Bold & Beautiful: Mik Jager
Salt Lake City’s continually growing community of creatives is bursting with talent. I was fortunate enough to interview Kim—a self proclaimed nerd and interdisciplinary artist known to some as Mik Jager. As you’ll quickly notice, their personality, interests and talents are as diverse as their lineage. Follow Mik Jager on Instagram at @mik_jaker_69 and tip and support them on Venmo (mik_jager_69) or Cash App ($mikjager69).
SLUG: Tell me a little history about yourself/your cultural background?
Mik Jager: I was born and raised in Utah. I spent my childhood in West Valley City. My family later moved out to Tooele during my middle school and high school years. I did grow up in the Mormon faith, however I no longer practice the religion for obvious reasons.
In high school I was a band geek. I played the Alto Saxophone and Baritone. I was always involved in a lot of extracurriculars, which left little time for me to do anything else but go to church and school events. I graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Arts. While in school I fell in love with film analysis and film theory. Films are a complex collaboration between many people to tell a story. This is why it’s one of my favorite mediums of storytelling.
From a young age I always had a passion for all types of traditional art. As I got older, I definitely had a stronger inclination towards films and video games. My parents are both teachers and always instilled in me the importance of being well rounded and eclectic. So let’s just say I’m a huge nerd that’s into all sorts of things.
I am of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian)-Samoan-Chinese-Scottish-English descent. Phew! I think I got them all.
SLUG: What are your preferred pronouns? Do you have a chosen name you prefer to go by?
Mik Jager: I am trans masc and non-binary. My personal pronouns are They/He. Also, I don’t think of my pronouns as a preference—it’s just what they are. I go by Kim for now, I haven’t felt the need to go by any other name quite yet.
SLUG: When and how did you first become interested in drag/performance art?
Mik Jager: It all started around 4–5 years ago when I met Adan Jorq (Mona Diet) and Jordan Ruggeri (Electra Jones). They both used to work at Sephora in Fashion Place Mall. I used to go all the time because I was a Sephora VIB Rouge customer. I used to spend a shit ton of money on makeup/skincare.
When I was younger, I used to have low self esteem about my skin and acne. I used to hide it with makeup, but Jordan and Adan helped me understand that makeup, with a combination of skincare, is important. Makeup only helps accentuate your features that are already there. That was so healing for me, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for helping me unlearn those bad habits.
One day I mentioned to Adan that I had to do a documentary short film project for one of my classes. They immediately volunteered to be the subject of my film. Delighted, I scheduled time to film an interview and capture B-roll for my project. The rest is history: I’ve now been involved in the Salt Lake Drag Scene for about 5 years now.
At first, I was just a fan and advocate. I supported the community by going to shows and taking pictures of performers. But then two years ago I decided I wanted to be in front of the camera instead of behind it. I remember being overwhelmed at first, but with much love and encouragement from Adan and Jordan, I was finally able to express myself the way I’ve always imagined myself. It’s been a euphoric couple of years, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
SLUG: What does being involved in the LGBTQIA+ world of art mean to you?
Mik Jager: I love connecting with other Queer POC Artists all around the world. I love the Salt Lake Drag community, but it’s sometimes hard being the only Polynesian Drag King. Fortunately drag exists in many formats and contexts. I’ve been able to find other Queer POC drag artists online through Instagram and Twitch.
Since the great quarantine of 2020, I’ve been asked to participate in multiple Queer AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) panels to discuss the AAPI experience in queer spaces and media. I’ve come to realize that many artists are just as nerdy and quirky as me. I’ve grown quite fond of the genuine connections I’ve made with other queer people. Having that community, whether it’s online or in-person, makes you feel less alone.
The sheer amount of friends I’ve made through the drag community has been rewarding. Sadly, I’ve faced lots of hardships, but the community has always been there to support me. I am truly grateful for my chosen family.
SLUG: What have been some of your favorite spaces to work through and express yourself creatively over the last few years?
Mik Jager: Definitely one of the pivotal moments was making my short film about my friend Adan (Mona Diet). I also gained a lifelong friend in the process. I will cherish them always. When we were done, I received glowing reviews from my classmates and professors. Needless to say, I passed the class with flying colors.
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival: Queer Lounge has always been one of my favorite spaces I’ve performed in. It was my debut performance as Mik, and I remember being so scared and full of anxiety. However, once I saw most of my chosen family in the audience cheering me on I was able to do it. As much I love performing, it’s also been very rewarding to support the community outside of the nightlife scene. During the pandemic, I helped multiple drag performers film their digital drag numbers for the 8-B!tch Show produced by Rose Nylon and Ivory LaRue. With the way things are going lately, we might have to go back to those digital drag shows.
