Season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race can be easily described in three words – fierce AF! If you’ve been anywhere on the internet in the past couple months, you can spot the buzz from a mile away. From supportive, loving comments under every queens’ posts on Insta, to whole Twitter accounts dedicated to subbing the show incorrectly, fans (me included) have certainly connected more to queens this season. Maybe it’s lockdown, or maybe it’s that something was lacking in the previous two seasons – vulnerability.
No contestant to me has been more vulnerable this season than Jackie Cox, an Iranian-Candian, second generation immigrant queen.
In the American-themed runway look in episode 10, Jackie took to the stage in an abaya and hijab ensemble, marking her as the first ever queen to wear a hijab on the show. Jackie has been open about her ambigious connection to her Iranian heritage. She is clearly unafraid to celebrate her roots – her pet-name for RuPaul was RuPaul-joon (meaning ‘dear’) and she entered the work room in a Minnie Mouse-style get up with her full name, Jacquline, in Farsi written on the front. But, like many immigrant children, she’s felt the pressure from her mother to push herself through further education and get a ‘proper job’.
So, am I Muslim? No. Am I Iranian? No. Can I speak Persian? No.
I’m Hindu. I’m British-Indian. I speak Hindi.
So – why do I love her? Because for the first time, she made drag race something I could share with my family.
She has paved a path for other queer immigrant-children simply by being her, and has been a tidal wave in a pond, representing bi-culturality and queerness all in one package.
Often immigrant children from the Middle East and South Asian communities share many commanilities, the struggle of being bicultural, an overlap in a food-based culture, and of course, something Jackie’s been clocked for which I empathise with so much BEING HAIRY! So as soon as Jackie started calling RuPaul RuPaul-joon, my first thought was, that’s ‘jaan’ in Hindi. And so, a connection was born.
One of the loveliest moments for me was in the first episode, when Jackie came out looking like a shining white goddess. My mum walked past the TV, caught her out of the corner of her eye and exclaimed, ‘Wow! She looks like a Bollywood actress’. My parents, although accepting of LGBTQIA+ culture often struggle to understand it. In a moment, Jackie’s cboice in style, be it intentional or not, had broken down those once inpenitrable barriers for me. She became a point of reference for me to be able to explain my love for the show and drag culture – ‘You know that Bollywood-looking drag queen, Mum? Wasn’t she so pretty? Look, this drag queen does stuff like that too’.
To me, Jackie represents exactly what America’s next drag race superstar should have been. Her looks may not be as polished as other girls, but does that really matter right now? Never in the herstory of RuPaul’s Drag Race has a queen of Asian or Middle Eastern descent won. And of course I’m aware, a queen should be judged holistically in every department and someone’s race should not be their contending factor. However, Jackie is funny, smart, beautiful and, as past episodes have attested to, can give amazing, heartfelt performances. If nothing else, she has paved a path for other queer immigrant-children simply by being her, and been a tidal wave in a pond, representing bi-culturality and queerness all in one package.
Jackie’s comment that “You can be Middle Eastern, you can be Muslim, and you can still be American,” reminded me that I can be Indian, I can be Hindu, and I can still be British in a political climate where immigrants are undervalued and belittled. I should be just as unafraid to show my culture as Jackie.
And so that’s why I, a second generation Indian immigrant, will always love Jackie Cox.