Ballet, Opera, Spirituality and Talking Handbags, are you Faux-Real?! Talking Toxic presents; the Wonderful World of FAUXNIQUE!!!

Monique Jenkinson, the multi-media, inter-disciplinary master mind of bio-drag-queenery is exhilarating. Swooping from otherworldly heights, Fauxnique, Jenkinsons alter-ego, transcends the barriers between performance art, comedy, camp and even elements of high fashion to navigate a path for her audience, that exports them away from the mundane into escapist fantasy, whilst simultaneously allowing and enouraging vital concepts of gender, sexuality and body politics to be discussed and experimented with.

I first became aware, as many have, of Fauxnique via her perfomances as a guest vocalist for electronic performers SilenceFiction/Never Knows, famed for their song, ‘Lipstique’. Its mesmerizing synthesized bubble and swagger as well as captivating video accompaniment starring contemporary drag luminaries such as Peaches Christ, Vinsantos DeFonte, Hoku Mama and of course, Fauxnique herself, applying their makeup from beginning to end, sneaking us a glimpse of what it takes to transform into their glorious characters, has garnered thousands of views worldwide through youtube.

I was struck not only by a fantastic song, but by the incredible aesthetics that Fauxnique employs/ed. As I dug deeper, a rich history began unfolding; the first cis-gendered woman to win the infamous Trannyshack, musician, accomplished modern performance and visual artist whose glowing reviews spoke for themeselves. The collected images and video works which incorporated aspects of opera, ballet, vogueing and perfected comedy timing, were and are inspiring…

ENOUGH TALKING MISS DIS! It’s time for FAUXNIQUE, to grace the stage….

C/O Michelle Blioux

Dis) Okay, let’s get a little background – how did you get started and what defines the nature of ‘Fauxnique’?

Fauxnique) I started performing as a little ballerina in my tween years. I evolved into contemporary dance, and then emerged out of the refusal aesthetic of the theatrical dance scene (from the 70s) still holding strong in the 90s into the San Francisco drag scene via Trannyshack. Fauxnique is a Drag Queen – me (a bio female) performing drag as a drag queen. The name Fauxnique is a play on my name and the term ‘faux queen’ which is sometimes referred to as a ‘woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman’. However, for me, the drag queen transcends this gender binary. The nature of Fauxnique is mutable. She is not only a drag persona, but at kind of filter or lens through which I consider my particular concerns around the performance of femininity. Fauxnique often comes from a very, very physical place and a place of deep and strong emotion. She often appears in the guise of a faerie, butterfly or earth goddess and sometimes appears in the guise of one of her heroines. Fauxnique is a feminist – like myself.

D) Your performance aesthetic mutates gender and contemporary (as well as classical) images of glamour, into tools of expression that ultimately cross boundaries of comedy, drama and even the monstrous. Can you elaborate on your perception of these archetypes as well as your utilisation of them in your work…

M) I think that feminine power has historically been seen as monstrous and/or transgressive. This is what struck me most when I first became an avid drag fan. The very first night I attended the legendary drag club Trannyshack, it was ‘Riot Grrrl Night’. I was astounded. These were queens honoring feminist rebels. I was immediately hooked, and I really got the way in which drag plays with and highlights what we may find radical or monstrous about feminine power. I keep thinking back to my copy of RE/Search Magazine’s ‘Angry Women’ issue, which was a total reference tome for me. The cover was a graphic novel rendering of Medusa. And I think about a piece I made many years ago, my gateway to drag work, that I still bring out occasionally as part of my solo cabaret show Faux Real, about opera diva Maria Callas. Part of the soundtrack is an interview with her. At one point the opera-queen interviewer broaches the ‘inquiring minds want to know’ question of her weight loss, implying that someone made her do it. And she replies: ‘I was playing Medea then, and I thought to myself, well, the face is too fat & can’t stand it & I needed a chin for expression.” I died. This quote kind of contains how I formulate my relationship to the humor, comedy and monstrosity of drag. Clearly you need a chin to play a the archetypical child-murdering witch. Deep psychology and specific physicality.

