Jay Jackson is Texas raised but California savvy when it comes to his favorite herb of cannabis. As a California cannabis patient, the drag queen’s persona, Laganja Estranja, embodies the plant, with her signature fingers-to-mouth, taking a drag off a joint pose, outing herself at every dip and turn.
Trained classically in dance since a child, Jackson studied at the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts in Dallas, Texas, then earned a bachelor’s degree in dance at CalArts; the Disney owned arts college located in Los Angeles.
While studying in California, a chiropractor advised Jackson to try cannabis for chronic pain suffered from a dance injury while performing. Cannabis helped the performer replace painkillers and sleeping pills, with emotions also kept in check by medicating with the plant.
“The herb keeps me calm under pressure and my emotions level,” he shared. “It also deals with the physical pain of a career in dance, and helps immensely with physically getting into my drag costumes, which can be painful in itself.”
Presidential Awards & Persecution
Jackson debuted as Laganja Estranja at Micky’s in West Hollywood, California in 2011. He became a regular “Show Girl” after winning the Amateur Competition shortly thereafter. Just three years later, Laganja was presented to the national stage at the age of 26, when she appeared on Season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2014.
But Jackson’s recognition as a performer began as a teenager when he was awarded the Presidential Scholar in the Arts, performing at the White House for then-sitting President, George Bush, Sr. As an adult, Jackson returned to the program as a mentor and artist in residence. This experience moved the performer to tears, as he shared, “I was respected as an artist.”
Respect is meaningful when you are a member of the LGBTQ community. Add being a cannabis advocate, and you are constantly asserting yourself in the face of misinformation and daily discrimination. Add the layer of being a Drag Queen to the title, and the obstacles become more complicated.
The stigma of cannabis became more apparent when he was strip-searched and made to give up his cannabis remedies after arriving for production of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Though the show filmed in his home state of California, where Jackson is a registered patient, nationally aired television shows must adhere to federal law where sponsors are concerned, and ban all restricted substances from set.
The lack of medical cannabis affected Jackson, as evidenced in the outtakes. Taking herbal remedies away from someone who relies on them can be just as impactful as withholding prescription medications from a full-fledged patient with diagnosed maladies—symptoms and ailments present themselves quickly.
“Without the herb during production of the race, I was challenged emotionally and physically,” he shared. “My emotions ran high, tears flowed, and my body ached–I was not at my best and it showed.”
Fortunately, Laganja “sashayed away” with eighth place and her popularity intact.
Star Power Worthy of Inclusion
Today, Jackson crisscrosses the globe, delivering athletic performances to adoring fans, all the while promoting his favorite beneficial herb.
Jackson has choreographed for celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Brooke Candy. As Laganja, he even opened next to Cyrus and a plethora of drag queens for Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015. He’s taught dance around the world, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Peru, Australia, Germany, and London. Jackson worked with supermodel Heidi Klum on Germany’s Next Top Model, was featured on the television show Inked, has appeared twice on Viceland’s Bong Appétit, and has been producing Puff Puff Sessions for RuPaul’s World of Wonder Productions since 2016.
Jackson has several television show concepts in the works, including a variety show featuring Laganja Estranja blending the colorful fun of Pee Wee’s Playhouse with the iconic 70s horror presenter and diva Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
Laganja recently launched a podcast, HIGHconic, which features the segment “What’s the THC?”, a spin on the drag and LGBTQ community’s slang phrase “What’s the tea?”
Jackson has produced many musical singles, including, “Look at Me,” and “Smoke Break,” with highly produced music videos on Langanja’s YouTube channel. His first official album, HIGHconic, is launching soon, with a Trademark pending for the catchy phrase.
Civilized’s 420 Games invited him to its event this past year, but the one role left off his resume to date is Celebrity Influencer at any number of cannabis events.
“The games were awesome, and I was honored to be a part of them, but I’d like to be more involved in the cannabis festivals as an influencer in the space, overall,” Jackson shared. “My persona is able to reach a wider audience than has been accessed by the, shall we say, mainstream cannabis crowd? Gays and men in drag get just as high as white straight men at Cannabis Cups.”
Last year he partnered with Roxanne Dennant of Fruit Slab of Los Angeles, creating organic, vegan, Kosher certified, infused fruity candy in 10 milligram doses, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and gender expression.
“Every Pride month each year, they introduce a new flavor that I have the honor of creating. Last year’s flavor, Pride Passion, was a mix of passion fruit, mango, and lemon-lime,” Jackson shared. “I definitely think the industry is changing, as more LGBTQ entrepreneurs step up and create products with opportunities for us.”
Jackson said the collaboration with Fruit Slabs was meaningful, as the company is the real deal when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community.
“You can’t just slap a rainbow sticker on a product and say you are inclusive, you actually have to include us,” he added, with a wink.
As an Influencer within the cannabis community, Jackson’s selling power can’t be denied; for the buying power of the LBGTQ community can’t be ignored at more than one trillion a year in the U.S. alone.
As reported by Bloomberg in 2016, Bob Witeck, of Witeck Communications in Washington DC., has been gathering stats on the LGBTQ community for nearly 15 years, stating this fact has caused many mainstream companies, such as Disney, Target, and Dow Chemical, to raise a rainbow flag of inclusion, ignoring federally mandated laws that may discriminate, updating company policies and practices to protect their employees and those who shop with them.
This year Jackson said he’d like to launch the release of his new album on National Dab Day on July 10.
“Coming together as a community is something both the LGBTQ and the cannabis communities already do naturally. Four-twenty is global, but it’s a puff, puff, pass event – and those events are changing as we speak with the current pandemic,” Jackson laments. “Perhaps it’s time for a dab day – bring your own silicone hit protector and be safe. Party hats aren’t just for the bedroom, kids.”
As Laganja Estranja currently performs by live stream during California’s lock down during the current COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson shares, “Performing is my life and as tragic as it is, a little virus won’t stop these legs from dancing. But, I do look forward to everyone being well again – and for the festival season to begin, that’s where I shine. Those are my people, that’s my tribe. No matter if you are straight or gay, we can rise above and come together over the plant.”
Follow Laganja Estranja on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @LaganjaEstranja