Q&A | Jimbo the drag clown talks Canadian tour, her dream TV show and Ariana Grande DMs

Canada has had a steady stream of internationally renowned drag queens in recent years. 

The Ru Paul’s Drag Race franchises are in part responsible for creating Canadian mega-stars in the drag world. 

There are now several seasons of Canada’s Drag Race, and Canadian queens have been cast in popular spinoffs such as UK vs. The World (where internationally known drag queens compete against their British counterparts) and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, now in its ninth season. 

Now, Jimbo the drag clown is arguably Canada’s most famous drag queen, after participating in all three shows (and winning All-Stars). During that time, she’s generated a healthy buzz around her bizarre comedy and big-budget looks. 

And she’s gearing up for an international tour, with shows across Canada this month. Below is a conversation between Jimbo and CBC’s Teghan Beaudette. It has been edited for length and clarity.

All the world’s a stage for Jimbo the Drag Clown

The CBC’s Clare MacKenzie meets up with the Canadian drag artist on the Fredericton stop of the world tour of Jimbo’s Drag Circus, to talk about the show, sudden fame, pronouns and the power of drag to encourage others to embrace their authentic selves.

TEGHAN BEAUDETTE: I felt kind of a groundswell of recognition when you did UK vs. The World, and I’m wondering for you when you felt like, “OK, I am now in the international drag celebrity club”? 

JIMBO: I think it was probably when I was messaging with Ariana Grande on Instagram and she started following me and she was like, “I love your drag. I love your message. I love your energy.” And she said I was a star, and it just blew my mind. I love Ariana. I think she’s such a little cutie pie. So that was definitely a big thing where I was like, “Oh my God,” you know.

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And other celebrities reaching out …  when you have that, it kind of opens your eyes. There’s a huge audience base around the world for this. 

TB: You have a really, really wide influence right now and —

JIMBO: Are you talking about my butt? 

TB: Yeah, we’ll get to that part later. You have a really wide influence across drag. Trixie Mattel on The Pit Stop was talking about how Miss Plane Jane has a very clear Jimbo influence, and that there’s this whole generation of baby drag queens who are really Jimbo-inspired. I’m curious what it feels like to see yourself emulated?

JIMBO: I am all about more weird, more fun — everyone feel your joy and find what’s inside of you that you want to share, and share it. You know, I love Plane Jane, and I think it’s f–king awesome. I love her fashion. It’s awesome to be able to look at another queen or another performer and go like, “Oh, I would wear that,” or “Oh, I really like that!” — so I think it’s really fun.

Drag is all about individuality, but at the same time it’s also about bringing people together through commonality, common joys, shared joy, shared aesthetics. I think that it just makes sense that drag’s all about borrowing from each other and trying things on.

The drag queen Jimbo appears on Ru Paul's Drag Race: UK Versus the World television show. Jimbo is wearing a green dress with black circles.
Jimbo appears on the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK Versus the World. (World of Wonder)

Pamela Anderson’s influence on Canadian drag

TB: I have to talk about the influence of your breastplates, because I’ve never seen bigger boobs in my life. How did that become a part of your drag aesthetic? How did you decide that was the thing?

JIMBO: Well, I guess, like, being a child of the [1980s] and kind of like early ’90s, there’s a lot of that aesthetic sort of in there. Baywatch, Pamela Anderson, that kind of vibe. And then also Elvira, Mistress of the Dark [is a] big influence of mine, Dolly Parton’s an influence, as well — so big-breasted women. My mom has and had big breasts, my sister, you know, it runs in my family. Drag has a lot to do with proportions, and I’m a bit of a tall, bigger guy, so in order to proportionize I need to have bigger breasts to suit this body size. And I’m also a clown so I need big tits, and I need them even bigger because I’m a clown.

TB: I love that it has a Canadian origin. Now, for your tour, I know Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., is close to your heart, and I know Victoria, B.C., is close to your heart. 

JIMBO: Kitchener-Waterloo is where I moved after living in London going to university.

That was where I found my artist group of people. That’s where I was really encouraged to to really be weird and to step outside of my science [studies] and all that stuff. Growing up closeted in London and being in science, and then moving out of my hometown, kind of opening up and experimenting — I got to learn a lot about myself. They really encouraged me, before I went on to Victoria, to get into theatre and to get into drag and all those things.

So now I get to go back to my roots … in Kitchener-Waterloo and show them what I’ve been working on and show them how I’ve grown and developed for the past 15 years. 

TB: You might be the biggest household Canadian drag name right now. What show would you want to host? 

JIMBO: I have a dream for my own show, which is House of Jimbo, which is like a Pee-wee’s Playhouse-esque, improv- style, sketch comedy show. Something like a Pee-wee’s Playhouse slash Saturday Night Live, but through my lens — kind of twisted with lots of drag characters and things. That’s my dream, is to have my own show and to do what I’ve been doing, but even more, and really dive deeper into my world. 

Tipping culture in the U.S. vs Canada

TB: There’s such a storied history of sketch [comedy shows] in Canada. It would be a great addition to it. Is there a difference between the American fans at shows versus Canadian? 

JIMBO: There is definitely a little bit of a difference in terms of the tipping culture and the drag culture. The fans in the States are used to going out to bars and really seeing drag and tipping and kind of interacting in that way, whereas Canadian drag does not.

There is a bit of a tipping scene here, but it’s not quite the same as in America where they’re like, “Let’s make it rain on these girls!” They bring the dollars, and then we have the five-dollar [bill], which is, you know, it’s kind of like giving five tips in one in the States.

People are a little bit more picky-choosy with that tip.

TB: Yeah, because what you do with a loonie? There’s nothing you can do.

JIMBO: Well, you toss them in! Toss them down the well. [Gestures to breasts]

Jimbo shares her favourite Canadian drag designers

Jimbo shares the hair, makeup and costume designers in Canada who create fantastic drag looks.

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