C/O Parker Tilghman

D) Drag as performance art and as a method of reclaiming the body are twin themes employed by a plethora of visual artists from Cindy Sherman to Leigh Bowery, Claude Cahun and beyond. How do you view the cultural dialogue created by drag and its varied forms?

M) Big question. Drag is certainly both to me – a finely honed craft and a method of reclaiming the body. And you bring up some of my very favorite artists. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Leigh Bowery & Cindy Sherman – whom I kind of see as opposite poles of my heroine spectrum. As a classically trained dancer, I respect and delight in the rules and strictures of drag as performance. I love doing the assignment, I love getting the lip-synch, making sure the makeup goes over the top (and the eyebrows go well above the actual eyebrows) and out of the territory of pretty lady. I love honing my ultra-studied feminine moves. So drag as an art is very serious to me. And I have certainly reclaimed my body via drag. As a classically trained dancer, I sustained the very common damage of that vocation – the body dismorphia stuff – that drag and drag queens helped me get over. I have seen such a multiplicity of female bodies – and experienced my own body – embraced and celebrated in the drag world and that has been an experience of reclamation.

Parker Tilghman

D) You’re no stranger to controversy, following your crowning as Miss Trannyshack in 2003, there was a small uproar that focused on the fact that you are a biological woman as opposed to a man performing the drag role. How did this affect your perception of the community and now, what do you view as your position within the world of drag?

M) From the moment I attended that first Riot Grrrl Night at Trannyshack, I felt like I was home. And from the time I first took to the stage there, I was treated as one of the family. Trannyshack was already upsetting the gender binaries and biases in drag. The only concern there was the quality and creativity of the performance: whoever you are and however you identify, be fierce and we will welcome you. My decision to participate in the Miss Trannyshack Pageant came with a tremendous amount of support. Other faux queens, or cisgendered female drag queens had participated before, but I was the first one to win it. I think most memebers of that particular community were ready for me to win. The audience was certainly with me.

In the aftermath of the win, I felt the love more than the uproar. But I think folks who heard through the grapevine that a woman won were more up in arms – the ones who weren’t there or weren’t part of that community. Heklina (the creator & queen of Trannyshack) really stuck up for me in those cases. I don’t know if she literally protected me from the fallout of anyone’s dismay, but no one went out of their way to express it to me personally.

One thing that did happen, was that I had quite a few queens come up to me, after seeing me perform sometime after the fact and say something to the effect of: ‘I was really put out when you won, but now that I’ve seen you perform, I get it.’ I’m a good drag queen. I do my homework, I work hard, I think about it a lot,and I honor my ancestors.

Fontaine Weyman

D) Returning briefly to aesthetics; you favour a high glamour, almost couture expression of styling when it comes to your use of cosmetics. This tessellates with a subcultural, punk and DIY approach to costuming. How have both the mainstream and counter-culture affected and influenced your visual extravaganza?

M) Fashion has always been vital for me. I was a teen in the 80s in suburban Colorado – not the most stylish situation. It was a time when, to wear something out there was really to declare yourself as outside the mainstream. We forget that now. Now we remember the fabulous looks of the 80s and think of Boy George & Cyndi Lauper as icons of the 80s. But people really did get beaten up at school for listening to that music and looking like that. In those pre-internet years, my lifelines out of the flat, square, Christian whiteness of that place were fashion magazines (my stylish mom had subscriptions to all of them) and cable television. Weirdly, we had this public access cable show coming out of Broomfield, the suburb where I lived (outside of Boulder, the big college town) called Teletunes, that predated MTV. And they played all the weirdest shit. That is where I came into contact with Devo, Kate Bush, the Buggles, etc. My other favorite show was ‘Style’ on CNN, which showed the runway shows and talked to designers. I would get up early on Saturday to watch those shows. And then later I would spend my babysitting money on the 2-month old copies of The Face sold at the one hip record store. That totally formed me. On Saturday I would watch a Valentino runway show and then a Snakefinger video and then cobble together something fabulous to school on Monday.

D) Further to classical images of glamour, ballet and opera have also featured in your live performances, for instance, in Faux Real. You contrast these often considered, romantic forms with comedy and sometimes sadness to brilliant effect. How do you design these pieces and also, why, as in the aforementioned piece, do you prefer to actively expose the process of building an immaculate image (a practice which many drag artists seek to oppose) and thereby draw attention to the application and maintenance of illusion?

