Ginger Minj serves up Southern Fried Sass
Sun. November 26, 2023 by Jerry Nunn
The first draft of the book was like War and Peace.
Ginger Minj cooks up a Sass-y treat
RuPaul’s Drag Race has bolstered the careers of many drag artists that thrive in the world today. Ginger Minj is certainly one of them who displays a wide range of talents including acting, singing and songwriting.
After achieving runner-up on the seventh season of the television competition, Minj returned for the second and sixth seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.
Feature films followed with Hocus Pocus 2, AJ and the Queen and Dumplin’.
Music endeavors include Sweet T, Gummy Bear and Double Wide Diva.
Southern Fried Sass is a new cookbook from Atria Books filled with stories about Minj’s roots placed cleverly in-between delicious recipes throughout the pages.
This gifted storyteller sat down for a backstage interview at Music Box Theater before a Chicago Humanities appearance with chef Anne Burrell.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) I loved the cookbook!
GM: (Ginger Minj) Thank you. It is my heart and soul.
JN: It is a scrapbook of your life isn’t it?
GM: Yes, and my grandmother’s life really. It is a tribute to her. She wouldn’t swoop in to save you, but she would teach you to save yourself, which in the long run turned out to be music more valuable.
JN: She didn’t care for Trump did she?
GM: No, she hated him! My grandmother had a sixth-grade education and she was embarrassed about that. She had to quit school and start working to contribute to the family. In order to offset that she got her hands on every book that she could. She was probably the most brilliant and well-read person I ever met.
She read about politics and fact-checked his lies. She would scream at my mother who had fallen into his trap. She cared about honesty and truth.
She was very adamant about handwriting, spelling and names. Every meet and greet I ask how someone spells their name because it is an immediate investment in somebody. It shows that you tried and cared.
JN: Was there a hot topic you wanted to tackle with this book but didn’t?
GM: The first draft of the book was like War and Peace. It was thick and there were things that were darker than anything else in the book. My editor suggested saving something for the sequel and to strike a good balance. I learned to be real and honest, but not be too bogged down in sadness.
I have felt like that my whole life. I laughed at the trauma so I wouldn’t cry about it. We cut some sections of the first drafts, but there are so many things left in the book that I haven’t even shared with my therapist.
I travel all over and meet people, some that look like me, a chubby little queer kid from a small town. They will tell me that they didn’t know there were other options until they saw me. I give them hope. This was my chance to tell the whole truth so that they understand that someone can go through all of this and still come out on top.
JN: I could hear your southern voice in my head when I was reading the book. Did you voice the audiobook?
GM: Yes. I narrated it and it took three days. There is something so different about writing it than reading it on a page. When I was reading it out loud I would have to stop sometimes because I would be crying or laughing.
JN: Have you heard from anyone you wrote about in the book yet?
GM: I sent my mom and my sister the revised draft and asked them to read it in case they wanted something excised out of there. They didn’t get around to it until I was in Europe hosting Werq the World and my mother called me to say, “I can’t believe you told the world that I wrote bad checks!” I told her to finish the book in case there was something else she didn’t like.
She called me back and said she loved the book. She liked how it was like a conversation and she felt she learned more about her own child after reading it.
JN: I told Alaska’s rep about the compliments you gave her in the book. You didn’t go for blood with anyone that you wrote about.
GM: It’s because I have no bones to pick with anybody. I have been super blessed with what I have been able to do.
There are some things that I still hope to do such as Broadway like Jinkx Monsoon, but I never get jealous of people who deserve success. I am excited for them and hope for the best for me.
I used to look at my castmates on season seven and wondered why I wasn’t as successful as others sometimes. I got bogged down and couldn’t step forward to do something else out in the world.
When I genuinely started cheering people on and being happy for them, they were happy for me. It felt like a reciprocal love fest and it led to success.
JN: You have come a long way even since I have known you and this is our fourth interview. I met you on a red carpet before Drag Race started. There have been many queens who haven’t gone as far as you or have retired.
GM: I’m pretty sure RuPaul is a hologram at this point! When I was touring with Werq the World it was the first time I had been a part of a big Drag Race production after a few years of doing my own thing. I noticed particularly overseas that the newer queens were not well known and it turned out that people were not invested in them like they were in the single-digit seasons.
The fans are still invested in some of us like myself from 10 years ago because they know us and follow us.
JN: Do you ever cook or bring food along with you on these tours?
GM: I don’t bring the food with me, but every time we get to a hotel with a burner then I make the biscuits and gravy.
JN: Is that easy to make?
GM: You can make it in one pot, but you might have to go to Popeyes to buy the biscuits because there is no oven in the hotel! The recipe is really about the gravy. The drag queens that I am on tour with will get obsessed with it. At 2 a.m. in the morning and we would be driving to the next gig in Europe on the bus. Every night I would make a different dish and would help others with their dishes like a chef.
JN: I grew up in Tennessee so I love some southern cooking!
GM: I was in Nashville last week at Parnassus Books for a signing. It was a great event and they ended up hiring a full security team there for me. It automatically was a distraction about what could happen with a drag queen, but everything went smoothly.
JN: How is your home state of Florida these days?
GM: Orlando is always this big, beautiful blue island in the midst of a red sea. I have been working at Hamburger Mary’s Orlando for 15 years at this point. I never had an issue.
When all of this stuff started happening earlier this year we started getting bricks through the windows and right-wing news groups burst into the dressing room trying to interview us.
In the book I talk about not apologizing for things that I didn’t do.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease and if you give something power then it has power over you. Set your boundaries and then stick to those boundaries, which is the hardest thing to do. It will make everything a little easier to handle.
One thing I noticed was that the protesters' license plates weren’t even from Florida. People were coming in to cause trouble.
JN: Wow, they were traveling in to attack you.
GM: As I said, they gave power to the situation and it was running their lives. We were just trying to do our job!
JN: How did you connect with Anne Burrell for this Chicago appearance?
GM: I didn’t meet her until last night. Marti Cummings was on Worst Cooks in America a few seasons ago and I trained him in merchandising at The Lion King on Broadway 20 years ago. This was before either of us stepped into heels.
I called Marti up and asked how Anne was to work with and Anne was described as the best. I turned in my dream list for this event and Anne immediately said yes.
JN: What are your future projects?
GM: I usually do a Christmas tour, but there is no time with the book, so I am doing a big Winter Wonderland show in Charleston, South Carolina this year.
After that, I am going on vacation on a cruise from December 9-18. It will be the extended family along with me, so a trailer park on the sea!
I have a few more book dates after that and then I am back in the studio making a new album with a lot of collaborators. I have found my niche with country and have a cover single of “Hard Candy Christmas” out soon.
After the first of the year, there will be a mini tour of The Broads’ Way, which was a Provincetown show this past summer. I got the best reviews with that show than I have ever gotten in my entire career!
Catch Ginger Minj with Gidget Galore at Venus Cabaret Theatre, 3741 North Southport Avenue, January 18-28, 2023. Purchase tickets at mercurytheaterchicago.com and buy Southern Fried Sass at gingerminj.com.