by Christopher Rudolph
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR CANADA’S DRAG RACE
All of the queens from the first season of Canada’s Drag Race were legendary picks—the cream of the Canadian drag queen crop, if you will. But if there were one breakout star, it would have to be Jimbo, whom fans stanned from the moment he started screaming atop that mountain photoshoot in Episode 1.
Jimbo was hilarious, confident, could read other girls for filth, and even won tough challenges like Snatch Game. While it seemed like Jimbo had what it takes to go all the way and snatch the crown, the self-proclaimed “drag clown” found herself in the bottom after this week’s Snow Ball runway and sashayed away after lip-syncing to Tegan and Sara’s “Closer.”
Jimbo spoke with NewNowNext about her time on the show, including her meme-ified Episode 1 photoshoot, her reads of the other girls, and if she ever apologized to Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman for saying he needed to learn the “definition of glamour.”
I’m so excited to talk to you. You were my favorite of the queens this season. And I’m not just saying that.
Oh, thank you.
What are your drag beginnings?
So, I started sort of with a curiosity of drag as a really young boy. When I was about 5, my mom put my makeup on, and I looked in the mirror and I said, “Wow, Mommy, I’m so beautiful.” My grandma had lots of beautiful clothes and fancy jewelry, and so did my mom. So just seeing femininity and how much fun it was to feel pretty—I always kind of gravitated towards that. My brother and I would hide in the basement and steal their clothes and their shoes and play. My dad was really threatened. And so, he called us little fags, and we were gay and it was so bad. He shamed us out of it until we were much older. I became a clown and I allowed myself to go there, to be beautiful and to be feminine. So it was really through my clown that I started to perform in drag.
Wow. Does your family support your drag journey now?
Yeah, they are the absolute biggest fans ever. My mom loves it. She sees a lot of herself in my drag, and it makes her laugh. And my sisters—they see themselves and they see my mom and they see me and this beautiful combination of all of my past, and who they’ve seen me become over the years. They’re huge supporters.
Did you choose the name Jimbo because your name is James?
Yeah. My birth name is James, and my dad would call me Jimbo or Jimbolina as a child. later when I moved to Victoria, my partner at the time started to call me Jimbo, and slowly everybody called me Jimbo. And then I just preferred it… I love making friends and, to me, by just introducing yourself as a nickname—it’s a familiarity and it’s a connection right away, which I really love. So I love going by Jimbo.
What was it like when you got the call to be on Canada’s Drag Race? What were you doing? What was that moment like?
I was at my office—I was designing a movie at the time, I’m a costume designer—so I was in the middle of a fitting, and I had to excuse myself and go and get the best news of my entire life. I freaked out. I was just so shocked and so excited. And was like, “Oh my God, I need to get started now! I need to start my open.” I went back and tried my hardest to care about the show I was doing, but I was just like, “Who cares? Put this on. I’ve got to go. I’ve got my own looks to make.” So, yeah. I was incredibly vain the start of Drag Race.
The day after Canada aired here in America, everyone I talked to everyone was like, “I’m a Jimbo stan. I’m team Jimbo.” Were you surprise or overwhelmed by how much everyone loves you?
Very much so. In my community, I have so much support and so much love. And there’s so much recognition of me and my art and what I do in this community. It’s been really magical for me, but it’s also very magical for my friends and my community that has loved me, celebrated me, and supported me. Everyone is just ecstatic, including myself. The ability to connect and inspire and relate to people is my dream, and to have done it so successfully—I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
That first challenge with the photoshoot on the mountain… Your scream has become a meme. Did that just come to you at the top of the mountain? Did you know the judges were living for it at the time?
Not really. The key to clowning is to not be in your head. It’s to be in the moment. So everything, including my answers to the workroom, I just said, “I want to do whatever comes to me in that moment.” So they said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I don’t know. I want to see what sound comes out of me.” And then I ended up going, “Oh wow.” As they do. I was kind of like, What do I do? When I saw that big ramp, I thought, “Oh, the challenge is going to be to climb this mountain. It’s going to be slippery or something, and they’ve got the heels and a rope.” So then I separated and was like, “Oh, well, this doesn’t feel bad at all.” And then I was like, “Oh, I kind of like this.” And when I got the top, I thought that it was over now, time to pose. And then the fan comes on, and I was just screaming for my life. It was all just what happened in that moment. Looking back at it—I love it. And that so hard! It’s sort of like watching someone other than yourself, and it’s…. yeah, just so funny. I love it so much.
I love it too. Speaking of your work, did you know any of the queens when you walked into the workroom?
No, I didn’t at all. I was completely surprised by all of them—and also intimidated. You walk in and you see all these fierce people, these strangers, and they look so glamorous, and they are also sizing each other up. And then no one knew who I was, but they knew the designer I was wearing. I walked in wearing an Abraham Levy corset. Which is a legendary designer for drag and just in general. So they didn’t know me, but they knew my outfit and they were like, “Oh, is that Abraham Levy?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s right, girl.” And they’re like, “Oh, she’s not playing.”
