Art and drag: Monique Jenkinson's memoir, 'Faux Queen'

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday February 15, 2022
Share this Post:
Art and drag: Monique Jenkinson's memoir, 'Faux Queen'

When artist, performer, choreographer, and writer Monique Jenkinson won the Miss Trannyshack pageant in 2003 as creative persona Fauxnique, she made drag history in San Francisco and beyond.

Her memoir, a dazzlingly unfettered exposé of life as a soulful performer, begins, of course, with style, fashion, and budding star quality. At eight, Jenkinson recalls her mother Mitzi driving them both from Modesto to San Francisco to attend a business dinner.

Outfitted in a white linen dress with red tulip pockets, she was a precocious 1979 vision of grace and innocence. But when complemented by a particularly flamboyant man, something inside her triggered a distant kinship with him, a spark of relate-ability.

She admits to always loving gay men and the community which helped foster her love of performance drag, a talent outlet honed to perfection after years spent "under the microscope of classical ballet training." It was during this rigid ballet education when Jenkinson developed body dysmorphia, but soon transformed from a 1980s teenager into a fearless performer, thanks to legions of friends both inside and outside of clubland who ushered her beyond the velvet rope and onto the drag stage.

These friends are liberally scattered throughout the memoir and are animatedly depicted through dispatches of quick-witted dialogue and episodes of spastic, meticulously-detailed drag numbers.

author Monique Jenkinson  (Source: Instagram)

"The drag club gave me a release valve exactly when I needed it," Jenkinson writes. "I walked into that queer space mortally afraid of saying the wrong thing, and the generous people there clobbered my fear with laughter."

As author Evan James writes in the book's introduction, the San Francisco drag community in the late 1990s and early 2000s had been reveling in its own singularly creative subculture for years and now "appeared to be enjoying a special moment, part of a long and continuing process of mutation. Drag was busy both celebrating and transcending itself."

And an event named Trannyshack was the place to be, for whatever you wanted it to be: a drag haven, a place to be as flamboyant and disgustingly outrageous as possible without really shocking anyone, a people-watching paradise, or just a safe place to party with a family of freaks who knew your drag name and your birth name.

With its Muppet Show starting theme, back then, it would be every Tuesday night when The Stud held court to the Trannyshack stage spectacle, and Jenkinson was there. It's tucked within these chapters that the author shines with exuberantly shared stories and fond memories of the people in this "alternate universe" that made her heart sing.

The memoir also pivots back in time to fill in the gaps in Jenkinson's childhood (she wanted to be a fairy) and then races forward to describe her early embarrassment at the art of lip-syncing and, of course, the moments leading up to her crowning as Miss Trannyshack, and her performance legacy that soon followed.

Like Jenkinson herself, the book can never be called boring. Her memoir crackles and buzzes with the frenetic energy of her boundary-shattering one-woman stage shows, her feminism, her passion for drag and performance, even the evolution of her stage-name transition from the misguided "Glory Holesome" to the brilliance of Fauxnique.

Fauxnique's 2017 performance work, 'C*NT, or, The Horror of Nothing to See.'  

It's also a San Francisco namedropper's extravaganza. But that doesn't mean the book isn't relatable or rewarding, even for readers of a younger generation who missed out on the party entirely. But sprinkled throughout are references to a veritable who's who of San Francisco drag legends whom she credits with not only presenting a welcoming platform from which to perform her stage magic as Fauxnique, but also in offering unique, non-judgmental friendships that were solidaric, challenging at times, yet always comforting.

Jenkinson's journey is both a fantastic trip down memory lane and a reflective perspective on the vibrancy, diversity, and fabulousness of queer culture.

Faux Queen: A Life in Drag by Monique Jenkinson, Amble Press, $18.95

Monique Jenkinson's book release party includes a drag show. $10. February 19, 6pm at Oasis, 298 11th St.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.