By Christopher Rudolph
As the Persian princess of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12, Jackie Cox took viewers on a magic carpet ride.
The New York-based, Canadian queen was a steady competitor throughout the season, holding her own against her seasoned New York sisters, including Brita Filter and Jan Sport. While she never won a maxi challenge, Jackie was consistently among the top-performing queens, even winning three mini-challenges. She won over RuPaul and the judges with her over-the-top impersonation of Real Housewives star Lisa Rinna on Snatch Game, and leaned into her Middle Eastern heritage when she donned an American flag-inspired hijab for the “Stars and Stripes” runway challenge.
But the self-proclaimed “nerdy queen” found herself in the bottom three times. For someone with “dad moves,” Jackie killed it during the lip-syncs, sending Widow Von’Du packin’ and bringing the house down with Heidi N. Closet for their epic “Kill the Lights” performance. Ultimately, after a blue-queen showdown against Crystal Methyd sent Jackie back to the Big Apple, she narrowly missed out on making it to the finale.
MTV News caught up with Jackie Cox to discuss her time on Drag Race, her New York debut, and who she’s rooting for on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race.
MTV News: When you realized that you would be competing against all these other New York girls this season, what went through your mind?
Jackie Cox: Walking into this I knew Brita and Jan. I knew a little bit about the other New York queens, but it was more just, "Cool. I have a very different approach to drag from the rest of these girls. And I'm just excited to do my thing."
MTV News: Playing Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch was the first time that you got into drag, and then you came up with the name Jackie in college. But when was the first time you performed in drag as Jackie?
Jackie: The first time I ever did drag as Jackie was the So You Think You Can Drag show at New World Stages in New York.
MTV News: That was the first time?
Jackie: The first time. My friend convinced me to do it, and she said, "Just go out there and do it." And so I bought a Halloween-store rock-star wig and I lip-synced to “Out Tonight” from Rent. I had abs, so why not?
MTV News: Do you have a dream musical theater role?
Jackie: If we're talking dreams, why can't I play Mary Poppins? I don't have the voice for it, but why the heck not? Realistically though, I mean, I'd love to do theater. I think that, one of the amazing things about drag and theater, is that they're both having a new renaissance. Theater hasn't been this popular since the ‘60s and, for the past 10 years, I think it's really started to come into its own. Same with drag. So, I'm excited for, basically my two favorite art forms, to be finally having their moment. If anyone wants to cast me in anything, I'm very available to do so.
MTV News: What do you think was the hardest challenge for you on this season of Drag Race?
Jackie: The hardest challenge was definitely the one-queen show. because the parameters were so vague, and we were working with the queen of one-woman shows, Whoopi Goldberg. That was the hardest challenge. Even for the rest of my competitors in that moment, we were all, "This is it. It's us and whatever we can make happen in front of a live audience."
MTV News: That must have been super nerve-wracking. What about the political debate challenge?
Jackie: The political debate got away from all of us. None of us really knew what we were doing. And certainly, I think [judges] Jeff [Goldblum] and Rachel [Bloom] had different ideas about what they were doing. And so, for me in that challenge, it was just about sticking with the character that I had walked in there with, because I wasn't really sure where we were going.
MTV News: How do you feel you did in Snatch Game?
Jackie: I loved that challenge. I felt like I did well in the challenge well, in the sense that it was a celebrity impersonation that could be funny and volley off of Ru and the other girls. I know that that was something that Ru was looking for. So, what's so great about Lisa, is that she's such a no-nonsense, outspoken person. So, it's really fun to be her, and just kind of say whatever's on your mind as Lisa Rinna. I had a lot of fun with that.
MTV News: Have you heard from Lisa Rinna?
Jackie: Yes. She reposted all of the Snatch Game on her Instagram. And, of course, being the smart hustler she is, with swipe-ups to buy her items. I admire the hustle.
MTV News: Are you a Housewives fan?
Jackie: Oh, totally. Love Housewives.
MTV News: What's your favorite franchise?
Jackie: I love the escapism of Beverly Hills, because their lives are so ridiculous. They own really expensive things that I'll never see in my lifetime.
MTV News: You've said how you wanted to be a role model for queer Middle Eastern kids. Have you heard from any who have been watching you?
Jackie: I hear from so many queer Middle Eastern kids, and non-queer Middle Eastern kids. I found that my story really resonated with so many people who never saw themselves represented on screen. It's funny because there's always chatter online of, "Why does Jackie keep talking about this?" And then at the same time, I get so many personal messages saying, "Thank you for talking about this." And, I think that just goes to show how representation is still so important. And there are still so many stories to tell on TV. I think TV is the medium where we can reach the hearts and minds of people. I'm so glad I was able to be that voice and that representation. I've had people saying, "Oh, I was able to finally show my dad or my mom what drag is. You made it okay for me to share with them things about my life," That's been so meaningful to me and probably the thing I'm proudest of this season.
MTV News: What we really want to know is have you heard from your drag daughter, Snackie Cox?
Jackie: Snackie Cox is my bestie. We text every day. She's been so amazing. She sent me a little jewelry box from Tiffany's for Mother's Day. I'm really hoping that she gets on Drag Race Season 13. She'll go straight to All-Stars. She's so amazing.
MTV News: Speaking of other Drag Race franchises, you could have been on Canada's Drag Race!
Jackie: I could have!
MTV News: Are you familiar with any of Canada's Drag Race queens?
Jackie: I know Lemon from New York. She’s so talented. I can't wait to see what she does this season. I know Priyanka a little bit as well. I'm excited to see what all of them can bring. I'm just thrilled that Canada gets its moment to shine.
MTV News: After you left Drag Race, did you take a break from drag?
Jackie: No. I had been working a day job up until the week I left for Drag Race.
MTV News: Can you say what the day job was?
Jackie: I was a project manager at a retail company. Very boring. All these khaki pants that you guys see on TV are literally what I wore to work every day. I came back from filming and I had to make some money, so I started doing brunch shows and becoming part of the New York nightlife scene more. That was actually kind of fun, working with Jan more. We starred in a drag brunch together and got to know each other more off-camera. New York is such an amazing place and I'm so excited for when things reopen and our city comes alive again.
MTV News: If New York City were to magically reopen today, where would be the first place you'd go?
Jackie: I definitely need to get some margaritas in Hell's Kitchen.
MTV News: Going into the finale, who would you put your money on to take the crown?
Jackie: All of them have what it takes but, because she sent me home, I’ve got to say Crystal. I love her point of view on drag. She's so incredible. And I'm just so excited to see what she brings to this finale.