That’s funny—I would not describe you that way. I didn’t think you were intimidated. That’s surprising to me.
It was very fleeting. Like, it probably lasted for one second. But it was there.
I thought it was so funny when you would read the queens for filth, like when you were sitting backstage on the couches. Did the other queens know that you were reading them, or were they actually hurt?
No. We’re all fans of the show. We all know what it takes to be on that show. And we all have this insane drive to be seen and to win. All of that blends like pressure cooker, and in that moment where you’re feeling your fantasy and you’re this heightened sense of self, the claws do come out. But at the end of the day, we all know that it’s just the show and just the challenge. The drag comes off and we are all friends. We are all sisters. … This goes with the judges as well. You know, there is no heartbreak between any of us. It was all from a place of love, from a place of celebrating drag, reading queer art, and about being visible. So I think that’s what everyone should really focus on: the connections and the ability, that we’re in the day and age where we can be on mainstream media and be proud and be wild and be gay and make people laugh.
I was wondering, have you heard from Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman after your read of his… well, ability to read? Did he look up “glamour” in the dictionary?
I wrote to him right after to apologize and just say of course I love him. I was exhausted. And, you know, it didn’t really come out… My frustration doesn’t come out in the best way. So I wrote that, and I just wanted to let him know that I love him, I respect him, and I was sorry for being a little bitch. But sometimes you just gotta be a bitch, so like, what can you say?
And did he accept the apology?
Oh yeah. He wrote back and said, “James, I’m the biggest Jimbo fan. I love you so much. You are so inspiring. You were a joy to watch.” And he sent only love. And he said, “Of course I know the pressures you were under, and I don’t take any of it too serious or too personally.” We all just laughed about it.
This week’s episode was the first time you were in the bottom. When I’ve talked to other eliminated queens, some of them said they knew they were going home before they lip-synced. Did you have that sense at all?
No. I thought I had served legendary looks, legendary performances…. with my track record and the dream and fantasy I had in my head, I really did see myself winning the whole competition and representing Canada’s Drag Race as the queen. But you know, now I get to represent as one at the queens and as a winner in many other ways.
— Canada’s Drag Race (@canadasdragrace) August 28, 2020
When Jeffrey brought out the picture of you as a child, is that what you were talking about, how you used to dress up in your mother’s clothing when you were a kid? Is that why you started tearing up right away?
Yeah. Growing up in Ontario in that time where there weren’t a lot of gay role models or a very open culture around sexuality and self-expression, there was a lot of fear. There was a lot of judgment, and I really did feel like I didn’t belong. In many ways, I didn’t. And so that was a bad time—as much as there was lots of beauty and lots joy and so much business in my childhood, it was also a very confusing time. And my family life at that time was very tumultuous. There was alcoholism. … It was a very painful journey. So that kind of all came at the same time. I was speaking to myself, but I also knew that I was speaking to people around the world that may have a similar story or experience. It was just a really powerful moment to reference my childhood when I was in such a vulnerable place.
During the lip-sync, I felt like the giant crown you were wearing was a hindrance. Why didn’t you just throw it off? Was the wig attached or something?
Yes. The the wig and the crown are one piece. So I was not anticipating lip-syncing, and my dress was too long. I had run out of time to hem it. My boots were sticking to the dress, and my crown was too heavy. It was probably the most on un-ideal, cumbersome thing, during the most important moment of my life. I really wish that I could throw it off. … I know I don’t like as a viewer and as a drag queen watching the queen fall apart on stage, so shoes was coming off or the hair coming up and, you know, they can be moments where it’s powerful, but in the end it looks very sloppy to me. So it was really important for me to keep my dignity and keep my hair on and the illusion alive, even though I may have been able to move better with no hair on.
I think you made the right decision. I don’t like when the queen takes off her wig and there’s no wig underneath.
Yeah, I just don’t like it.
One thing I keep seeing online is that fans being like, “Jimbo was robbed on this, robbed on that.” Is there a specific challenge that you think that you’re like, “Yeah, I was robbed”?
The denim challenge. I was 100% robbed, and the makeover challenge, I was 100% robbed. But I mean… What can you say? Everyone has their own opinion, and I went there to win. And so all of the looks I brought, all the intention that I had brought, the way I conducted myself—that was all with the intention to win. In not winning, I, as you know, that’s not part of my fantasy, that wasn’t part of my intention. For the denim challenge, I had come up with that concept. I brought the costume that basically wrote the whole thing and directed the whole thing. And then I presented in the most denim, the most legendary look, and to not be seen was disappointing, especially given [the judges’] critiques were so positive. I was really confused about how that occurred, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And I’m so proud of myself. I’m so proud of the art that I’ve displayed in the level to which I displayed it. So… “robbed,” I guess I don’t really know if I’d say I was robbed. But I wish that had gone differently in many different ways.
I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was “just the cutest thing ever.”