Peppermint Talks New Album 'A Girl Like Me' and a Possible Return to 'Drag Race' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
James Michael Avance
Want a peek inside Peppermint's diary? The RuPaul's Drag Race runner-up, Broadway history-maker and certified legend is readying the release of her most personal music yet. "I thought I was just going to write a love song or two," she says. After a relationship, a heartbreak and all that comes with both, "I came out with a love trilogy, really."
A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers (dropping later this year) is the first of three EPs, featuring five new tracks including the single "Best Sex." It's a softer side of Peppermint, and a more sensual one, too. And if that makes you blush? "Good," she deadpans. But A Girl Like Me is also bigger than Pep.
"It really does focus on my life -- who I am as a trans woman -- and everything that's happening right now [with] Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter and a lot of the issues that we are dealing with socially," she explains. "It's my fantasy album of love songs sung by a trans woman in a way that speaks directly to trans women. It allows space for people to hear what it's like to be a trans woman and what we go through and to see maybe we're more alike than one may assume."
ET spoke with Peppermint about channeling her heartbreak into a new record, championing trans representation and whether she's ready to return to the Werk Room for All Stars. Watch an exclusive look inside the studio below and scroll on for the interview.
ET: Were the songs on Letters to My Lovers written about one guy and one heartbreak? Or did you pull from all your past relationships?
Peppermint: It's more than one guy. It's a year of my life. So, I had a relationship that lasted almost a year, but of course, I went on a few other dates before and after. [Laughs] For instance, "Best Sex" is about that fuqboi -- with a "Q" -- that we've all had experiences with. We've all dated and had hooksups with jerks. That's not unique to one person.
But most of it is about one relationship. Songs like "Chosen One," I mean, I've been in lots of relationships and situation-ships where it's just about sex and you never leave the house. But that moment where the person who you're with is proud of you, that's a feeling that everyone doesn't always experience -- and especially trans folks with the discrimination that's going on. So, that's something that I wanted to focus on. That's something that I felt in this relationship.
Has the relationship guy heard any of the music? Do you plan to give him a heads up, a "just so you know, I wrote an album about you and it's coming out"?
Oh, he's going to hear it. I mean, I'm not going to send it to him for free!
We're obviously still in uncertain times, but have you started thinking about performing this music live? Or how you want to bring it out into the world after the EP release?
I plan on releasing a little special concert from home. We had a concert at Radio City scheduled, but we had to cancel that because of COVID. So, doing the show from home now is how I'm just going to have to do it. That's going to air internationally first, and then we'll see about airing it here in the States.
Anybody that's a die-hard Peppermint fan has already heard bits and pieces of the music. One of the singles, "What You're Looking For," we released in February right before the pandemic. The plan was to go on tour -- I had so many shows already booked -- and the album would have been released in May. Obviously, we had to push all that back. But it really allowed me to sit with the material a little bit more and perfect it. Now, I'm ready to release it into the world. I mean, hopefully nothing else [happens]. Like, if a UFO crashes or I don't know what's going to happen in 2020. But I'm determined to get this music out.
This first EP is largely all you. Will there be more features to come?
There are several features that I'm very proud of. Some of them are singers, like Laith Ashley -- he's a really popular trans man who's a brilliant performer, activist and artist -- he is featured in a song called "Every Morning." Jerome Bell is a guest vocalist on the next album -- that will come out in the new year. Daniel Shevlin from Well-Strung, which is a queer-centric string quintet, he played the cello on several songs. Matt Katz-Bohen, who is in Blondie, is my guitarist. In writing, I collaborated with my longtime friends and partners, Corey Tut and Adam Joseph. I was excited to reunite with them on this project. It was an epic process. We started writing literally almost a year to the day ago.
This is like giving birth to a baby. It's been longer than a pregnancy!
A child, darling! [Laughs] An actual toddler, honey.
You spoke about how you want this record to be something that trans women of color can see themselves in. As far as pop culture goes, that is still very much the battle. But I've loved watching how you've used your platform of late -- your conversations with Bob the Drag Queen and the Black Queer Town Hall. Where do you feel like we are at in this conversation, at large? How do you feel you're being heard?
