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Telling our own stories is a powerful way to fight prejudice, and this week’s guest joined Corey Andrew Powell to share her story as an openly trans actress and activist. A longtime star in queer nightlife, Peppermint has broken barriers throughout her career, including her appearance as the first out trans contestant on "RuPaul’s Drag Race" (Season 9) and her more recent success as the first trans woman to originate a principal musical role on Broadway in “Head Over Heels.”
With book bans, drag show bans, and many other instances of LGBTQ+ discrimination remaining in our society, it’s vital for us as future leaders to hear stories like Peppermint’s and to learn how we can be stronger allies for LGBTQ+ rights to build a better future for all. Check out this week’s Motivational Mondays podcast to learn from Peppermint’s experience.
Life as a Trailblazer in the Drag Community
From her early years as a drag performer, Peppermint has been a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community, becoming a popular performer and the first drag entertainer to have a music video on the Logo channel. Before moving to New York, Peppermint reflects, “It didn’t even occur to me that a person could work and hold a job as a drag entertainer and make ends meet, or do what they needed to do, or be successful.” Listen to learn more about Peppermint’s journey to becoming a regular performer in the drag community.
Soon she began to see a future in the community through her own successes and the model of other trailblazers like RuPaul. When RuPaul’s “Supermodel” came out and was played on MTV alongside mainstream artists, Peppermint says she felt that “one of us had sort of arrived.”
Despite these successes, Peppermint remained wary of mainstream media’s representation of drag performers, where daytime TV would often create segments that demeaned the drag performers brought on as guest stars. “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” however, began to change that narrative, bringing drag entertainment more into the mainstream and stepping away from the older, transphobic mainstream representation.
…and in some cases, intensifies. Despite increasing acceptance and celebration of the drag community, in parts of the country drag shows are banned and, as Powell points out, sometimes defined as felonies. As Peppermint so succinctly puts it, “It’s upsetting.” Many of us want to fight harmful rhetoric and oppression, but how can we do so?
Peppermint points out that we need to speak out and “show people the truth” and “tell our own stories.” She points out that those who are against drag often portray themselves as a larger, more widespread group than they really are; most of the country are not as prejudiced, and we need to promote the truth of just how widespread transphobic beliefs are—or aren’t. In the full podcast, she explains what she has learned about the narrative of transphobia, as perpetuated by social media, versus the reality among the wider population.
At the end of the day, Peppermint reminds herself that she comes from a long line of people who have experienced oppression, and that “You’re gonna have to do a lot more than what you think you’re already doing to really keep me down.”
Continuing to Blaze Trails: Broadway and Beyond
Peppermint discovered during her early years in New York that Broadway wasn’t ready for her at the time. As she puts it, “there was no room for any of the queerness,” especially not in a leading role. Now, at long last, Broadway is opening up more, and Peppermint has continued to blaze trails for the LGBTQ+ community by becoming the first out trans woman to originate a principal role in a Broadway musical.
Such progress in the mainstream art world is vital, in Peppermint’s view. Although she strongly advocates voting and being politically active to create change, “laws get written and they get written right back out.” Art, however, “has a more lasting effect on people through their experiences.” Broadway and our society still have a ways to go, though, and Peppermint explains why it’s vital to keep the LGBTQ+ community visible through entertainment.
Peppermint discusses all this and more on this week’s Motivational Mondays podcast. Watch or listen to learn from her experience and wisdom!
Listen to this episode to learn about...
[1:15] Peppermint’s early years as a drag performer
[6:30] RuPaul’s trailblazing and taboo-breaking inspiration for drag performers
[11:01] Peppermint’s view on the current social climate and bans on drag shows
[14:29] Social media’s transformation of our culture into a headline-dominated atmosphere
[17:50] Peppermint’s history-making role as the first out trans actress to originate a role on Broadway
[23:59] How exclusion is unsustainable
Listen to the bonus episode to learn where you can catch Peppermint’s next projects.