M) Thank you for the kind words about the work!

I really came to opera and back around to ballet because of, and through drag.

So the short answer is, that I found the drag and camp elements in opera & ballet – of which there are many – and used them. There was tremendous freedom in returning to ballet – especially the rigors of pointe work – through drag, because no one expects a drag queen ballerina to have perfect ballet technique or to weigh 90 pounds. So I come from a place of understanding and love for ballet, but also an awareness of how over the top & ridiculous it can be.

The design, choreography and conception of a piece like Mimicry & Flaunting, in which I consider and work with the image of the queen of all divas, Maria Callas, came from a few sources, and it is my oldest piece. When I first started listening to Callas, inspired by Wayne Koestenbaum’s fantastic book The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality & the Mystery of Desire (the title from my piece also comes from this book) I came across an interview with her, and that really inspired the piece. Then I started thinking about the facial expression of the opera diva as a dance, and the way in which the performance of that dance is the improvisational element in a form in which everything else is so composed.
As for drawing attention to process, I have just always been, and remain, fascinated both with transformation and simple theatrical magic. I don’t think it makes the illusion any less magical. Or I think, somehow it lends depth.

Parker Tilghman

D) What inspires this position?

M) The beginning of Mimicry & Flaunting in which I sit at a mirror that faces the audience and put on my Callas face, came out of necessity as it was the final piece in a solo show, so I had to change onstage and make it look interesting. The mirror bit was a piece of problem solving that became really integral to the piece.

D) In your work, ‘A Glamour’, you sought to unify practices such as makeup application and the arrangement of artifice with spirituality and meditation. Drag, which can at times be incredibly restrictive and focus largely on artifice, is not often considered spiritual. Do you feel that through the elevation of what many would consider mundane practice, i.e. costuming, makeup artistry etc. that we can also be spiritual or at the very least, imbue these ‘rituals’ with meditative significance?

M) Thank you so much for talking about this piece! I love what you see in it and your wording, so my answer might just be ‘yes.’

With A Glamour I did indeed seek to look at the transformations and totems of drag as part of a serious ritual. The clothing and accessories in the piece were a bunch of bangles given to me by a friend who had recently died (legendary Trannyshack superstar The Steve Lady), a beaded sweater that had belonged to my grandma that I wear ALL THE TIME and a raffia dress that falls apart. So there is a lot about ancestry, death, and presence. I am always aware of presence and live performance as ever-dying moments.

D) Further to ‘Glamour’ you often exalt movements of dance such as vogueing, associated with the LGBT community, by including them in performances that also utilise ballet and again, operatic scoring (‘Crying in Public’) always with a tremendous sense of humour of course, but a genuine affection and studied approach to these genres is obvious. What is it that draws you to these aspects of dance culture and why do you feel that it is important to include these in your live events?

M) Vogueing is an exalted form all on its own, and I am happy to try to serve it was well as I possibly can. I come at everything from an embodied place, so I am attracted to a huge variety of dance forms. When we talk about vogueing especially, we tend to focus on the sociopolitical aspects of the performance. While these are crucial, there is also tremendous artistry and technique there. That technique is serious and deserves to be recognized and honored. I also like to use tasks that present difficulty and change my state. I thought a vogue-ballet  in soaking wet clothes in a puddle of water while attached to an aerial bungee cord would do that.

My using Vogue vocabulary with Vivaldi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ in Crying in Public was also partly my processing a thought and a feeling that I have a lot which is that if I had been born about 10 or 15 years earlier all of my friends would most likely be dead from AIDS. So I think I meant to honor my dead would-be friends. And then again, all my friends are not dead. So with that part I am also making fun of my own tendency to be maudlin & overdramatic. At the beginning, I say, in my best imitation of my friend Glamamore ‘Oh Mary! Enough! Quit your blubbering.’ Humor is essential to our survival.

D) How do you feel that these performances are interpreted by your audience, and how do you hope for them to feel when watching or engaging?

