It’s a gorgeous Friday in June, and Jujubee, resplendent in purple silk, is bubbling with excitement — not only over her new dating game show podcast Queen of Hearts, but about sashaying down New York City’s grandest runway for the Pride Parade.
“I’m going to look fabulous on the Queen of Hearts float,” she coos over Zoom. “There’s going to be a hundred people surrounding me, there’s going to be a DJ. We’re going all out!”
This won’t be the first time on a Pride float for the beloved, Boston-based drag performer, singer, actor, and comedy queen. But, “this is the coolest and biggest Pride float that I’ve ever been on. So, this is monumental for the Queen of Hearts.”
Jujubee is in the midst of a monumental year, launching Queen of Hearts with producers Wondery and Rococo Punch, dropping new album Back for More with club-ready remix “Bad Juju” featuring fellow Drag Race alum Shea Couleé, and touring the world performing for legions of fans.
Since rocketing to international fame by reaching the season two finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the entertainer (real name Airline Inthyrath) hasn’t slowed a step. Jujubee has continued to distinguish herself as one of the RPDR stars who won without winning. Though, it’s not for lack of trying to take a crown.
Jujubee was back in the race again on seasons one and five of Drag Race All Stars, landing in the finale again both times. And this past year, she faced off against a stacked international lineup of contestants in the drag queen singing competition Queen of the Universe. She didn’t make the finals but did extend her global brand, as seen on her remarkable run to another finale, on this year’s Drag Race UK vs the World.
Jujubee insists she’s moved on from drag competition, so don’t expect to see her back in the workroom. She’ll likely pop up performing where you might not expect — like on the Pride-themed PBS special True Colors: LGBTQ+ Our Stories, Our Songs as a guest of the American Pops Orchestra, singing “A Little More Mascara” alongside fellow queens Alexis Michelle and Peppermint.
And now she’s diving into her first podcast with the zeal of a true fan of the form.
“I love podcasts,” says Jujubee. “I can just sit there and listen to them all day.” Accordingly, the Queen of Hearts podcast — a fast, funny, uninhibited dating show, with a game show twist — is made to go down easy.
Episodes typically clock in at 35 minutes or less, with Jujubee guiding each eager contestant — folks of different genders and persuasions — to choose from three potential matches. Upon listening to a few episodes, one thing is undeniable: flirting and attraction come through really clearly in an audio-only format. Voices give everything away.
Jujubee — able hostess, wingwoman, and, ultimately, judge of whether the contestant and their pick will enjoy an expenses-paid date on her dime — orchestrates the whole wild party over video conference. “We’re giving new meaning to the term ‘hot mic’ and I’m so excited for everyone to hear all of the sexy, silly fun I’m having in the first season,” she enthuses in a press release for the show.
And, she adds, another reason she loves podcasts, and hopes audiences will tune in to Queen of Hearts, is that it’s perfect for multitaskers like her.
“I think what’s really special about a podcast is you can listen to something, dive into it, and still be doing something else,” she says. “And the way that I work is I’m constantly doing something, and something else. So, I’m multitasking, and I think that’s what makes me such a great host for Queen of Hearts, because I can do it all. I’ve proven it to you daily, baby.”
METRO WEEKLY: I know plenty of queer folks who wouldn’t set foot at another Pride, whereas I get at least a little bit excited for it every year. How have your feelings about Pride evolved over the years?
JUJUBEE: The excitement for me when I was a younger queen and newly coming out was I needed to find a space and a place where I fit in, and Pride was always that place. And where I am now is, I really… Okay, I’ll be real with you. I just worry about the heat. [Laughs.] That’s really what it is, because there’s a lot of people, it’s a great celebration, and it’s always during the summer. And it’s like, just please, just give us one winter Pride, just one.
MW: Yeah, I felt a little bad at D.C.’s Capital Pride, if not for the drag queens, then watching the marching bands.
JUJUBEE: Yeah, fully dressed up, just marching in the sun, right? Yeah, yeah, I get it.
MW: So, I have a bunch of questions before we get to Queen of Hearts. I’m a huge Juju fan.
JUJUBEE: Thank you.
