For her third run on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Jujubee came back filled with gratitude. Grateful for another shot at the crown, but also for an opportunity to compete as Jujubee 2.0.
Recently sober, Juju was energized heading into the completion, and was both an ally as well as a strong competitor, making it all the way to the Top 3. I sat down to talk to a newly-realized Jujubee, where we discussed everything from her emotional return to the workroom (and conversation with RuPaul) to her new EP’s Good Juju to finally, finally celebrating the performer and person that she is.
Michael Cook: Your third run on RuPaul’s Drag Race had you returning for All Stars 5 and taking another crack at the crown. We also got to see a completely brand new Jujubee.
Jujubee: You know, I am so grateful and…wow. That is all I gotta say.
MC: You first appeared on Season Two of Drag Race and then did All Stars 1, but you had not been on the Drag Race runway for quite some time. What was it like being back in the workroom and in the competition?
J: Well first, All Stars 5 was so much harder than All Stars 1. All Stars 1 was so much harder than Season 2. I knew going into the competition that there would be some challenges that would happen, like Snatch Game and a talent show, but you really don’t know how hard it is going to be until you step in there. To see the whole cast stand there, I gotta say it was scary; everybody is so talented. So it was a lot harder, and a lot harder.
MC: From your own perspective, what do you think was the most marked difference for you coming back into the competition?
J: The biggest difference for me was how much goes into the competition. You are in a fishbowl and with other queens who want the same thing. There is one goal and we are hungry. There was intense energy, it was loving, but it was definitely very competitive.
MC: Your drag has changed a great deal since your initial seasons, and you have become into a much more experimental queen, almost Leigh Bowery-esque at times. Where do you think your drag has changed the most that you wanted to be sure people saw?
J: I am just a different person. Being a different person in my real life, my extended life of course has changed. I find that Jujubee was the one that really helped me see what a lot of my issues were. I found a new way of life, I started hanging out with different people, I changed the places that I go to. I made these small changes and I become sober. Going into All Stars sober was completely different and it was more manageable for me to compete. I found myself more centered spiritually. Even though I knew that there was a crown, I showed up with high spirits. I wanted to spread love and light and have fun.
MC: The season was very dramatic, between the accusations of campaigning against other competitors to old feuds being reignited between others. You seemed to almost be the Greek chorus of the cast though, and stayed essentially out of the fray. Did a small part of you enjoy watching it and not being a part of it?
J: I mean, with good Juju there is bad Juju (laughs). There is a nice balance to the world you know? It is really intense, but it was my third time. I knew that I had to step outside of a lot that. I had to blur and bring light and kind of move those dramatic moments into something more useful and productive. I think that is what I learned to do.
MC: You sat down with Larry Flick on In Depth With Larry Flick and had such a wonderfully introspective conversation with him about how you met your music collaborator. How did that all take place?
J: I was at a meeting and it was at a time that I really needed a meeting. I don’t really share at meetings, I just listen because I talk too much. My mind was racing and going crazy, and it was raining and I ran into the supermarket browsing for groceries. I see this blonde Chinese boy kind of “shark” around me, and I am crying and had to compose myself. He approached me and said, “Hey I love you, you’re Jujubee, right?”We started a conversation and talked a little bit and before he left he said “oh, by the way, I make music” and something clicked. I said, “I would love to write music with you”. The next week, we got together and that is where we got “Don’t Wanna Love”. We wrote that together. I took that to my EP producer Aaron Aiken and we created this piece. I am just grateful; I don’t think it was by mistake. Every time I think something is odd, I like to say that it’s actually God.
MC: So many Drag Race performers create their music for a variety of reasons, but you can tell that much of your music is directly from your heart and you can hear the passion. Have you always been one of those performers that wanted to express themselves musically?
J: Absolutely. I remember the first time that I ever picked up an instrument, it was a clarinet. I learned how to play the clarinet from not knowing anything to being in my own advanced class in seven days. I thought that was normal; I was a kid that always loved music. I started singing, and then when I started using and drinking, I stopped. I kind of drowned my voice I guess. When I let go of all of that stuff, is when I rediscovered my voice.
MC: You were extremely open about addiction, recovery and sobriety on this season of All Stars. You had a conversation with Mayhem Miller about recovery, which was very well received as well. Did you plan to go into the season of All Stars and be this open on camera?
J: I wanted to allow myself to feel and to be in whatever moment that it was. I wouldn’t say that I ever plan anything; I follow my gut and it felt right for me to speak about. To be really honest, I was going through it. I was going through this version of me that wanted to drink. I was uncomfortable and wanted to drink and that was my first out. I think for addicts and alcoholics our first thing to do is “I feel terrible, let me numb it”. Instead of doing that — I was not going to let myself do that, I was not — I acknowledged the craving and spoke about it and decided that I was going to show you exactly how I am feeling right now. There is nothing else I can do; I was not going to let myself drink.
MC: Did you find it especially challenging both being in quarantine and knowing that All Stars was coming and not give in to temptation?
J: Cats. Snacks. Lots of Drag Race, I have been watching a lot of Drag Race. I meditate a lot, I pray, and I try my best to maintain this loving-kindness energy that I have found helped me.
MC: Your music is absolutely forthright and completely breathtaking. Your single “Tonight Or Forever” with Blair St Clair, many would think that it would be a party banger, but it is a passionate track from two stellar artists.
J: Thank you! I wrote that track with Aaron (Aiken) with the mindset of having that split-second of making a decision of going for it. It could be anything, this could be your friend calling you and seeing if you wanted to go out, or if you want to ask someone out. I wanted that sensation to be put out there and Blair was the perfect voice to have in this song. I love Blair so much.
MC: You have walked into the Drag Race workroom now three times. As a Drag Race girl, what do you think you have learned from the experience?
J: What I have learned, and I really learned this from RuPaul, is to just have fun. And to trust. To always trust yourself. I think that is why I can show you who I am and why I resonate with people. You just get me.
MC: The moment that you shared with RuPaul started as a moment that it looked like you needed, but it seemed to be a moment she also needed as well.
J: I think about that. I will never ever forget that moment. I needed it so badly. To hear RuPaul open up like that, I am not sure if a lot of us have heard her speak that way. I am happy that Ru opened up; people get to see the beautiful human that the girls have always seen.
MC: What are you celebrating the most about yourself?
J: What I celebrate about myself is my perseverance and my ability to love me. I am so happy that I can say "I love me." It has been years of hearing Ru say “if you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love anyone else”? I didn't get it until just a few years ago and it was like “oh my gosh this has been what Mama has been saying this entire time, I have just been too egotistical and self-centered to actually hear what she has been saying.” I am happy to say that I am happy and that I love myself.
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