M) I am really lucky to have a mostly generous, game and intelligent audience. For the most part, they go along for the ride. I don’t necessarily want them to feel any one thing, and what any one person feels or gets out of it is really subjective, but of course, I want them to feel something. With my last evening-length piece, Instrument, I experimented a lot, and the drag elements were really just traces, so I may have lost some of my Fauxnique audience (one person boorishly & publicly told me so on Facebook), but most of them went out of their way to tell me how much they got out of it.

I think one of the jobs of contemporary art is to push the culture forward. That can sometimes run counter to entertaining and pleasing. Drag and dance can both and alternately fall into the categories of art and entertainment. I think good drag pushes the culture forward just like good contemporary performance.

D) Moving into music, you provided guest vocals for SilenceFiction/Never Knows/marc Kate, whose now iconic video, ‘Lipstique’ has been viewed by thousands of people all over the world! There must be more, tell us there is and also, tell us a little bit about the duo….

M) Oh my! The duo was both a one-off and ongoing, as Silencefiction (now known as Never Knows and also as Marc Kate) is the love of my life! I don’t want to disappoint, but I don’t know when you’ll see anything from us as a duo. He, however is coming out with a fantastic album in the Spring and you will LOVE his podcast ‘Why We Listen’. Listen to the episodes with Justin Vivian Bond, Joshua Grannell & Vinsantos! Find info at

I am so proud of ‘Lipstique’ and it was such a pleasure to make. As a live performer, it was thrilling to just do something that can be seen and move forward without my body having to be present! I would love to do more work like that, and I certainly hope there will be more collaboration between me & Marc artistically. However, I think one of the cornerstones of our relationship has been that we are both relentlessly supportive of each other’s projects, and adamantly free about doing our own work.

Parker Tilghman

D) Finally, what for you makes a great performance and what advice would you impart to those seeking to step into those stupendously high heels?

M) Lots of ingredients go into a great performance. The first step is DO IT. And then do it some more. Watch performers you admire with an eagle eye. A great teacher of mine just said that technique is knowledge, not merely repetition. I think that is really important. Go deep. Be honest. Ask questions. Try new things. And wear your own damn shoes, because you are on your own path.

D) BONUS ROUND Where can we catch you next, where can we buy our Fauxnique branded clothing, music and accessories?

Maybe I need to bring back the Fauxnique t-shirt. Or maybe a hankie for those who are easily moved, like myself?

I make regular appearances at Trannyshack, Some Thing, and various theatrical stages around San Francisco. I also perform nationally and internationally. I would LOVE to come to the UK again soon, so let’s make that happen! Also, I will be performing in March as part of Work More at SOMArts, curated by Mica Sigourney & Kolmel Withlove. I will be collaborating with Maryam Farnaz Rostami aka Mona G. Hawd on a piece that is a part of a larger group show paying tribute to the benchmark feminist collective/installation/show Womanhouse.

Join my email list at and I will keep you posted.

A huge thank you to Fauxnique for taking part in this edition of Talking Toxic! I loved every second and every syllable! And, if like me, you want to keep up to date with all of the lovely ladys’ latest goings on, subscribe to the mailing list and buy a copy of Lipstique available on Amazon, now…

Bile and Bruises

Dis Charge



Swamp Thing… I think I Love You! Talking Toxic with HOKU MAMA SWAMP!

Our latest installment of Talk Toxic focuses on one of the finest faux queens in the biz – a woman with more charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent than your average RPDR favourite. The Hawaiian punch, known, as HOKU MAMA SWAMP!


Dis) Let’s get a little background, how did the vision that is Hoku Mama Swamp begin?

Hoku) The creation and evolution of “Hoku Mama Swamp” has many roots and influences. I’ve always been a performer. I did a lot of musical theater as a kid and teen. I would put on shows for just about anyone who was willing to indulge me… family members, my piano teacher Mercedes, Cha Chi the lunch lady etc…I think it has something to do with being the youngest of four children, I was a glutton for attention!