SLUG: What style of performance are you drawn to participate in?
Mik Jager: I’m a Drag King—it’s what I love to do. The source material for Mik is 100% from me. My childhood nostalgia is a constant source of inspiration. I’m heavily influenced by films and music from the ’80s and ’90s. I do like to subvert stereotypes of “traditional masculinity” by challenging gender roles. It’s a big reason why I love the ’80s and ’90s because there were so many legendary icons that challenged the gender binary.
SLUG: When you’re not expressing yourself through space and time, what do you like to do?
Mik Jager: I’m usually eating delicious food, hanging out with loved ones, playing video games and watching movies. Films and video games are my two other great passions.
SLUG: With drag and performing in queer spaces becoming more recognized, what are your thoughts on how to further break gender stereotypes and barriers?
Mik Jager: Drag has become so transformative and healing for me. I was never allowed to fully express myself growing up. So now having multiple safe spaces where I can be as queer as I want is a big deal. I would love to perform in spaces that aren’t exclusively clubs or bars. Younger generations need access to safe places that aren’t tied to school or church. By creating these safe places … they can explore their own identities and ask questions.
Drag has become a constant source of my gender euphoria lately. I want the queer youth to know there is still a chance for a joyful life even after leaving the church or school. Accepting and loving your authentic self is an act of resistance by existence.
Oh… and always book Drag Kings. We slay just as hard as Queens.
SLUG: What do you hope your performances will accomplish for you and the audience?
Mik Jager: As a brown queer person, I want to share my Polynesian culture with others. I’m proud of my heritage and my ancestors. I honor them by simply existing and being joyful. My ancestors suffered through oppression, racism and colonization. They worked very hard to create a future in which I could exist.
I want other queer brown folks in the audience to feel safe to express themselves though art, music, makeup, fashion or whatever medium they choose. Representation matters—growing up Mormon made gender expression hard for me to explore without the fear of being rejected. I wish I had known someone like me when I was little. It would have helped me a lot.
Polynesian people are storytellers. We’ve always passed knowledge down by spoken word. Hopefully, people will tell stories about my drag performances or crazy outfits that inspired them to create their own art and stories. Mik will still continue to live on in someone’s memory, even after I am long gone. If anything, I hope the audience sees me having fun. Thus by extension, they will also have fun and be entertained.
SLUG: Tell me about your last and next performance.
Mik Jager: Earlier this month I performed at Metro Music Hall for JRC Events. They had booked me for the Sigourney Beaver show. I performed my Rasputin number. It’s heavily inspired by the animated film Anastasia.
I currently don’t have any upcoming shows. With the recent surge of Omicron, I’ve decided to stop in-person performances until further notice. While I do love performing, I have decided to put myself and my loved ones first. I don’t want to keep putting them at risk by performing in public places. However, this doesn’t mean I’m done with drag. I’ll just be moving to a digital space until further notice.
SLUG: The last few years have been rough on many of us—any advice on how to try staying sane and as healthy as you can?
Mik Jager: Drink lots of water. Go outside. Breathe fresh air (unless the inversion is present, then please stay inside). Dance—even when people are watching. Only you can advocate for your needs and wants. Be kind to yourself and others by doing self care. Go to therapy even if you don’t think you need it (you most likely do). Always remember to use effective language when communicating with others. It’s a conversation not a competition.
SLUG: Any other projects or careers you’re working on the people should know about?
Mik Jager: In November, I was the Director of Photography for a drag opera short film. My friend Crystal Palace is a resident at Why Kiki Bar. Mik often performs at Why Kiki along with the other resident performers. The bar even makes a cameo appearance toward the end.
The film won third place at the Drag & Opera Festival. It was a very proud moment for me because I was finally able to blend my two favorite things into one project. You can find the videos on YouTube or at this website: https://dragandopera.art/finalists/
SLUG: Piece of advice you like to live by?
Mik Jager: Take care of yourself before you try to take care of others. Know your limits and set boundaries to maintain healthy relationships with everyone and everything you come into contact with.
I used to be really bad at identifying and taking care of my physical and emotional needs. I would serve others to distract myself and fall into a pattern of avoidance. The COVID lockdown forced me to self reflect and be better and kinder to myself. Being a performer during a pandemic, I’ve learned your physical health and mental health are both equally important.