While, in recent years, All Stars has become a catch-all spinoff for any queen that has ever competed on the regular edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it is still generally understood that those who made it far on their original season will probably perform similarly when coming back. This wasn't the case with Ginger Minj, however, who finished as a runner-up in season seven only to be eliminated second on All Stars 2 (third if you count Adore Delano’s self-elimination). It’s an experience the Southern queen feels “tarnished” her legacy on the show — which is partially why she agreed to come back for a third time, despite juggling many other things in her career.
Luckily for her, the return proved more than worth it. Though she didn't walk away with the crown in the end, Ginger came as close as humanly possible, once again making it to the finale as a frontrunner (at least judging by challenge wins). As she had done in her original season, the Broadway performer and screen actor dominated in acting and comedy challenges (she won Snatch Game again, making her one of two queens in Drag Race herstory to do so twice), but also delivered a few surprises by turning in several memorable runway looks and completely slaying a Lizzo lip-sync fans will be talking about for years to come.
Ahead of the All Stars 6 finale, NYLON hopped on the phone with Ginger Minj to talk about making it to the finale, the suicidal feelings she had while competing on All Stars 2, learning to have fun, bonding with RuPaul on the set of AJ and the Queen, the normalization of fatphobia, and why she wouldn't be surprised if Drag Race never crowned a plus-sized queen.
This is your second time making it to the finale of a season of Drag Race. How does that feel?
It feels good. It feels like everything in the world. It's very confusing, hard to put into words. It's happy and it's sad and it's exciting and it's scary, all rolled up in one big emotional ball.
In the finale, you talk about feeling like you didn't get the proper chance to show yourself in All Stars 2. Why do you think that was the case?
I'll be very candid. I was very suicidal at that time. My personal life was just falling apart and I was mentally in a very bad place. I never should have allowed myself to do All Stars 2. Even though I walked in the room physically, my mind never entered the building. I was ready to go before I even stepped foot into the Werk Room. The only reason I did it was because nobody thought there was going to be an All Stars 3. All Stars 1 was such a bomb. Everybody hated it. But they said, "Okay, we're going to try this one more time, and it may fail, but we're going to bring some of our favorite people back and let them do it one more time to see if it works." I remember talking to the producers and saying, “I don't know if I really should come back now. Maybe it's too soon.” But they were like, "Well, it's probably now or never because I don't think we're doing any more. This is it." So I chose to do it even though it was a bad time in my life.
It was really sad and traumatic for me to have that experience, especially because season seven was so positive. Sure, it had its bad moments, and I'm not going to sit here and say I was thrilled with the way I came off in the last couple of episodes — whether it was editing, me, or a little bit of both. I wasn't thrilled with those moments, but overall, season seven was such a good experience in my life. But I felt like doing All Stars 2 really tarnished that. So going out of that, I hoped that it wasn't the end of my Drag Race journey.
Over the years, a lot of people have asked me what has changed most since season seven, and while my drag has changed a lot aesthetically, I feel like me as a person has changed drastically. I’m a complete 180 from who I was back on season seven or on All Stars 2, and I had to get comfortable enough with myself to share that with the world.
During the pandemic, when I lost all my work like everybody else, I was sitting there putting on plays in the garage, just trying to raise a couple dollars. My friend Gidget [Galore] and I were digging through boxes for our Lion King tribute, creating a whole Serengeti out of dustbunnies, feather-dusters, googly eyes, reindeer antlers, and other stuff from Christmas — and we were having the time of our lives! And the fans started to react to that. They were like, "You seem like you're having so much fun. This is the most fun I've ever seen you." And it was the most creative that I had been in a very long time. So, when Drag Race called me to come back this time, I was like, "Okay. Yes. I know what I can bring now. I can bring happiness. I can bring fun. I can bring an open heart." And that's exactly what I did. I think that's why I made it as far as I did.
Reflecting on all three of the different times you competed on Drag Race, would you say this was the time you enjoyed yourself the most?
100%. Going into season seven, I wasn't at a great place in my life. I didn't really understand who I was personally. I had devoted so much of my life to Ginger that I didn't know who the hell Josh was. I put all my energy into my drag and I wasn't happy when I had to be anything other than that. Everything was messed up in my head.
But this time, I know exactly who I am as a boy, as a girl, and as anything in between. I know what I want to do. I know what kind of entertainment I bring and I do it openly and honestly. I think that's why the fans have responded so positively this time. We could see towards the end of season seven that I was polarizing. My grandmother always had this saying: You can't see yourself until you see yourself through somebody else's eyes. And that's what season seven did for me — it allowed me to look at myself as an outsider and really dissect all the things I was going through.
