If you have ever seen an episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race"--actually, even if you haven't--stop what you are doing immediately and watch this video.
Budding filmmaker Alex Berry created this YouTube series of docu-shorts about Jerick Hoffer, a.k.a. Jinkx Monsoon, the charming drag artist who won the fifth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race," and the videos are a gorgeous tribute to both Jinkx and to the art of drag performers. This video series captures slice-of-life moments of Hoffer post-show, as he explains tidbits such as the show's filming process, as well as the glamorous life of a drag artist who simply wants to find an audience to entertain.
Ironically these video clips are the most compelling product of "Drag Race" Season 5, which tended to stumble through each episode with lackluster performances from the contestants as a whole. Although certain contestants in seasons past blazed through the competition, fighting for the win with every false eyelash they glued on--Raja and Sharon Needles certainly left their mark on the show--Season 5 ended each week with a fizzle, without any of the delicious shock, surprise, and scandal that the show generated in the past. Indeed, the biggest show-stopping moment of this season wasn't from the challenges, or even from any of the three finalists; it was fourth-place contestant Detox, who showed up for the finale styled entirely in gray scale makeup to achieve a black-and-white print effect that reminded fans how spectacular good drag can be. Where was this brilliance during the competition? Why did contestant Matthew Sanderson wait until after getting kicked off the show to pull out the big guns like this? The creativity was obviously there in Sanderson's brain, but despite pleas from the judges to cut loose and have some fun, Detox and the other competitors couldn't seem to pull it together and make any sort of impact.
This is not to say the contestants are at fault. The average viewer may dismiss "Drag Race" as yet another reality show, without considering the creative intensity necessary for battling it out in a process like this. There are lots of reality competition shows on TV that require contestants to sing, or dance, cook food, or make clothes--and even the most popular shows don't necessarily produce contestants that are actually good at what they do (note Harry Connick, Jr. writhing in discomfort while watching "American Idol" singers butcher songs during American Standards night). But contestants on "Drag Race," for all their crass humor and campy gimmicks, need to find ways to do a little bit of everything: they sing, dance, act, perform stand-up comedy, create characters, and even make their own costumes; and don't forget their skills at make-up artistry, which could be an entire competition in itself. Jaded patrons of gay bars across America may lump together these performers as background noise at a nightclub, but it takes a lot of creative stamina for these men to stand in front of TV cameras and switch gears every day to generate something fresh and new. For that, even those feeble "Drag Race" contestant deserves applause.
This leads us back to the glory of Jinkx Monsoon. In a field where any of the contestants could have won the show simply because no one deserved it any more than anyone else, Jinkx nonetheless flashed promises of brilliance behind those big, earnest eyes. We knew there was something exciting in there, even if she didn't show it during the competition. Perhaps RuPaul, producer of the show and sole decision maker of the competition, saw this as well and gave Jinkx the prize not based on what she did during the show, but what she could do for the image of the show in the future. Perhaps RuPaul chose Jinkx after seeing these videos. Whatever the reason, if these videos--these engrossing, beautifully-filmed videos--are any indication of what is to come, Mr. Hoffer deserves the $100,000 prize and will hopefully do great things with it.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Jinkx Monsoon's real name was Jerick Hoffner. It is actually Jerick Hoffer.