Jade Elektra holds back next to nothing as she shares intriguing stories about her 20 plus years as a performer and one of her latest creative endeavors the return of “How Do I Look? 2.0.” During our interview, Corey Wesley and I learned that she’s an old-school queen who has a lot to share with the world and she has a clear opinion about the state of drag today.
Jade first came on the drag scene in 1985 as Ebony in Tampa, Florida, a year after being mesmerized by the performances of Stephanie Shippae. From Tampa, then Ebony, moved to New York City where she was encouraged to pursue drag by the likes of legends including the Electrifying Grace, Dorian Corey, Paris Duprée, and Pepper LaBeija. Given another queen in New York City had the name Ebony, she decided to pay homage to Electrifying Grace by taking on the name Jade Elektra.
Now based out of Toronto, Canada, Jade’s influences come from the strong females in her life such as her mother, grandmother, and the real woman she was once engaged to. As for the later, Jade shares, “she was really beautiful and she never left the house until she was done.” She applies that quality to Jade. Jade is never “busted” unless she’s playing a part. Another influence is the red-headed bombshell from Gilligan’s Island, Ginger.
When asked about her style and why she uses a lot of old-school type tracks and uses live singing, Jade says that while drag queens can expand and do all kinds of stuff, old-school drag has a bit more substance and stands the test of time. “Old Hollywood glam never goes out of style.” In her performances Jade wants you to think about what she’s singing. She puts thought into her performances and there is a reason behind each song she sings and hopefully, it means something to someone.
In the interview, Corey Wesley asked about RuPaul’s Drag Race and the state of drag today. Jade was quite clear with her response. She’s not a fan of Drag Race and believes the show plays into some of the stereotypes of drag such as the drama, backstabbing, and the bad behavior. Jade says that the nice girls on the show who don’t play the game end up being chewed up and spit out. She says, “it becomes less about the talent and more about the personalities. What happens when you have to turn that off? You can’t be turned on all the time.” Jade seems to be quite content doing the things she wants to do and says she doesn’t have to focus on presenting a personality for a camera or the media. She’s even turned down opportunities that she believes would have presented her as a caricature.
One of the biggest controversies for Jade Elektra came about when she, as her alter-ego Paprika Jones, provided samples on the bitch track “You Don’t Want It, Bitch,” produced by DJ Relentless and Bryan Greenwood (The Snatsch Sisters). It was made from an outrageous interview with Drag Race contestant, the late Sahara Davenport. Jade cleared the air with Kinkster MAG by sharing that she knew Sahara well before she was on Drag Race and she shared the track with Sahara before doing anything else. Manila Luzon, Sahara’s partner at the time had a fit and went off on Jade online, but some friends close to Sahara said she loved it.
When asked about how Drag Race has impacted drag, Jade says that it has been successful in bringing drag to the masses and to the forefront of pop culture, but there are some lacking elements. She wishes there could be a greater emphasis on paying homage to those pioneers who came before such as Sylvester, Charles Busch, and Divine. Jade is happy being a female impersonator and does what she does in part to recognize the contributions of earlier performers.
As for the future of drag, Jade worries that people are so caught up with being online and addicted to their social media accounts they are losing out on living a real and authentic life. Jade uses her platform as a way to create lasting and meaningful moments for her fans. Drag is an extension of who she is and that’s a seasoned, confident person. She worries that so many today are looking for attention and are less concerned about finding substance and meaning in everyday moments, let alone their performances.
Jade is also no stranger to bitch tracks. Corey took a moment to discuss one of her latest creative endeavors, the release of “How Do I Look? 2.0,” Erik Elias Remix available October 3 on iUnderground Records. This latest track is a second version of the underground classic song, first out in 2003, written by Alphonso King Jr. and produced by Erik Elias.
Jade and Erik have collaborated on projects since 2003. They first met way back when while working at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City. Jade says, “when you build these types of long-lasting relationships with other like-minded people, you just know the needs of each other. You can’t duplicate these types of relationships. Erik has a finger on the pulse of what the club scene should be.” When we asked Erik about the inspiration for the track, he states, “Peter Rauhofer at the Roxy, early 2000’s, was the inspiration for the track; around 5/6 am’ish, when all the music heads were really getting down.” And on working with Jade, Erik shares, “Working with Jade is like a warm breeze.” He adds that Jade makes a good bitch track because, “No one reads like Jade.”
To wrap up our conversations we asked Jade our signature question about being unconventional. She decided to share one of her kinks with us; she loves happy trails. As she boisterously started singing, “happy trails to you…” we laughed and thanked her for sharing so much with us.
Catch Jade Elektra November 3rd at Tickled Pink, celebrating 10 years of PinkPlayMags.