In high school in the late 90’s, I borrowed my older sister’s ID and snuck into parties like “Cherry” and “Make-up” in Hollywood, where I first saw the likes of Russel, Mz. Alana, Big Momma, Jackie Beat and Candis Cayne. I fell in love with drag, and a few drag queens too (I like a man in a dress, what can I say)! They were talented, funny, clever, smart, brave, unapologetic, fierce, and often times gorgeous! I’ve just always had a deep respect for what they do. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in 2000 however, and later saw an amazing performance by Fauxnique at Trannyshack that I realized I could (and wanted), to do it too! I had heard many drag queens describe what they do as “honoring” women they admire, so, if drag queens were paying homage to women, I wanted to pay homage to drag queens. It was sort of going to be my way of saying thank you. Also, it just looked really really fun! So, I spent a lot of time doing my drag homework (Stonewall, Wigstock, The Cockettes, Klubstitute, The Queen, Paris is Burning, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, Trannyshack, Til Fridays, Marlena’s, Finnocios, Drag Strip 66, Leigh Bowery, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Boy Bar Beauties, The Fishtix, Glamamore, Juanita MORE!, International Chrysis, Nelson Sullivan archives etc etc etc) and performed for the fist time at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge in 2003.

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) Your makeup style blends a childlike quality with exaggerated and aggressive or theatrical imagery – What inspires this mash-up maquillage?

H) My makeup came about for a couple of reasons. Being female, I felt I needed a face that would “twist” drag makeup in the same way that my gender was a “twist” to drag performance, if that makes sense? I felt like “girly”or “fishy” makeup on me was going to be redundant. Also, I’m attracted to bold, dramatic, and graphic shapes and colors. I tend to see things in black and white, I don’t always find the grey, therefore, I’ve never been into blending and pastels, it takes a skill and sensibility that I don’t posses. I needed a makeup I could execute on my own, that was simple yet bold. I played around with many looks during my club kid kinda phase, but found the lashes pretty early on and stuck with them. I liked looking a little cartoon/clown/doll like.
Personally, I’m pretty vanilla. I was a girl scout, I was an honor student, I didn’t drink or experiment with drugs or sex until college… I drive the speed limit… I mean seriously, bring a book! So I really appreciate the childlike innocence of that face in juxtaposition to some of the filthy songs I perform and the skimpy costumes I wear. It’s a mask, but it still represents a piece of the everyday me, even if I am humping a trash can!

D) Performances veer wildly from strip tease and over-sexualised hip-hop to Elizabethan disco revenge fantasies – How do you plan your routines and where do you derive your inspiration from?

H) I really appreciate celebrating the ridiculous in life. I like the idea of “living the dream” no matter how bizarre or tragic that dream may be. Take the ‘Peter Pan Man’ for example. A grown man who dresses like Peter Pan at every opportunity and who releases pretty awful (yet amazing) music recordings of himself singing songs about pixie dust and faeries. It’s weird, almost creepy in a way, but it’s also totally awesome! It makes him happy and it entertains me to no end. ( ) I love Mariah Carey because I think she’s in on her own joke, and that makes me happy. I like being a parody of her parody. I like satire. I like camp. I like politically incorrect. I like making people uncomfortable sometimes in hopes that maybe it will help them to eventually feel more comfortable. I do things that make ME uncomfortable, in hopes that I will eventually feel more comfortable. I like shock value. I like downright stupid in the most brilliant way. I LOVE RETARDED. I honestly perform songs that are a celebration/triumph of some kind for me. I perform songs that I love. The inspiration usually comes from turning something on it’s head and making a joke of some kind, and usually the joke has some kind of social or cultural commentary buried beneath. I take my clothes off a lot because we live in a culture obsessed with being super thin and which uses sex and primarily the sexuality of women to sell stuff. I like to use my size and nakedness as a way of saying “fuck you” to that ideology. Because I’m not model thin I’m not sexy? I can’t sell sex? Watch me… and I’ll do it in an over the top, retarded, almost grotesque way, and it will STILL be sexy. Eat it! It’s basically like starting off as the butt of a joke, but ending up on the other side of it. I love doing that!

