How Jinkx Monsoon Uses Makeup to Tell an Unspoken Tale of Queerness in Chicago — See Photos

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Jinkx was drawn in by the show’s “powerful female characters,” which Chicago has “in spades.” In real life, she considers herself more of a Roxy Hart, but Jinkx fits seamlessly into the role of Mama, who presides over the prison block and takes bribes in exchange for her publicity services. “Mama’s the character I can just step into, and it makes so much sense,” she explains. “One thing I really wanted was to bring myself to the character rather than bring the character to me, so my Mama Morton is nothing like Jinkx Monsoon the persona, but I think fans of mine will see Jinkx in there.”

Frankly, it’s hard not to. If you’re reading this, chances are you already know what a standard Jinx look entails: flaming copper hair, crimson lips, and more often than not a black smoky eye. It’s all pretty traditional, to match her fashion aesthetic and comedy style that draw inspiration from the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. The Mama look isn’t too far off from that, the primary differences being the hair and the contouring (more on that momentarily). Few Broadway performers are allotted the creative control to fully dictate their characters’ appearance, but Jinkx knew exactly how to bring Mama to life in a way no one else could.

“When I create any character, I think of it as drag, no matter their gender — that’s how I treat all my acting work. When I play a character like Mama Morton, even though I’m playing her as a cisgender female, it’s almost like Jinkx the human has to become Jinkx the drag queen has to become Mama Morton,” she jokes. “So hopefully what you’re seeing is Mama Morton the character, as played by Jinkx Monsoon, created by Jinkx the human being.”

Despite what audiences might glean of Mama based on her unspoken lesbianism (and the fact that she’s in prison), it’s a look that still requires a flamboyant wig and more makeup than you’ve probably ever seen on one person. “She’s referred to as butch. She’s referred to as ‘Diesel’ as a nickname. Her speech patterns indicate her own kind of mannerisms, and it’s clearly queer-coded,” Jinkx explains. “So it was important to me that we saw that and gave glam that was true to the character.” Combine that with Chicago‘s 1920s prison setting, and Jinkx was automatically led to what she calls “tidy” burgundy curls that are too long to be considered modern by that time period’s norms. “I wanted her to feel just a little bit older and a little bit more ‘around the block.'”

The makeup, though extreme by even a stage performer’s standards, is a little pared down as compared to a classic Jinkx look. “I gave her a pretty deep smoky eye and kept contour and blush minimal. I have kind of a Black Dahlia, femme fatale look about me in the show that I think gives her enough femininity to hold the title of Mama but not so glamour pus that I can’t access my butch self and play the character the way we conceived her.” 

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