BenDeLaCreme talks introducing festivity into pandemic with debut feature film ‘The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special’

DeLa
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One of Christmas’ most consistent gifts to comedy lovers is drag queen BenDeLaCreme, whose holiday tours with acting partner Jinkx Monsoon have brought laughter and tears to San Francisco audiences for years. The “terminally delightful” star of Christmas herself may not be able to headline at any theaters this winter due to the pandemic, but she’s brought her drag to a new medium: a feature film, entitled “The Jinkx and Dela Holiday Special.”

“I think part of me thought I would always probably move into film at some point, but (COVID-19) just sort of forced it to happen right now,” BenDeLaCreme said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “That’s been true with many steps in my life. The situation says, ‘alright, it’s now or never,’ and then you just rise to the occasion.” 

DeLa’s sudden move into the film world comes well into her mastery of the scripted stage comedy. Parodies, campy costumes and cheeky banter between DeLa and fellow drag queen Jinkx are to be expected every Christmas, but this year’s “The Jinkx and Dela Holiday Special” isn’t just a stage play captured on film. It’s storytelling specifically crafted for the camera that somehow still manages to maintain all the theatrical camp we need. According to DeLa, puppetry, “a million costume changes” and set changes are on the menu for her first film project.

As of the release of her movie Dec. 1, DeLa is the only “Rupaul’s Drag Race” alum to have produced, directed and co-written their own film during the pandemic. “It feels crazy and natural,” DeLa reflected. To her, the stress of an “insurmountable challenge” is what fuels her, and drag is “born out of innovation within adverse circumstances.” 

When asked on how she manages to maintain her drag at such a high level despite all of COVID-19’s setbacks, DeLa was quick to give credit to her support systems: “Jinkx and I have a relationship of a decade and we have a level of trust and familial love that really gets us very far in terms of what we’re able to surmount … and my partner is a co-producer.” 

DeLa’s team for the movie, she mentioned, has been her community in Seattle for years. “Even though this has been so difficult … I think it’s that appreciation to be making something joyous that’s going to bring joy to a lot of people,” she said. “That’s been the thing that’s propelled us all through the insanity of this project.”

As masters of camp and live acting, the new medium of film brings a new challenge to DeLa and Jinkx’s performance this holiday season. Thankfully, DeLa reassured the audience that none of their comedic magic is lost on camera.

“The spontaneity and the sense of immediacy still largely exists because Jinkx and I have such an established relationship … I think what (the audiences) really love is seeing the way Jinkx and I just flow together cause we’re just on the same page.”

One thing that made writing for film a natural shift for DeLa is her longtime love of television holiday specials. “I’ve always brought specific television influences to the stage,” she remembered. Along with “The Judy Garland Christmas Show,” she recalled “Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” another influence, which she described as “one of the most inspired, bizarre hours of television ever made.” 

“My hope is that this joins that canon that I love so much of a play on that nostalgic Christmas special trope that we love to see subverted and messed with,” she added.

But DeLa isn’t just planning on making you laugh— the underlying themes in her storytelling have high potential to make you cry. “My general formula is I want 90% laughter and 10% tears,” she said. For her, writing a Christmas show is an opportunity to bring hilarity to a subject that can be painful to many in the queer community.

Despite being the source of Christmas joy for many fans, DeLa confesses that she didn’t come to love the holidays herself for the majority of her life. “I kind of created these shows in order to make something happen in the holidays that I felt good about and that was a tradition that I could find solace in.”

By taking her wit and wisdom to the big screen, DeLa undoubtedly is already cheering up what could otherwise be a dismal winter for many struggling with the pandemic or the disconnect from family traditions. 

Directing her message toward both the queer community and all others who are enduring the holiday season, DeLa shared: “I hope that people come away with this feeling inspired to not only create their own traditions around the holidays but to really know that within your own life you get to create your own rules … We can make family and a sense of homecoming whatever we need it to be.”

“The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special” is available now for streaming rental at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/jinkxanddela.

Contact Nurcan Sumbul at [email protected].