WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Drag performers often rely on venues such as bars and restaurants with live audiences but since the coronavirus shutdown, all of that has changed. For Jay Jackson, also known as the drag queen 'Laganja Estranja,' the pandemic has forced him to pivot to online shows to generate lost income. A trained dancer, he has spent the last decade performing drag.
For Jay Jackson, also known as the drag queen 'Laganja Estranja,' the pandemic has forced him to pivot to online shows to generate lost income. A trained dancer, Jackson has spent the last decade performing drag.
“It chose me, I didn’t chose it, because I’ve always wanted to be a choreographer, a performer,” said Jackson. “But drag was always something I had admired. It was never in the plan.”
Jackson got his start performing in West Hollywood clubs and recently appeared in the reality competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“I’ve been lucky that I am a RuPaul’s Drag Race queen,” he said. “Because of that I have a platform and I’ve been able to translate my art onto the online platform with much success.”
Under stay-at-home orders, Jackson can no longer perform for live audiences so he’s creating his own shows from scratch and posting them online.
“I basically bought a sound and light board which I had never worked with in my entire life, completely learned how to be a technician of the theater piece I created and then I also starred in it,” said Jackson.
He turned his backyard into a set and created a play called Up In Smoke that aired on his YouTube channel. Performing as a drag queen can cost a pretty penny and Jackson often shoulders the costume costs on his own.
“Wigs are anywhere from $300 all the way up to thousands, depending on if they are human hair,” he said. “The clothes that I particularly wear are anywhere from $250 an outfit to $1,000 an outfit.”
During the pandemic, he’s relied on ticket sales and tipping from online shows to make money. He’s also partnered with major brands, including Jack Daniel’s, for online shows. Jackson sees it as a blessing.
“This was the first time in my life that I’ve been allowed to have this free time to really create and explore all these different levels of myself as an artist,” said Jackson.
The past few months have also shown Jackson that he can do it all.
“It’s forced me to be my own business person, my own artist and now, my own set designer,” he said. “But hey, I’m a jack of all trades or as I like to say, a ‘Jackie’ of all trades.”