Minerva Jayne, Boise's biggest, bustiest blonde bombshell, could put the whole "famous potato" thing to rest at last. She calls them "the twins" and no Idaho potato is up to the task.
Minerva is the doyen of Boise's drag scene, hostess of drag bingo at the Balcony Club and a constant supporter of Boise's gay and lesbian community. When BW met Minerva at the Balcony, we did not intend to interview her in character. But we quickly realized that her character, the Minerva persona, fills the greater part of her sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening but always ambiguous identity.
Minerva grew up in small-town Emmett. She has a man's name—which she says is not interesting—and a decent state job. But at night, she hits the town in leopard-print, plunging necklines and a pair of Lolitas.
Are all drag queens gay?
Not always. "Drag queen" typically refers to a gay man who performs in female attire. There are heterosexuals, but they usually are considered female impersonators if they perform, or transvestites if they are straight and just like to dress up because there's usually a sexual attachment to it. Drag has been something that has caused controversy within the gay community itself because many people find it outdated or too much, sort of like the rodeo clowns of the gay community, which I don't think is true. Drag queens, their main job as drag queens is to help the community by raising money for different charities. And there is the whole entertainment factor. It's not just somebody dressing up and making fun of women.
What's your thing?
We call it drag bingo, but there are still people that swear I'm a woman pretending to be a drag queen. I'm a drag queen, but I'm sort of more than that. It's bridging into other definitions.
What was it like growing up in Emmett?
It was a small town and I stuck out quite a bit from an early age. I didn't look much different than you see me now when I was going to high school so it was challenging to be myself in Emmett.
You dressed the same way in high school?
Not so extreme, or blonde. I looked more like the girl next door in high school. I wore eye makeup but no, like, lipstick or anything. I was way more toned down than I am now.
When did you come up with Minerva Jayne?
I've been performing since I was 16. I was probably a sophomore in high school.
Did people understand you in high school?
Most people did not understand. By the time I was a senior, though, I was very popular. I still have a lot of friends from high school.
I don't know, what do you define a girlfriend or boyfriend by? Now, there were a few people that got their homework done. But I wouldn't call that a relationship. I had some casual relationships here in Boise because I would come to Boise almost every weekend for the last few years of high school.
What is your identity? Are you a woman?
No. Well, it depends on the day. That's kind of a murky area because even when I'm not done up to the hilt, it's still kind of hard to tell. For a solid 10 years, probably, I lived it every day very, very done. With so many people in the community knowing who I am, I kind of like to blend in. It helps with like, the day job and stuff. I work for the state.
Do your colleagues know about your nightlife?
They all know about it. Some of them have come to the shows that we have and some of them have been to bingo. It's usually fun because then I can be even more evil about stuff that goes on in the office than I can when I'm in the office. They see me fully realized.
Is drag your identity?
I wouldn't say that drag's the identity. Minerva Jayne's the identity. It's more about expression; I try to paint it up to look like what the inside looks like. It really hit me like a ton of bricks at 13, and that's when things started. It just came out of this need to be pretty, I guess.
How do you learn the art of drag in Idaho?
I just had to do it on my own. My mother was not a particularly flamboyant person. She was a natural beauty, not any of the artifice that I admired. So I took my cues from Dolly Parton and Jayne Mansfield and the movie stars from the past and just made it happen. I've evolved a lot.
Tell me more about the Dolly Parton part.
Oh, the twins. My maternal side of my family is Southern, so I've had lots and lots of country gravy in my life and let's just say I use what I've got to the best of its advantages.
How does your family feel about the drag?
I know my older siblings don't mind. They actually like it. I think my mother does, too. I know my grandmother likes it and she's going to be 90 in August. She thinks it's fun. She thinks I'm pretty. They see that it's more than just a thing for clothes and hair. It's a persona, it's who I am.
Are women jealous of you on the street?
Usually women are jealous of their cup size compared to mine. I think women have more of an appreciation for it. It sort of embodies ultra-femininity. I think I intimidate some sometimes. I have noticed that a lot of times when I'm around and there's a couple, the women will start touching their boyfriends and they'll start kissing on their man and grab their hands and stuff to sort of claim ownership as if I wanted them in the first place.
How about men?
There are men who do get angry and make no bones about telling me what they think about me. There have been some altercations. There are some men who make it something funny. And you never know when some man is going to walk right up to you and just be infatuated. I haven't had a serious physical altercation in Boise for six years or so. There have been the starts to those altercations. But they also find out soon that growing up in Emmett taught me a thing or two about standing up for myself. Their assumption is that I'm going to be weak with them and I'm not. I broke a nose in Emmett once.