Trailblazing Actress, Singer, Comedian, Activist Defies Limitations and Dominates the TV Screens All Over the Place
Celebrated queen extraordinaire, actress, singer, activist and influential central heroine in queer nightlife, Peppermint has raised the roof for sold out crowds all over the planet. She is now about to take over television screens everywhere with a barrage of lively and entertaining projects. After her success as the first trans contestant on the iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 9), she earned a role in Broadway’s hit Head Over Heels while also releasing six record albums, a tribute to Janet Jackson with her “Rhythm Nation” dance video, her live stage LA performance of A Transparent Musical, and so much more.
Currently, Peppermint will be included in the second season of The Traitors, hosted by Alan Cumming and streaming on Peacock early this year. The Emmy nominated series is situated in a remote castle deep in the Scottish Highlands where 21 reality stars come together to complete a series of challenges with the objective of earning a cash prize of up to $250,000. She also has a recurring role in the comedian Michelle Buteau’s hilarious new Netflix series Survival of the Thickest, which premiered last summer. Available also on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, and Vimeo is Peppermint’s first ever stand-up comedy special, So-SIGH-Ety Effects. Here, she invites you on a journey through New York City with a first hand look at what it’s like to be a single, Black, transgender woman in today’s society.
Peppermint’s other accomplishments include hosting and presenting at the GLAAD Media Awards, as well as being nominated for her contribution to the Discovery and Legendary series. She is the first ACLU Artist Ambassador for Trans Justice, which has raised money and awareness for prominent LGBTQ rights groups, and has partnered with MAC cosmetics, which is involved in the HIV vaccine trials network. Peppermint also jumps at every opportunity to speak at universities and community groups regarding the challenges faced by transgender and non-binary people in today’s political climate.
HELLO, PEPPERMINT. WITH ALL OF THE CONVERSATIONS WE’VE HAD, I’VE NEVER ASKED HOW YOU GOT THE NAME PEPPERMINT?
After all these years? It is actually my favorite flavor candy, believe it or not. That’s not that exciting of a response, but I was a teenager and I just started doing drag. There was this boy that I had a crush on who knew that I did drag and I was trying to come up with a name. He basically named me. He suggested I call myself Peppermint because he knew I loved it. And it kind of stuck.
THE TRAITORS. FIRST, DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO GO TO THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS IN A CASTLE?
It’s true. Yes, that is exactly the way you go. It is beautiful. The Scottish Highlands are gorgeous. It is as picturesque, even maybe more so, than you see on TV.
SECONDLY, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU WILL BE ASKED TO DO IN ORDER TO WIN THE MONEY?
You have to survive. That is literally the name of the game. Survive, cheat, backstab. You have to be willing to do that 100% to even get anywhere in the game. I have to wait to write my book of advice about Traitors because you’ll have to see how my experience plays out, but I think I need to have another turn at something like that in order to really know how to do it. I was so starstruck by many of the people when I went in the house. People that we have all watched on TV over the years. On reality shows. Because obviously, this season is all reality show stars. That was very surreal for me. I wanted to go in there and build relationships with people. So that whether I was a traitor or not, I would be able to rely on the friendships and the bonds that I built. Of course, I was OK being a traitor, but I was more happy not being a traitor this time around because I didn’t want to be some conniver. Kill ‘em with kindness. I am not the backstabbing kind, but what I do love is a good murder mystery. So if I have the opportunity to participate in a murder mystery, I’m going to do it. When I went into it, I went into it as a fan because I had watched all the other seasons.
WHAT KIND OF ROLE DO YOU PLAY IN SURVIVAL OF THE THICKEST?
