Stephen Lovekin, Shutterstock for Five, The Parody Musical

Q: Jasmine Rice LaBeija, hello! Thanks for finding time in your busy schedule to chat with us! Are you able to get in enough “Me time” since you started appearing in “Five: The Parody Musical?”

Hi, Jim. Thank you for inviting me to this wonderful interview! I believe “Me time” is a state of mind. Whenever I feel like I need to concentrate and think about myself and my well being is considered “Me time” for me. Ever since I was a little kid, I have always lived in my own fantasy dreamland. So I am used to creating my own “Me time” wherever and wherever I want. Now if you are talking about time to “rest”, that is a different story. 

Q: Congratulations on “Five’s” extended run through the end of April at Theater 555! You’ve performed on many stages as a drag queen and an opera singer, but how unique is the experience of appearing in a musical production with a full cast?

Thank you! I am so excited to be making my off-Broadway debut. It all happened quite fast. I basically only had a week to fully learn and get on stage. But the experience was and is amazing, as the whole cast and team welcomed me with open arms and gave me full support. This experience is quite unique as the whole cast and crew is so diverse–which made the process easier, in my opinion, as I felt safe enough to really express myself as a performer and vulnerable enough to ask for help when needed. It’s truly a dream team. 

Q: “Five” is a loving parody of Broadway musicals in general, and also specifically the recent hit “Six”, which follows King Henry VIII’s sextet of wives. “Five” even adds today’s politics to the parody mix by making its characters five women in ex-President Trump’s life: current wife Melania, ex-wife Ivana, ex-wife Marla, daughter Ivanka and mistress Stormy Daniels.

 You appear in a wonderful guest starring role as Hillary Clinton! So that’s a LOT of stuff, but it’s all good silly fun too. And the audiences obviously love it. What makes it so good, in your opinion?

People always say, “it’s funny because it’s true.” I think that’s the magic of comedy. I think it’s so good because it is poking fun at a situation and a time where it’s quite shocking these things even actually happened. We are making these hard truths easy to swallow. No pun intended, lol. It’s also good because while we poke fun and joke about the situations that happened in these women’s lives, we also show how these women all come together as one at the end. To show the audience that even with all these different hardships and experiences these ladies have gone through, they have something in common that unites them. Which makes us realize that we are all human, with empathy and compassion. 

Q: How did you get this role? What was the casting process like?

Well, the producers of the show have known me for years. They have seen me perform several times throughout my drag career. Moshiel called me one day and said, “My casting director and GM Chase is going to call you about a performance opportunity.” He called me that night to explain the show and offered the role. I just knew from the first moment Moshiel messaged me that it was going to be something special, so I accepted it on the spot. 

Stephen Lovekin, Shutterstock for Five, The Parody Musical

Q: From your own recent experiences, what’s the most surprising thing about being part of a production like this?

I was truly surprised and in awe of everyone’s talent and dedication. At first, I was really skeptical of how I would play Hillary and fit in as an Asian 5’11 250 lbs individual. But when I saw how they created the show and the whole production, I was instantly made at ease to find my own voice within the character. That was really surprising to me. It almost took me back to my childhood of seeing Cinderella (1997). How the diverse cast made the TV movie so special and it was pure magic. I believe the whole cast and crew is making magic every night and it is truly a surprise every time we do a show. 

Q: I understand former Trump lawyer-turned-arch-nemesis Michael Cohen came to an early show. Did you get to meet him and did he give anyone any advice about their roles?

I did not meet him. I wasn’t available for that meeting. Everyone has their journey and an ah-ha moment. I am glad to hear that he is now fighting for democracy and on the right side of history. 

Q: Do you feel more of a connection to Hillary now that you’re playing her?

I’m not sure if connection is the correct word to use. I am definitely grateful to be playing her. Especially since she has paved the way for so many and the glass ceilings she has smashed. No matter where you stand politically, you can not deny the contributions she has made for our country. I believe she will go down in history as one of the greats and I am so honored to be playing her. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to meet her one day. 

Q: “Five” is totally a fun show, but you are also a very politically minded and active queen. What’s your best advice to people out there today who are worried about the state of the country and the world?

I’m not sure if I am someone to really give advice, but this is what I think: People sometimes make the mistake of being a one-issue voter or very narrow minded in their thinking of the issues. But life and the world is way more complex than that.

If it was as simple as just making one small change, we would be living in a world peace era where everyone lives harmoniously. But as humans, we are flawed and that just simply can’t happen. I say educating yourself and trying to learn all issues as much as you can is very important, as knowledge is power. Everything is linked together and one action has a ripple effect that affects all. Also, not being scared or embarrassed of being wrong. You admitting you are wrong is also a form of you being right at the end. 

Q: If I may ask, how is your hearing? You experienced some sudden hearing loss right before the show, and I was wondering if you’ve been able to adjust or recover since that happened.

That was such a troublesome time for me. I don’t know why my life is so dramatic. I guess I was just born to do drag, hahahaha. I suddenly woke up from my nap and was severely deaf in my left ear. Apparently, it is a medical mystery why people experience sudden hearing loss. Glad to report that most of my hearing is back, except for one specific frequency and I do still have some ringing. I also didn’t know so many people go through this. It was an eye opening and humbling experience. It made me realize all the things I have are so valuable and can not be taken for granted, as it can be gone in an instant. Everything happens for a reason and I do believe I became a stronger individual and an artist because of it. 

Q: When you’re not in “Five,” you host Saturday brunch at the Spot, “Lo & Behold” Sundays at Balcon and “Messy Mondays” at Rise Bar plus “Jasmine Live” at Pieces Bar on Thursdays. What else is coming up for you?

I have some big performances coming up. One thing I can announce is that I will be at Caramoor this summer for their music festival which is presented in collaboration with the LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center. I believe it is already sold out, but the waiting list is available. The best way to keep up with my project is definitely through social media. So, PLEASE follow me on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Venmo, Cashapp, PayPal, Zelle @JasmineRiceNYC

Q: And finally: if you’ve had time to watch, who are you rooting for to win “Drag Race” Season 16?

I really haven’t been able to catch up on Drag Race, as I’m doing eight shows a week, on top of my other drag shows. The only thing I’ve seen so far is when it pops up on my social media. From what I have seen, I think someone who has that star quality is Nymphia Wind. She is an incredible, well rounded drag artist. She can sew, do makeup, hair, and perform. I like someone who knows all the aspects of their craft. I also think she will go beyond S16. The ultimate true winner at the end of the day is not only winning your season, but if you can continue to keep people engaged after.

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