D) As a faux queen you occupy a unique space within contemporary drag as you have been embraced by the outsider or alternative drag community as well as the mainstream gay and straight audiences. How has being a ‘biological woman’ impacted on your performance

H) I don’t feel like being female has ever been too much of a big deal, either positive or negative, in my experience of the drag world. I think that is largely due to the fact that I did most of my performing in the magical city of San Francisco. San Francisco drag connoisseurs are often other artists and performers who care mostly about the performance itself and little else. There aren’t many “rules” to follow. You can have three heads, one arm, a hunch back, and look like Barney Rubble in a dress but tear the house down with a great performance and San Francisco will love you. The performance is THE most important thing- over looks, gender, or anything else. If you’re a good performer, you’re a good performer. Period. I’ve always believed that, and so I try to give performances that audiences will enjoy so much that they don’t give much thought to my having a vagina. So far so good, I’ve always felt accepted and treated equally by both other performers and the audiences we perform for. Also, I’m not necessarily a pioneer. There were great faux queens before me that paved the way and gave us validity before I came along… Sweet Pam, Ana Matronic, Patty O’Furniture, Windy Plains, Crickett Bardot, Dea Dazzler… Fauxnique caused quite a controversy when she won Miss Trannyshack in 2003, but people couldn’t deny that she absolutely deserved it and that she’s an amazing performer!!! I wouldn’t be here with out them.

Fancy a Soak?

D) You have shared the stage with an incredible variety of performers including Midnight Mass hostess and creator ‘Peaches Christ’ as well as Trannyshack founder, Heklina. What has been your favourite collaborative effort so far?

H) That is very difficult to answer because I’ve enjoyed it all. The Trannyshack Kiss of party with Heklina was one of the greatest nights in my drag life. I’m so lucky and happy to have been a part of it. Working with Juanita MORE! and Glamamore over the years has taught me more about drag, friendship, and just life in general than I ever would have imagined. The house of MORE is EVERYTHING to me. Working with all the girls at Aunt Charlie’s was a huge honor and dream come true. That bar was my second home for a long time and those girls were my family. Cockateila, Holotta Tymes, and Suppositori Spelling introduced me to the truly retarded and hysterical side of drag…and working with them is always madly inspiring and great great fun. Peaches Christ and I also have a special relationship. She invited me into the Midnight Mass Players as a young and rotten baby queen and I had the time of my life. Drag Queen roller derby, mother daughter mud wrestling, this was all the kind of stuff my dreams were made of! I made a scene one night… a giant hot mess of a scene, and really offended her and pissed her off. We had a mini feud for a little while. She sent me threatening emails which stated “You’re swimming with sharks” and I sent her cards that said things like “There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.” It was super dramatic and hilarious, though I was the only one laughing about it at the time… but today we can both laugh about it. I was young and obnoxious… she was old and tired (totally just kidding). Peaches is truly one of my favorite people ever. I love her and respect her endlessly. I’m thankful that she gave me a second chance and got to know me once the brat phase was over. Love you Ghoul! I’m really lucky to have worked with so many different and wonderful people in San Francisco. They’ve all shared their knowledge and talent with me and I’m grateful for them all.

Photo by Austin Young

Photo by Austin Young

D) What makes a great performance for you?

H) A great performance in my opinion is one in which you make people feel something. You take them on some kind of ride or journey. You tell a story. You make it “believable” and the audience connects with you. It’s genuine. It’s done with your audience in mind and not just some form of selfish masturbation or a direct remake of someone else’s art. And for heaven’s sake… KNOW YOUR WORDS! PLEASE! 🙂

D) You’ve relocated from San Fran to Hawaii, what prompted your move and will you be continuing to perform on the drag circuit?

H) I moved to Hawaii a year and a half ago to help my family take care of my 80 year old Tutu (grandmother). She needed a 24 hr live in caregiver and my family asked me if I would do it. How do you say no to Grandma? You don’t. Right now she’s thriving and doing so well that she may not need me in this capacity for much longer. I definitely miss San Francisco and the drag community and hope to return soon for good. I don’t do much drag here. The scene is just different.

D) Finally, where can we catch you next?

I will be back in the city for two weeks around Halloween to DJ and perform at Some Thing, Mahogany Monday’s, Booty Call and more! So come party with me and say hi San Francisco! I miss you!

Hoku does Bag Lady

Hoku does Bag Lady

A massive thank you to Hoku for taking the time to Talk Toxic with me today! Make sure y’all get your asses to San Fran and pardy hardy with her at her up coming gigs!

Bile and Bruises

Dis Charge