In season seven, you proved yourself to be a formidable actress and comedian, so I think many people assumed you would dominate those same types of challenges this season. But I think you surprised many in certain other aspects — such as how great your lip-sync to Lizzo’s “Phone” was.
It's so funny to me because I have never lost a lip-sync on Drag Race — ever. Even on season seven, I won those lip-syncs too, but nobody ever paid attention to it until the Lizzo lip-sync. Now they're like, “Yasss! Come on, assassin! Come through!” But it’s just so funny to me because I've never had to sashay away because of a lip-sync.
Do you have any hypotheses about why that lip-sync, in particular, seemed to resonate for so many people?
Because it was fun! I was just having a good time. It’s also one of those circumstances where you trust the person that you're on stage with. Mayhem [Miller] and I were just going back and forth. I love her. I love performing with her. She was one of my favorite queens before she got on Drag Race and I've been a huge fan of her since. It was just really fun to get on stage and put on a show and show the world that it's not all about death-drops and backflips and splits. Those are all great, but they're not the only things that matter in a lip-sync.
When you had your final interview with RuPaul and Michelle Visage, Ru singled you out as one of the most successful queens to ever come out of the franchise. How did it feel to hear that come from Ru herself?
It felt good, but it's nothing she hasn't said to me before. That was one of the main reasons I did AJ and the Queen. I actually was signed on to do a three-and-a-half-month world tour, but I ended up giving it up to go and shoot AJ and the Queen because Ru was asking me to do it personally for her. She said, "You're so successful and so good at what you do, it inspires me. So I would really like to share this project with you and have you be a part of it." Then, we got very close during filming. I got to see a very different side of her. It was me, Ru, and Jane Krakowski in this rented mansion near a casino playing dirty charades for two weeks. So, yes, it's always a little jarring to hear that from her. But I will say that, even when it's not on camera, she has said it to me before. And it's always nice to hear it.
Given how successful you are outside of the show, why even come back at all? It’s clear you don't actually need the exposure some of the other queens might.
Well, I don't want this to be taken the wrong way because I mean it in a positive way, but I don't think I ever needed the show. The platform is wonderful to have, but I was already very successful as an actor before the show. That was my career and I did very well and made a good living.
I think I kind of did it backwards. I went and had this whole other career that kind of led me to drag. Then, I went back and did Drag Race, which propelled me to do the thing that I did before, but in a different way. So it never felt weird going back. It didn't feel like a step backwards or anything. That’s all a very roundabout way of just saying: every experience is what you make of it, and as long as you're moving forward in your trajectory, you should take every opportunity you get.
There has never been a plus-sized queen winner of American Drag Race, but with you and Eureka in the finale, the odds have never been greater that this might finally be the season to make headlines. Is that factor something you also found important when deciding to come back for a third time?
Yes, absolutely. 100%. I know there’s been a lot of back-and-forth over the years from the fanbase about, "Well, no. You should win because you're talented, not because you're big” — and yes, I know that I'm talented. But I also know that I’m big and I also know that there are people like me that don't have representation, that don't see themselves fairly represented on television and in movies. When I was growing up, I had nobody to look at that [would help me understand], "Oh, I can grow up and be successful. I can do these things and make a career of it and have a good time." So I do not take the responsibility to represent plus-sized people lightly.
Fatphobia is one of the few phobias that is still “okay” to have. It's still okay to hate fat people, and to make fun of them — but it’s really not. And I think having Eureka and myself both be so successful this season speaks volumes to that. I've always felt like plus-size people, in general, have to work twice as hard for half the credit, and I think Eureka and I have consistently shown that we hold our own with the best of them. We are just as worthy. We are just as talented. We are just as successful. So not for nothing, but if a big girl doesn't win this season, I don't know that a plus-size girl will ever win. This is 20 seasons of Drag Race in America without a plus-size winner.
What was your proudest moment this season and what is one moment you wish you could do over?
My proudest moment would actually be the Drag Tots challenge because I had never been that successful at making a garment, and it turned out so beautifully. Before I watched it, in my head, I was like, I feel like I did a good job, but it can't be as good as I thought. But then I saw it and went, "Oh, it was fantastic. You did a good job. You should applaud yourself." I was very proud of myself for making that dress.
If I could redo anything, I would've worn a different outfit for “Show Up Queen.” I wore black and white because that's what Kylie and Eureka wanted to wear. But I didn't have anything, so we kind of pieced it together in the Werk Room. But I probably should've just worn the good pink rhinestone sparkly number I had on the rack.
What would it have meant for you to win?
Everything. This has been eight years of my life. That's almost a decade that I have dedicated to RuPaul's Drag Race. I am this brand. I am a big part of it and it’s a big part of me, and I think that I have really shown how you can take this title, this franchise, this show, and turn it into something that is so much more. You can do movies and Broadway and television and still come home again.