MW: My last time in Boston, I happened to see you walking down the street and I just got a sense of the good energy.
JUJUBEE: The good juju?
MW: The good juju. I read you were just in Amsterdam performing with Crystal Methyd. Was that for Pride over there?
JUJUBEE: That was actually a tour that we have been working on for a few years, and because of what has been happening in the world, we had to postpone and we finally got to do it. And it was so cool, it was so fun and there’s a lot of fans out there.
This is Crystal’s first huge tour, because her season came out during the pandemic and everything was locked down. So, it was really cool to get to do this with her because she is so loved. And you know I was out there telling everybody about Queen of Hearts. I made them take their phones out to follow me. And I didn’t leave until they did.
MW: And how is Amsterdam feeling these days?
JUJUBEE: Amsterdam was cute, I had a really good time. The thing about being in Europe is it’s so close to other countries, so we got to see so many different kinds of people. I had a really great time seeing a lot of queer people of color in the spaces that we were in, and it was all love.
MW: I saw there was a queen on that bill named Mutha Tucka, which is an awesome name. Do you still gag over a good drag name?
JUJUBEE: Oh, I do, I do. And sometimes it takes me a while to understand. Mutha Tucka is the fiercest queen. This queen drives the van, sets up the merch, hosts the show, performs and never complains, and she’s always on time. She is inspiring. She doesn’t tuck, though.
MW: Oh? Oh.
JUJUBEE: Even though her name is Mutha Tucka.
MW: Was that a confession she made or were you checking?
JUJUBEE: I was checking. She wears short dresses.
MW: Okay. Now, since longevity is to be celebrated in your business, when did you start doing drag, and at what point did it click that you wanted to keep doing it?
JUJUBEE: I want to say my first time in drag was when I was 16, and it was Halloween. Halloween is the gateway to drag, I’m telling you, and it stuck and I’m so happy that I did it. I realized that I wanted to do drag as a career when, I think, other people saw it as more serious than I did. Because I always have a great time, but there’s an art to this work, and there’s work to this art.
And when I was cast on Drag Race, that’s when everything changed for me, because drag was so accessible in people’s homes that it allowed me to not only work with what I loved but travel and show people drag.
MW: You mentioned lockdown, a period where everybody had to get extremely creative and pull out all the tricks. How had your experience up to that point, and particularly the Drag Race competing, helped prepare you for what you had to do to get through this pandemic?
JUJUBEE: What I find with queens is we’re very resourceful, and we know how to put a gig together to raise money for somebody, right? We do this all the time, and we band together. I saw so many queens just start online drag shows, and the coolest part of that was you were able to watch somebody from your home who was performing down the street from you, and somebody who was on the other side of the world in the same show.
And these girls were getting tipped, you could see it scroll up on the screen, people just loved that there was this art form still accessible. And I think the queens are still doing it. It doesn’t matter, we are going to make it — that’s what queens are, and we’re going to make sure that things are fierce and fabulous even in times of darkness.
MW: RuPaul always says that drag is a subversive act, but recently it’s an overtly political one, especially as all the “anti” people are suddenly turning their ire towards drag queens, which is really mind-blowing to me. Do you look at drag as activism as much as it is entertainment these days?
JUJUBEE: Absolutely. I think drag has always been political, drag has always had a place to express everything. We are very loving people, but I think most queens have gone through something that has brought them to the world of drag. And the world of drag is just — and I always say this — a superpower. It’s my cape.
With legislation trying to stop people from watching drag shows, it’s just mind-blowing and insane. And I think, at this time, it’s so important to have queer voices out here just speaking up for people who may not have the ability to speak up for themselves. Queens have always been doing that and we won’t stop. You literally can’t stop us.
MW: Part of this ongoing hate campaign is that it’s driven a lot by misinformation. Especially as a public figure, and at this moment as a drag queen, are you ever targeted with misinformation? How do you deal with falsehoods on social media?
JUJUBEE: Well, I think that, with the 12 years that I’ve been able to work this career, I’ve been able to also learn how to just let it go. I’m so good at just reading something and saying, “That is not about me at all,” because it never is. These people who make these terrible comments are just ignorant, and I try not to look at it from a place of hate. I try to understand, and it’s just them misunderstanding who we are as people.
