Now, you're in the midst of the Hocus Pocus Halloween tour?
We are. Like I said, I played every Sanderson sister in drag shows — even Sarah-Jessica with a very ill fitting corset one year, and I'm glad there are no pictures that exist. But Bette Midler, on our last day of filming, she said, "I just really love the way that you do me. I would like to see you take this and run with it and turn it into something." So we did. I felt like I had the blessing and I had spent enough time watching her on set that I felt like I could do a really good job of creating the character for myself.
So I came home, I sat down with my two best friends and we wrote the whole show together, we costumed the show together. It's really funny. It takes the best parts of the first movie, some of my favorite parts from the second movie and then totally writes the whole new story to incorporate them all. If you've ever wanted to hear the Sanderson sisters sing "WAP," now is your chance.
And how long will the tour go on?
We end on Halloween right here in Orlando and we've got shows almost every day.
Photo courtesy of Ginger Minj
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