I feel like we're on a sort of seesaw, on one end of the seesaw is, like, racism and misogyny and the other end of the seesaw is equality and the promised land. And the seesaw is dripping with butter. [Laughs] That's probably a weird analogy. I think we're on the precipice of some really great change. I think we are at a wonderful moment of great change, and change is always painful. Revolutionary change is about breaking down the systems, and right now, 2020, with everything that's happening -- especially in light of COVID -- it's provided us with a lot of time to reflect and to really address the problems that have been here in a way that is sincere and genuine and focused on actual change.
And that means dismantling systems and structures that have been in place since basically the beginning of this country. And when you dismantle structure, things come tumbling. So, we don't know where everything's to land, but I'm very hopeful and I feel very good about the way that things have been going so far [and] the conversations that we've been having. We're able to speak about race and misogyny and sexuality in a mainstream way that we've not been able to do in years past without being shunned or canceled. And that makes me feel really good.
I loved seeing you in season 2 of Pose. And while I think everyone was so happy for Billy [Porter] when he got his Emmy nomination this year, we still aren't recognizing the trans actresses who hold up that show. How did you feel when you saw that?
I was so, so proud of Billy. I've known Billy for several years, and this nomination is, I think, so long overdue. Not necessarily the nomination, but the recognition. It's about the recognition. I think it's an historic moment that the show has been recognized in general and talent from the show is and should be recognized. I definitely would like to see more inclusion and representation.
Pose is not something that we sleep on. It's such a great entity, and it's great because of the storytelling that it does but it's also great because of what it represents. And unfortunately, it is an outlier. There are not a lot of shows that star Black trans women. And I think that is really the problem, that there are so few opportunities. It's just one show. How many shows do we have that exist in the world? And there's one. So that is the problem. I definitely think, in my humble opinion, that there were some Emmy-worthy performances on Pose, and I would love to see these women nominated for Pose. And if not, and I would love to see these women nominated in other roles on other shows in the future. I'm hopeful that this isn't going to be their only shot.
I have to ask you about Drag Race. With Shea Couleé winning All Stars 5, there's a call for you to come back to complete the crowning of season 9's top 4 queens. [Following Sasha Velour's win, runners-up Shea and Trinity the Tuck have both been crowned on All Stars.]
I've seen it! I've tried not to answer it, but I've seen the call. [Laughs]
RuPaul and Drag Race have had a fraught history when it comes to trans inclusion. Is that a space you would even want to venture back into at this point to be that representation? Or have you moved past it? I mean, we know you would mop the competition. That's not the question.
First of all, I think Drag Race is a brilliant platform. It was a great platform for me and a great springboard into other areas of my career that were just out of reach beforehand. I've been doing this a long time. I've been traveling the world and performing, I was the first drag queen ever to have a music video play on Logo, which is the original station that Drag Race aired on. But it's not lost on me how significant and how much of a gift the opportunity of RuPaul's Drag Race was for me and is for all the other queens that have been on there and will be on there.
And again, I want to see every show involve trans people and queer people and nonbinary people. I don't want any show to be specific to just one gender or one sexuality or one race. I think that we're all so much better when we have more diversity. I would love to see some more trans representation on Drag Race. I've been asked that question so many times -- "Would you want to be the trans representation on the show again? Would you want to go back again?" -- and the answer is absolutely. I would love to go back to Drag Race again. I was asked to go on All Stars -- I won't say which season -- and I couldn't, because I was on Broadway at the time. So they called someone else. If the chance comes around [again], I would love to do it. I want to do as many different projects as possible. Film, television, movies, whatever. I want to do it all. And hopefully I'll always be a part of the Drag Race family.
Well, I will say I was very surprised you never popped up as a lip sync assassin on All Stars 5. When I think "lip sync assassin," you are at the top of that last.
Yeah. You know, I was surprised not to see myself on there too! [Laughs]
But you got the last laugh, because there is no more iconic moment this year than the "X" over the mouth.
Oh my gosh! It's so crazy. That was so unexpected. [Laughs] It was obviously unplanned. I just love Bob the Drag Queen and we have this great relationship, and it's really been able to grow and transform this year. I'm so proud of Shangela and Eureka and Bob for doing what they're doing on We're Here, and I'm so happy that got picked up for a second season. Maybe they'll invite a fourth queen to come and be a guest. Who knows! So spending those times and having those conversations with Bob has been just an absolute highlight of my year to say the very least. And hopefully there will be some more iconic moments coming up!
A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers will released on Oct. 16, with lead single "Best Sex" dropping Oct. 2. Pre-save the album here.