Jewish drag queen Mz. Cracker. (Eric Magnussen)
Jewish drag queen Mz. Cracker. (Eric Magnussen)

Q&A: Jewish drag queen Miz Cracker coming to Castro

Miz Cracker is a N.Y.-based performer and comedian who competed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a popular reality TV series in which contestants show off their talents in comedy, dance, improv, costumes, makeup and more. The show is a launching pad for drag queens seeking exposure, opportunity, fame and fortune. Miz Cracker will perform in “Femlins” at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco on Dec. 14.

J.: You placed fifth on “Drag Race” Season 10. Now you perform around the world and have nearly 1 million Instagram followers. Did you have any idea what it would be like?

Miz Cracker: In my mind, yes, I knew exactly what I was getting into. But when I actually had the experience, it was so much more powerful and overwhelming than I expected. I’m a completely different person leading a completely different life now. I didn’t know my whole life would be transformed.

Any downsides to success?

I guess you could say I’m tired, all the time. But that is in itself a blessing, because it means that I’m working, and I’m a person who struggled and fumbled around for money their whole life, so I’m glad for the work.

You’ve talked about growing up without much money and making costumes from found objects.

My sister Sylvia and I started making costumes when I was 8 years old. Not drag, just wild costumes. I can’t remember a time that we weren’t, and you know what? I still find things on the street. Just a few months ago I wore an outfit that was capped with a billiard ball I found in the trash. That kind of way of looking at the world just sticks with you.

You were very openly Jewish on the show. Why did you feel you needed to come out as a Jew so publicly?

I saw myself and the way I talked from the outside for the first time, and I was, like, oh, my god, this is such an important part of who I am. And then continuing to see hate crimes against Jewish people around the world, I was like, well, I’d better say who I am and stand in solidarity with people who share my blood and my culture, my beliefs, my community. To walk around being quiet about being Jewish suddenly felt like a little bit of a crime.

And how did it go over?

I don’t think I’ve ever been so lovingly embraced, or had so many opportunities to talk to people about what it means to be Jewish. It’s been a really warm and wonderful experience.

You starred in a Bon Appétit video making your mom’s latke recipe. Can you share any tips in advance of Hanukkah?

Some people bake latkes. If you’re not frying them in oil, you’re not celebrating the holiday!

Tell me about your background.

I lived in Seattle until I was about 18. My parents were part of the Lubavitch community, and then they moved away from it. I was confused, like, are we not Jewish anymore? My father told me, “It’s in your blood and it’s something that will always be a part of what other people will see in you, and who you really are.” I didn’t really know how much that was true until I got onto “Drag Race.”

Before you committed to a life in drag, what kind of work did you think you were going to do? You were a classical literature major in college.

I thought it would be something to do with writing, because I had worked for an art newspaper, and as a grant writer, and I was pretty sure that was the direction things were going.

At what point did you know you wanted to make drag your life?

You know that metaphor about boiling the frog in water slowly? It was that. And now I have this love for it that I can’t replace. Drag allows me to use every creative bone in my body at once.

And you continue to write. In 2020 you’re planning a 37-city tour of your “comedy spectacular” called “American Woman.” What was its genesis?

One day I was doing a meet-and-greet in the U.K. and I looked at the line and saw that it was 75 percent mothers and daughters. I was like, how can I continue doing drag geared toward queer men when my audience and the people who keep my life [going] are mothers and daughters and sisters — women. It was this kind of aha moment. The show is all about being an ally to women, because women of all kinds have been allies to queer people for so long. I think it’s time for people like me to recognize that and be allies in return.

You’ll be in San Francisco on Dec. 14 performing in “Femlins,” a musical parody of the 1984 film “Gremlins.” How would you describe your acting talents?

I’m a ham. I’m a performer. Drag is all about camp. I think this show is going to be camp to the nth degree.

Can you pinpoint what you love most about drag?

Everyone who does drag essentially has taught themselves or been taught by another drag queen, person to person. That lineage and heritage is so precious. Hopefully I will do huge venues in my life. But I still love a drag show with a new queen in a small bar where she can sweat directly on you. That’s just the way I like my drag, thank you very much. I will never lose my soft spot for the small, intimate, living, breathing, sweating family that drag is.

Sue Barnett

Sue Barnett is interim editor of J. She can be reached at [email protected].