In so many ways, New Jersey based, New York City frequent performer Jolina Jasmine is lightning in a bottle. Her dazzling and high energy performances keep you captivated, matched only by her sultry and always uber creative looks. While she has conquered New Jersey with several titles (including Miss Paradise), she is ready for her next act, and has been making her name in New York City and working along side some of the biggest names in the Big Apple. I sat down with Jolina to chat about her evolution in drag, bringing her unique style to the world of New York City drag, and why Asbury Park N.J. is so special to her
For those that have never seen Jolina Jasmine on stage, how would you describe your performance style and “drag” as a whole?
I would consider my performance style very high energy. However, I sometimes experiment with campy performances or solo productions. I mainly stick to high energy because I love dancing. As whole, I’d consider my drag upbeat, universal, and fun. What you see is a complete Jolina Jasmine creation from head to toe. From the makeup, mixes, costumes, hair, and some accessories. I’ve created it all from scratch.
You are known to perform some real dance floor stompers as well as some great mixes. How do you choose your material? Any favorites that really stand out?
I actually come up with my mixes based on whatever song I’m obsessed with at that time. I’ll listen to it on repeat, and mentally picture a certain image that I think goes with the song. Then I let my creative side out and whip out the sewing machine. When I’m choosing my material, I try to go off the clientele of the venue that I’m performing at. If I know the crowd prefers older music, I’ll perform and oldie but goodie. Some of my favorites are any old school Janet Jackson, Madonna, or disco. If I know the crowd likes more mainstream or top 40, I’ll lean towards that. The usual Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney, etc. If I’m not %100 certain as to what kind of crown I’m getting, I’ll do something around the 90’s to 2000’s where it’s kind of in the middle. Universal songs that everybody knows. But I always like to add my own twist so they get to hear something they like, but with a little Jolina spin on it. A lot of the times, I don’t even know what song I’m performing until a few minutes before I hit the stage.
How did Jolina Jasmine get her start in the extremely competitive New Jersey/New York City drag scene? Asbury Park has a special place in your heart I hear….
Awww. Special shoutout to Asbury Park. One of the absolute best cities along the east coast! It will always have a special place in my heart. I started off just trying out drag and playing in makeup. After about two years of networking and meeting other performers both in NJ and NYC, I started doing little competitions here and there to get my feet wet. Competitions guided me to pageants, where I won my first title as Miss Ikon. I am eternally grateful for that because Ikon opened up so many doors for me allowing me to often travel out of state to New York, Pennsylvania, and Orlando, FL. Asbury Park, though, is where I snatched the prestigious title of Miss Paradise, which I consider my home. Another quick shout out to the owner of Paradise, Shep Pettibone, and the staff there who are like family. Paradise to me, was the crème de la crème of not only an establishment, but a title in New Jersey. After my reign as Miss Paradise, I felt as though I hit my glass ceiling in the Garden State and said to myself “I think I want to visit some old friends in the lovely Big Apple!”
You started off as a New Jersey queen and are now moving into the New York scene more and more; It’s so hard to stand out in New York City and in drag; how have you carved out your own niche?
I actually had plans of moving to Florida, but I cancelled those plans for love and NYC came as a bonus. It was a win/win situation. New York City is indescribable. It’s a completely different world from New Jersey; it’s so surreal. There’s so many different styles of drag, which means so much competition, something I was informed about from fellow queens in NYC prior to my decision to come here. It was a bit hard to stand out at first, but I always remained true to myself and my style which I think helped me out a bit. I’ve created opportunities for myself by making it a goal to meet and support as many queens as possible. Support is one of the most important things to me, especially within this industry, and I’ve been extremely lucky and thankful with the opportunities I’ve been given.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
So many. During my time as Miss Paradise, I got to be a main act in New Jersey Gay Pride, special thank you to Garden State Equality for that! I met Governor Phil Murphy and spoke with him briefly; that was amazing! I got to travel to many different states and meet other performers. I hosted a major benefit in NJ to raise money for Pulse nightclub which was televised and was extremely successful, along with some other benefits to raise money, awareness, and information for different issues our community faces. I had an amazing reign as a Miss Paradise. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some of the best entertainers in the country. All of which I couldn’t be more blessed with.
What is left that you want to achieve as Jolina Jasmine? Any aspirations to be on RuPaul’s Drag Race perhaps?
I want to achieve so much more. I really want to start getting into music. Music has been a well kept secret passion of mine for a long time. I want to travel more. California is one of my goals. Oh, and I want my Instagram (@JolinaJasmine) to hit 10k. Haha Just kidding…but seriously. I love all the feedback I get on my work. It’s a great way to improve my craft. However, I never get tired of traveling and meeting people. As far as Drag Race, *laughs*, I get asked that a lot. I’m absolutely not against it. I’ve auditioned, but I haven’t made it on….yet. So RuPaul, if you’re reading this, “Hey kitty girl!”
Speaking of Drag Race, several NYC girls have won. How do you think the show as a whole has been for the drag community?
The New York queens never disappoint. No surprise there. With all great things come some not so great things. I think the show is amazing for the drag community in the sense that Drag Race really elevated drag to become mainstream. It opened doors and brought light to issues that the lgbt community faces on a worldwide platform. That is amazing. However, I also understand the argument that people don’t support local drag as much because of the show. That certainly is one thing that should change, so I was happy to see a lot of the Drag Race queens speaking out about that and encouraging fans to support entertainers in their local community.
You are part of a great group of ladies who are bringing a fresh and young new perspective to drag in New York City. Who are some of your favorite sisters to perform with and why? What do you do when Jolina Jasmine is not on stage?
Aww, you called me young! Thank you for that! I honestly have a list. In no particular order because they’re all number 1’s to me, but some of my favorites to watch and/or perform alongside are Brita Filter, Pixie Aventura, Tina Burner, Shequida Hall, Sherry Pie, Brenda Dharling, Androgyny, the entire Haus of Aja is sickening, Kareem McJagger and my fellow Miss Paradise sister Honey Davenport. They’re all different in styles, but they all have aspects of their performances that I really enjoy whether it’s comedy or dance or look. Off stage, I actually get bouts of social anxiety in certain settings. Because nightclubs can be quite loud and busy, when I’m not on stage I try to avoid super chaotic places. I really enjoy watching a movie, going out to eat at a cute, quiet little eatery, or discovering new music. Every now and then I’ll go out to see a drag show and support the queens.
The gay community has had a very trying year and politically things are very dark. What do you think are the biggest issues facing our community and what do you see as your part in helping to address them?
It’s a dark time, that’s for sure. I think one of the biggest issues that face our community is hatred and unacceptable within our community itself. We can all do our part by speaking out and bringing awareness to the issues. Any chance you get. Here’s the thing: we are a community inside of a community. While the LGBT+ community is big, at the same time, it’s small. Everything is amplified, if that makes sense. Some internal issues our community faces is racism, transphobia, bisexuality erasure, exclusion, and internalized homophobia. Even with issues such as immigration. There are “Dreamers” who are part of our community. Their concerns should be our concerns. We have to do do a better job of making a joint interest with those who are looking for equality and freedom from discrimination in all forms. We have to take on the struggles within our own community if we want to keep the momentum of the past decade.
What does “pride” mean to you?
To me, Pride means acceptance of yourself. It’s saying “This is me. All of me. I unashamedly love who I am, what I stand for and I am proud of it.”
Most importantly’-where can people see you perform?!
I’m honestly here and there. I currently don’t have a residency anywhere yet. I would love to though! For the most part, mainly in NJ or NYC unless I travel elsewhere. But hopefully you’ll see me on your tv screen in the future!