– Words by John Atkinson
Jimbo is the name and being a world-famous drag queen is the game.
Since her fourth place finish on Canada’s Drag Race two years ago, life has not been the same for the 39-year-old—born and raised in London, Ontario—but who now calls Victoria home.
Jimbo’s Instagram following sky-rocketed from 1,500 to 300,000—and with her current appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Vs the World, she’s now up to 333,000.
More than that, though, the artist—born James Insell and still going by the pronouns he/him off-stage—is now able to make a handsome full-time living being 100 per cent authentically Jimbo, and essentially living the life of his/her dreams.
“It’s really cool I’ve had this turning point in my life and I’m now able to celebrate all those things I thought were, at one time, really negative,” said Jimbo, who didn’t come out as gay until he was 25.
Nicknamed Jimbo by his dad and then friends, he studied biology at the University of Western Ontario in his hometown London, but never felt at home.
Craving a more creative life, Jimbo went west to Victoria at 25, joined a local theatre company, Atomic Vaudeville, and became a costume, set and props designer. He also started practicing clown work with Britt Small, the director of Atomic Vaudeville and she encouraged him to start performing.
“With the clown training I really started to identify with and get connected with performance; then I was able to weave in my feminine side. Previously I wasn’t comfortable sharing this. But working with Britt gave me the courage and confidence to come out as gay—and I haven’t looked back.”
Jimbo said he’s always been drawn to performance and the creative process of storytelling. Clowning, he says, is “more about connecting to the audience via spontaneity and shared surprise, and authentically being yourself, rather than looking like a birthday clown.”
After initially moving to Kitchener-Waterloo after graduation, he began working at the nightclub Starlight. There, he befriended alternative artists who encouraged him to explore his quirky “other side.”
“They saw something in me that could potentially be positive—when I’d always been told it was negative,” Jimbo reflected. “Then, when I moved out west, it was the same. Victoria’s community and other performers said ‘this is something you’re really good at.’”
Fortune favoured the brave when, after more than a decade honing his craft, RuPaul’s Drag Race finally created a Canadian version. Jimbo applied for it, got in as one of 12 contestants for the 2020 show and the rest is history.
“Being on Drag Race has been a catapult for my career and social media platform—and I’ve gone from being pretty much unknown to being a world famous drag queen. It’s epic.”
With the Drag Race franchise hosting shows in Australia, Italy, France and Holland, along with the US and UK, Jimbo now travels the world performing and mixing with fellow drag queens.
She’s also now met her hero, RuPaul, who is currently judging her on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Vs the World.
“It’s amazing, yes!” Jimbo said. “RuPaul is the queen of all drag queens, so it’s a dream come true to meet her and be judged by her.”
At 39, Jimbo’s in her prime and eying many years living the dream.
“A lot of my fans say I’ve inspired them to live fearlessly and I hope I can continue to set that example.”
Jimbo’s pronouns are he/him off-stage and she/her—when in drag—on this subject, though, he says: “It’s not a huge part of how I identify in this world.”
Meanwhile, Jimbo is developing a clothing brand with her partner, fulfilling a lifelong dream. She’s also making music with Toronto friend Andrew Taylor—including videos shot in LA.
Finally, putting the “F in fun” will be the artist’s new sketch comedy show House of Jimbo, which she hopes will be filmed in Victoria and feature a blend of TV show characters, plus connections in the drag and clown communities.
Until then, catch Jimbo on RuPaul Drag Race UK Vs the World on Crave Canada and stay up to date at houseofjimbo.com.