The show was about a 30-something fashionista who is newly single and ready to mingle. A lot of times in the 30s, it’s a time to start a new chapter, not only in your love life but also in your career. So I got word from my agent that I had an opportunity to audition for a new show that was inspired by a book. It wasn’t like it was in its second season. It was a brand new show. So I didn’t really have a lot to go on except for what they sent me. To my surprise, the character they wanted me to audition for was named Peppermint. So that was a little bit of a clue that I might have had something to do with the inspiration of the character. Nevertheless, I gave it my all and I obviously got hired. The character is Peppermint, but inspired by my real life. Being a drag entertainer and a trans woman. She is part of the community and she owns a drag restaurant. So I am 100% identical to the Peppermint on the show. Except for the fact that I don’t own a restaurant. Yet.
HOW DO YOU GET TO BECOME PART OF THESE PROJECTS. DO YOU LOOK FOR THEM AND AUDITION OR DO THEY JUST FALL INTO YOUR LAP?
My career is a mixed bag. I have a lot of different things, whether it is advocacy or theater or TV. I’ve done so many things and I’m honestly really grateful to have those opportunities. But for the most part, most of the things I end up doing are because I have an agent and a brilliant team. Eight times out of 10, I usually audition for things that are scripted. Obviously, if there was a reality TV moment or an opportunity to do drag, there’s no audition. But if it is a Netflix show or Amazon, then those are sort of a traditional audition. I got a little nervous. I’m not the best at memorizing. At my tender young age of 40, my eyes are starting to get a little blurry, so that’s no fun reading a script.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR JANET JACKSON TRIBUTE VIDEO.
Anyone that has watched me over the years, whether they have seen a live performance of mine or watched any of the content I create, knows that I am a huge Janet Jackson fan. I think that she is so great. I love her connection, not only to R&B, but the musical family that she comes from and also her storytelling and music videos are iconic. The dancing and imagery. My number one fantasy would have been to be a dancer behind Janet Jackson. Next great thing being able to perform some of her music and sort of recreate a tribute performance to her. Which I did over the years, but like only for the 100 people that were in the bar that night or only for the people who were at the Pride celebration that year. I said, “You know, I might as well sort of immortalize it.” I won’t be dancing around in high heels forever, so I might as well while I have energy and the ability to really try to do it. So far we’ve done Rhythm Nation, If and now we’re doing video called Together Again, which is from her Velvet Rope album. That song was originally recorded and created as a sort of an homage. A tribute, a love letter to not only the LGBTQ community, but also the people who are affected by HIV.
A TRANSPARENT MUSICAL SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS FUN TO DO. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME DAVINA?
The musical was fun. The musical is inspired by the hit Amazon TV series. It is the same original creators. It is based loosely on their lives. The cast that they have this time around is brilliant. My character is Davina, who is a friend of one of the main characters, Mara. This time around, they decided to reimagine the show and put different people to the cast and I am lucky enough to have been one of them. We are hopeful to be able to bring the show to Broadway next year.
I’M MOST INTRIGUED WITH YOUR SO-SIGH-ETY EFFECTS. TELL ME ABOUT THAT AND WHY YOU DECIDED TO DO IT?
Me and my girlfriend sit around all the time and gossip and joke about our trials and tribulations in love. And you know, dating for anybody is like a s*** show and never goes right. I think a lot of people can identify with that. I think being trans offers a new set of challenges that people deal with. So I sit around and talk about those things with my girlfriends. When I share with my girlfriends kind of like an inside joke, but I really wanted to be able to turn that inside out and allow the rest of the world to get a little taste of what dating in the trans world would be like. What better way to educate people than to make them laugh? A lot of these stories that happen are really really comical.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER PROJECTS UP AND COMING?
I hope to bring the musical to Broadway this year. That is obviously going to be a big thing if we end up doing it. It will be a major accomplishment. Right now, in the near future, I am hoping to release some music. Original music. I have yet to release the third and final installment of my album. Called Letters to My Lovers part 3. Which is really about validation. I don’t need your validation to heal after the relationship. That will be coming out sometime next year. Every single time I sit down to finish the album, I get another opportunity to do a show or compete in a reality show.