Jan Sport’s JanSport collab brought her back to full power

When Jan walked into the “werkroom” for season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she loudly proclaimed herself as “just Jan” — no last name, despite the one she sported for years leading up to the show. But now, Jan is once again Jan Sport, restored to her former glory by the collab to end all collabs: Jan and her namesake, backpack brand JanSport, have teamed up to create a custom collection of bags.

The two Jan-designed bags — a mini backpack and a fanny pack, both in her signature purple with a faded houndstooth texture — debuted last week at DragCon UK, where Jan herself handed them out to fans and made waves among her queer peers. INTO caught up with Jan to hear the journey of her drag name, why this collab is changing the game, and if she’d ever give Drag Race another go.

Hi Jan! I’m so excited to talk about your whole journey with JanSport — I’m just realizing this must be confusing for you to talk about, not knowing if people are referring to you or to the brand.

It’s very Miss Congeniality “aloha, aloha.” Let me tell you, if I need to search for an email, if I need to look up something referring to myself, honey, good luck. There are hundreds of emails between Jan Sport and JanSport.

Why did you initially choose Jan Sport as your drag name?

I was drunk at a McDonald’s, and I looked at a JanSport backpack on the ground, and I was like, [slurring words] “If I ever do drag, that’s gonna be my name.” And then it did become my name! But I also think it’s really clever for me. I grew up playing sports all my life, and I like to describe my drag style as athletic. So I think it makes sense for me: sturdy, durable, lifetime guarantee.

Of course, when you went on Drag Race, you had to drop the last name for copyright reasons. What was that like?

It was very shocking for me. I kind of felt like people weren’t going to get a little bit of my brand and who I was. And I definitely had to change some things in my package to bring along to Drag Race: things that said “Sport,” things that were very sporty, looks that had backpacks. I wasn’t allowed to do any of it. Not a big deal — my runways were beautiful and fabulous.

I’ve always felt like the “Sport” was just silent for a second, and we just weren’t putting it on fliers. But now to know that I have the company’s blessing, I’m like, “Honey, slap that last name back on.” If we’re not getting a cease and desist, play ball.

As far as the new bags themselves, how did you land on these two designs?

I definitely wanted to do a mini backpack — I’ve always been in love with the JanSport line. And I was like, “We should do a fanny pack too, because if there’s one thing I know about the queers, we love a fanny pack.” 

In my Stephanie’s Child days, I was the purple one, and I’ve kind of just kept that as my color. We started working on this about a year ago, and I was like, “I can’t just have it be purple. That’s typical. What can I add?” And I just love houndstooth, I love that aesthetic. I love the faded texture — I just love things looking a little deconstructed, but also looking very pretty. I was like, “Let’s just add all those materials together.”

What’s the reception been like from fans and from your fellow drag artists?

The fans have been over the moon about it. If we were to do a waitlist for the bags now that they’re sold out online, I think that it would be hundreds, or maybe even thousands. I’ve gotten so many messages from people about when the bags are going to be restocked. Literally, in this world that is so negative, I have not heard one single negative thing about this, and that just makes my heart really sing.

The really cool thing, though, was talking to some of my peers at DragCon. They were like, “Girl, this is inspiring. This is a collab to end all collabs.” I was like, “Y’all really don’t have to gas me up that much, honey — when Trixie Mattel gets her own Barbie, then we’ll talk.” 

But you know what, the fact that JanSport was so invested in wanting to have a queer voice represent their brand was really, really cool. I think the queens picked up on that as well and were like, “If this is happening, we can make anything else possible.” And I was like, “I didn’t even think about it that way. But if y’all are saying it, then I guess I’m gonna say it in an interview, honey!”

Will you be restocking these designs?

Yes. I’m hoping that we can expand this into more, because the response to this has been overwhelming in the best way, in the most dreamlike way. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that we get more of these out there and we get more iterations of them as well.

Very exciting! On a separate note, you just went viral again for attempting to crowd surf in London. What’s the story there?

Let me tell you this. Picture me: I am about to launch the biggest project of my life at DragCon. Ariana Grande is releasing a song on the same day. And I’m performing at Heaven, my favorite club in the world, where I have crowd surfed many a time. You make plans and RuPaul laughs.

We got dropped. And I genuinely was just like, “I needed to be humbled a little bit right now.” I was so excited for this moment — I was like, “Ariana is gonna see this, she’s gonna put it on her story, and it’s going to be everything. Girl, she’s going to be so proud.” And then she fell. The look of shock on my face is so genuine. That was the trust fall to end all trust falls.

Thank you for bravely sharing your story. Meanwhile, in the Drag Race universe, your All Stars 6 sister Scarlet Envy is about to be on UK vs the World. Lots of queens have come back for a third time — would you ever do another season of Drag Race?

Yeah, I absolutely would love to. I haven’t been in the race for really almost four years now, having filmed All Stars in 2020, and I’ve changed a lot as a person. I’m a lot more sure of myself and a lot more confident in what I have to give. I think that I took it way too seriously last time — it’s not a bad thing to be serious about something that you want, but I think that I’m ready to play seriously in my head and have fun with everybody else.

I would love to see it! Maybe you could bring the last name this time, now that you have the stamp of approval.

That’s really why I want to go back. Because I’m like, “What would they do?” After this, I feel like I deserve to go back as Jan Sport.

And now that you’ve pulled off the collab to end all collabs, where are your sights set next?

I’m going to be in DRAG: The Musical in Los Angeles starting March 15 and running until the 30th. I’m hoping to do a little more theater and I have my eyes set on Broadway in 2024 or ‘25. That’s what’s next, honey! ♦

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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