For those of you who don’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’re missing out on the best show on TV. Somewhere in between guilty pleasure and subversive art lies the competition to find American’s next drag superstar. And where there’s art and queerness there are Jews, right? Right.
One of this season’s Jewish contestants, Sasha Velour, has made the final cut, and we’ll find out on June 23 if she will take crown. Her given name is Sasha Steinberg, and though her mother isn’t Jewish, she identifies strongly with her father’s faith. “Identity for Jews like us was shaped by cultural practices and family traditions rather than allegiances of place or language or class, because those things continued to be redefined for us,” she told The Forward in 2015. “Drag operates along similar lines. As a drag performer, my identity exists in music, art and fashion, not in any one ‘language’ of gender or ‘appearance.’ ”
It may not surprise you that Ms. Velour, who lives in Brooklyn, has acquired a reputation this season as being the “smart” queen, someone who is intentional about every little aspect of her performance. Could that intelligence win her the crown? Well, she also has her strong work ethic and impeccable taste propelling her this far as well (Entertainment Weekly has her as their pick to win.)
But Sasha Velour is not the only Jewish drag queen to be featured on the show. Let’s take a deeper look at three more.
1. Alexis Michelle (Alex Michaels out of drag) was also a contestant this season, and she did really well, placing fifth out of 14 contestants (the final queen eliminated prior to the finals). She makes her Judaism central to her performance, and talked about it frequently on the show. Plus, she was known as the “theater queen,” and what’s more Jewish than Broadway? “I think Judaism has always been about being the best person you can be,” she recently told Jewcy. “And for me, as a queen, it’s about being the most authentic me I can be. I think those two things go hand in hand, being your best you, and your most authentic. I think they’re very closely related.”
2. Acid Betty is the psychedelic, severe persona of Jamin Ruhren, who placed eighth last season. As her name suggests, each look is a real trip.
“I definitely give credit to my upbringing as a Jew to how and why I relate to queerness,” she told Jewcy last year. “While in elementary school, my mother would visit every year to educate my classmates about Hanukkah through story telling, music, and themed lollipops. Ha… Very similar to how the queer culture has to go out and educate the world about our perspectives and experience.”
3. Jinkx Monsoon is a Jewish contestant who went all the way: She won season five. Monsoon is also Jerick Hoffer, who was raised Catholic but later on got more in touch with her Jewish heritage. Monsoon is simply Jewish, in fact, she bills herself as “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen.”
“Jinkx is a single mother and I’ve seen so many really strong Jewish women—Sarah Silverman is a particular inspiration of mine,” she told The Forward back in 2013. “There’s a mixture of pride and self-loathing in Jewish female comedians that I’ve always really admired and wanted to bring into Jinkx.”
And there’s more where that came from, with more and more up-and-coming Jewish drag queens. Next year in season 10.