Laganja Estranja may be best known for appearing on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race — and for slaying Britney Spears’ covers at Hamburger Mary’s on the regular — but Estranja has decided to make a change.
While Estranja, also known as Jay Jackson, has performed in Europe, Brazil and beyond, he says the drag world can be a “tumultuous and dramatic” place to be. As a result, Jackson is now turning his attention to the marijuana industry. While there are quite a few parallels between the LGBTQ and cannabis communities — they’re both marginalized groups — the gay contingent has been largely overlooked by weed businesses, Jackson says.
“It’s safe to say I’m definitely the face of gay weed,” says the 28-year-old.
The cannabis industry can be downright bro-y, he adds, and the crowds at conventions are often dominated by straight, white men. In fact, Jackson showed up in drag to an event a few years ago but was so uncomfortable he’s switched to plain clothes ever since. He has continued to attend industry events as a guest, however, and even announced an award last year at the High Times Concentrates Cup, with his pup — the aptly named Lil Dabbers — in tow.
Jackson has been working toward this end for years, becoming the "first openly LGBTQA individual" to be featured on the cover of a cannabis magazine when he scored the front page of Dope Magazine in 2015. In
in 2016, he hosted a conversation on marijuana legalization at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Jackson can be found at the upcoming drag convention, RuPaul's DragCon, taking place at the L.A. Convention Center April 29 and 30. There he'll be hitting the catwalk, appearing on a panel about dance and drag and manning a booth with cannabis cultivation and advocacy firm THC Design to promote safe and accessible marijuana policies.
Although Jackson sells a line of curated weed-related swag on his website, including “the first openly gay joints on the market,” weed-leaf hoodies and even a now-out-of-production “Puffin’ Pups” clothing line for dogs, merchandising is just one minor part of his business model.
“Our main concern is creating art right now,” he says.
So while the industry may show hints of change, Jackson aims to use his influence as a drag performer to make the marijuana industry even more inclusive to the LGBTQ community. He's launching an educational career that combines choreography and cannabis.
Jackson founded Laganja’s Dance School more than a year ago and been teaching weekly classes in the basement of the Penthouse of Noho, a dance studio in North Hollywood, ever since. The hourlong, evening session includes a warm-up, stretching and conditioning, and a sashay across the floor.
“They have to sassy walk and booty pop and do whatever it is [that] makes them feel comfortable,” Jackson says.
The rest of the evening consists of original choreography by Jackson, who’s often cloaked in colorful, patterned Jeremy Scott outfits and sky-high stiletto heels. Although many dancers begin the class shy and subdued, they typically end it smiling, feeling sexy and happy to be out of their element, Jackson says.
“It’s a class for non-dancers, although it is taught at a professional level,” he says. “It’s not about how high you get your leg — it’s more about how you leave my class.”
Jackson received a bachelor of fine arts in dance and choreography from the California Institute of the Arts, and has since taught classes in England, Ireland, Mexico and Amsterdam, in addition to working with competitive dancers and high-profile performers such as Miley Cyrus.
Jackson will debut his first “medicated” group dance session next month; attendees will receive gift bags full of weed products they can dip into before, during and after shaking their moneymakers. This new marijuana-based series will cost anywhere from $30 to $50 per class depending on the location, and will be hosted at a variety of "licensed facilities," starting with Long Beach's THC Design on May 1.
Although Jackson himself is often “getting medicated” before classes, he’s hoping this new, weed-inspired format will help students relax, embrace the class choreography and pour forth some real creativity. It’s his dance classes that have given Jackson some real “meat” to his life, he says, providing a deeper sense of fulfillment often missing from his drag performances.
“Being in the drag world is not where I want to be anymore,” Jackson says.
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So when he's not hosting viewing parties for RuPaul's Drag Race or taking the stage at Hamburger Mary's in WeHo and Long Beach, Jackson’s laying the groundwork for a Warhol-esque theater company that includes musicians, dancers, actors and artists. Although it's in the early development stages, Jackson and business partner Kristen Lovell plan to use the connections they've made over the last several years to tour the company's shows and create a space that is both LGBTQ- and cannabis-friendly.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be traveling the world as a gay, marijuana drag queen,” Jackson says. “It made me who I am and I’m a lot stronger because of it.”