The fab Fauxnique

  • by Jim Provenzano
  • Tuesday February 9, 2016
Share this Post:

Whether performing at theatres in Europe, spacious museums, or nightclubs in South of Market, Monique Jenkinson, the preeminent faux queen known as Fauxnique, has been astounding audiences with her eloquent blend of dance, theatre and drag. Jenkinson brings her new show, The F Word, to Oasis February 17 through 21.

In a phone interview last week, Jenkinson explained the themes in her new show.

"The F is for Fauxnique and for feminism," she said. "Over the years I've come to realize, in all of my work, none of it has been about feminism, but it is feminism. I've always been a feminist, but never set out to make a feminist statement by doing drag. But cumulatively, I realized it always has been and is about feminism. I wanted to just label it. People are talking about it seriously. Celebrities are proclaiming themselves to be feminists."

Jenkinson discussed how drag, usually performed by men, and considered by some to be a parody of women, is not necessarily making fun of them, but skewering antiquated conceptions of gender.

"Drag has always been, for me, a reclaiming of the performance of femininity. Drag queens can perform and women can perform femininity."

Jenkinson's work reflects this evolution of such performance art, be it in a nightclub, theatre or museum. Some might say she's advanced that evolution as well.

"We've sort of dismantled the idea that drag is 'female impersonation,' and that women doing drag is just as much of a performance as men doing drag."


Monique Jenkinson as Fauxnique. photo: Parker Tilghman

Fresh, Faux, Real

Raised in Colorado, Jenkinson started in ballet, where she garnered character roles in local productions of The Nutcracker. She also studied and performed at a summer theatre program at Northwestern University (where she met her husband, Marc Kate), and at Bennington College in Vermont, where she studies literature and contemporary dance.

After Jenkinson's move to San Francisco in the early 1990s, while immersed in the local dance scene, she took in the then-Tuesday night Trannyshack shows at The Stud. Jenkinson became a fan for a few months before daring to perform herself, at first under the name Glory Holesome.

Her acts, like the best of the multi-layed cultural and sexual satires of the peak Trannyshack years, combined her dance talents with clever literary and cultural references. One act blended suicidal writers Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Virginia Woolf. But unlike many others, her dance and theatre technique furthered the genre into multi-layered performance art.

By 2003, Jenkinson renamed her persona Fauxnique, "an extention of myself," she said.

Her triumphant performance at the Miss Trannyshack pageant, held at City Nights, included an en pointe dance set to Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and her transformation from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly with giant sheer-fabric wings (See YouTube videos linked below).


Fauxnique in violet and a bustier. Photo: Michelle Blioux

Art on Stage

Since then, Jenkinson has flown to Europe for site-specific performances, has had residencies with several arts groups, and evolved even more nuanced iterations of her stage persona, while still occasionally performing in nightclubs with a bit of risqué ribaldry.

She's also been a resident at the de Young Museum, at CounterPulse, at Berkeley's Shotgun Players Theatre Festival, and elsewhere at New York City's historic Judson Church, considered the home of the post-modern dance/performance era, and many other venues.

Her costumes (magazine-constructed skirts, gossamer wings, giant stilletto heels), props (the often-present vanity makeup table and mirror) and music (Morrisey to Kate Bush to 1930s French songs) add to the look and style of an artist capable of always pushing boundaries.

Fauxnique en pointe in Faux Real. photo: Parker Tilghman

Jenkinson shared her most recent show, Faux Real, at Oasis in May. A blend of autobiographical moments and theatrical framing, she continued her exploration of the multiple layers of 'performing' as a woman. The appeal of Jenkinson's work is not always as visible as her extended eyelashes or leg extensions, but to the symbolic and structural intent of her art.

"I'm coming from a place of non-essentialism. It counters gender essentalism, which assumes such a thing as a woman and a man. The world tends to be stuck in binary gender ideas. There is a lack of understanding, but our culture is changing."

We discussed the various ups and downs of broader reactions to changing gender identity, from Caitlyn Jenner to bathroom bills introduced by trans-phobic conservative politicians. Jenkinson said, "Sometimes I think I'm out of my depth because I can't speak for trans women. But I'm coming from an understanding of gender as fluid."

All of this, Jenkinson said, "allows me the right to be a drag queen."

She referenced a few instances of misogyny in the drag world, even years after her Trannyshack crowning back in 2003.

But don't expect polemics or social justice lectures at a Fauxnique show. These issues are a foundation, and part of why her shows matter and continue to entertain.

"It's a drag show," she said. "Comedy and drag and irreverent performance have a powerful way to present serious issues."


Monique Jenkinson at the Afterglow Festival in Provincetown. photo: Arturo Cozenza

Jewel in the Crown

Being crowned Miss Trannyshack more than a decade ago "absolutely was" a pivotal moment in Jenkinson's career. "It opened doors to new work, but I've always gone back and forth," she said. "I do stuff in clubs and then museums, and then theatres. It's always been sort of simultaneous. But of course, when I'm working on a big project, I might not go out or be seen as Fauxnique. But, yeah, it's part of my practice."

Discovering drag at the clubs introduced a new realm of possibility in my work. It's inspiring. It wasn't necessarily strategic, but more a rich experience; drag furthered my artistic work. I enjoyed doing it. The crowds were amazing. In dance, you're really happy if there are 35 people there. In clubs, I'm performing for 200 people or more, to enthusiastic crowds, so that's always great."

Jenkinson said she's looking forward to returning to Oasis' "little jewel box stage," for The F Word. "Some of the pieces will be a bit of Faux Real, so you'll get to see some old favorites, and new material."

Comfortable on a small stage as she is in an expansive museum lobby, or even performing on the rotunda steps at San Francisco's City Hall with a giant fabric train on her gown, Jenkinson mentioned the elastic design of her varying performances.

Monique Jenkinson in a new promo shot for The F Word. photo: Darren Ankenbauer

"Mostly when we think about making performance, we think of a proscenium situation. I try to consider the space where I'm performing and make it for that space. I think about sight lines." She discussed one of her pet peeves of watching performances in more open spaces that assume an invisible proscenium. She discussed "working the room" at gigs where anything from a runway to a piano or waiters serving food could alter her performance.

Jenkinson's had a chance to stretch the confines of her new show. Last year, she performed The F Word in New York City, at The Afterglow Festival in Provincetown, and at The Hackney Attic in London. She's made adjustments along the way.

"The idea is to be able to travel with the work," she said, "from a theatre to a tiny club. I think of my drag work as dance work, learning to adjust to a new space, be it an expanded or condensed version. It's exciting to be resourceful and scrappy, and use what you have to make what you're doing for an audience in weird situations."

Jenkinson finished our interview with a witty alliterative descriptor, "It's Fauxnique's Fosse fun filter on feminism."

And a must-see for fans.

Monique Jenkinson/Fauxnique performs 'The F Word' at Oasis, February 17- 20. $25. 7pm. 298 11th St.

Featured Local Savings