Diva Maw

Color video still of performer Monique Jenkinson performing as her drag persona, Fauxnique. She wears heavy makeup, devouring an image of a hand wearing a large bracelet that appears to have been cut from a fashion magazine; magazine cutouts of other body parts are stuck to her forehead.

Monique Jenkinson (Fauxnique), Diva Maw, 2020, digital video, 5:35 min.; soundtrack by Marc Kate, Untitled (“Diva Maw” Soundtrack), 2020, audio file (video © Monique Jenkinson; soundtrack © Marc Kate)

In this moment (is it still a moment, or is it now an era, an age?) lips, mouths, tongues, throats, and lungs are the source of the trouble. To keep each other safe we must keep them covered. These are the new private parts—and saliva the new abject. The risk of public singing sends the diva far away, banishes her utterance to recorded media. Lipstick is for Zoom meetings.

The name of my drag-queen persona, Fauxnique, exploits the perpetual tension between artifice and authenticity. The faux in Fauxnique not only admits to fakery but revels in it. Her faux is about neither the flawless finish nor seamlessness. She shows her seams and invites you to look at them, to see how she constructs herself. Fauxnique wants to remind you that she is pretending, wants you to remember she is a drag queen and not hoping to “pass” as anything or anyone. She likes to create illusions and then destroy them. The detritus of life gets stuck in Fauxnique’s gloss before it has time to dry—reminding us that all of our packaging is imperfect and subject to decay, as indeed are all of our lives.

As someone whose work has primarily dwelled in and relied upon the live experience, I want to see and feel the humanity, vulnerability, and liveness of the drag face. I want to present and exalt its decay.

My drag wallows in the abject feminine and worships the devouring goddess with her gaping maw. My drag fancies the iconic feminine with her labial ruffles and vulvic flowers. My drag exalts the virtuosity, at once unhinged and hyperaware, of the diva soprano and in so doing returns me to a site of my early dance drag work, in which I created an evocation of Maria Callas inspired by Wayne Koestenbaum’s book The Queen’s Throat (1993). I return to Callas again as material. From her throat to mine.

Monique Jenkinson and her drag-queen alter ego Fauxnique dwell at the intersection of contemporary performance, choreography, and cabaret, creating works that consider the performance of femininity as a powerful, vulnerable, and subversive act. Honors include national and international tours and residencies, numerous awards, and foundation support. Jenkinson has created curricula for visual arts and liberal arts programs and is writing a drag memoir. Her next live performance is November 14, 2020, at Catharine Clark Gallery (San Francisco).