MW: Do you ever engage offline with any of the “anti” people?
JUJUBEE: No. I don’t think people have the nerve to step up to the Queen of Hearts. Because I carry myself in a way where I demand my space, and this is the aura that I have, and I’m a strong energy so they can’t handle it, baby.
MW: More people need to bathe themselves in that attitude.
JUJUBEE: Of course. Like, “You’re not going to get me.”
MW: Although, I imagine on your travels, you encounter more love than hate, especially as Drag Race and drag shows and drag explodes worldwide. In which country that you’ve been to do you find the most hardcore drag fans?
JUJUBEE: Brazil! Bra-zil. The Brazilian fans are amazing and they show up eight hours before the doors even open, and it’s so loving and it’s so cool. And to be queer in Brazil is not easy. So, the representation, and to have queens from all over the world perform there, is pretty cool.
On Queen of the Universe, Grag Queen won, she’s from Brazil and that was more than just a win for her, it was a win for Brazil and the queer people there. And she represents so much. There’s a lot of strength in being a person who does drag in Brazil. Those fans go in, and I know they’re all going to listen to this podcast because they love me, and they love love.
MW: Speaking of Queen of the Universe, earlier this year, you also were on Drag Race: UK vs the World. It was your fourth time making it to a Drag Race finale out of four times competing, congratulations on that.
JUJUBEE: Thank you.
MW: What do you feel you gained from this last competition? You’ve also said that would probably be your last time competing on any kind of Drag Race. Why?
JUJUBEE: I wanted to do UK vs the World because I thought it was important for me to express myself. I was in the house for a year and a half with my cats, and I think we were all in a mental state where we just needed to go out there and feel a different emotion, so I did that.
I say that it’s my last time competing in a drag competition because I feel like there is a space for me outside of competing in a competition like that, and there’s so many more queens who could be represented on that amazing platform. And I’m busy, okay? I’m the Queen of Hearts finding love for people. When am I going to compete again? I’m busy!
MW: And speaking of new queens, as all these spinoffs keep spinning, how do you keep up? I love drag, I love Drag Race, but I can’t keep up with, let alone all the shows, but all the different queens and all the different talent.
JUJUBEE: I always say, “It’s great to see you. It’s so good to see you.” I actually keep up by going online and watching those little snippets. I’m like, “Ooh, that was a cute runway.” It’s so hard, because it’s so accessible and there’s so many different versions of it.
And I think that is one of the coolest things, because I remember being in high school not finding any queer content anywhere, and just like, “Where am I?” And now, it’s more than just drag, it’s a representation of what the world is. It’s so multifaceted, there’s so many different versions of humans and so many different types of love, and I think all the queens that we see out there represent each little puzzle piece of the world.
MW: I just interviewed some people for Queer as Folk, and the subject kept coming up that they had first encountered earlier versions of the show at a time when gay content wasn’t so accessible. Sneaking late at night when nobody was watching, holding the remote so you could quickly turn it off, which is how I first watched gay material on television. Where did you find it, or where did you find the representation you were looking for?
JUJUBEE: Honestly, for me, it was really when Drag Race season one happened and I saw Ongina, an Asian drag queen, feminine being, just living her life out loud, and being just full of love and great energy.
MW: And totally wigless.
JUJUBEE: Just fierce, just fierce. Bald and fierce. And I just saw a light, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, finally there’s a moment where I can see myself in somebody who’s on TV and just so eloquent and smart.”
MW: Yeah, Ongina represented our community and herself extremely well. So I guess my last Drag Race question, probably.
MW: Probably. Do you have any favorites in this currently airing all-winners season?
JUJUBEE: Oh, obviously, Shea Couleé. Raja, I love Raja. And real T is I tune in to watch RuPaul’s reactions to things, because she is so funny and I love RuPaul. And I know what’s going on in that mind when she’s looking at these queens on that stage.
MW: So now I have a Queen of Hearts question. Actually, first, I wanted to ask, will you be adding “Break My Soul” to your playlist?
JUJUBEE: Okay, yes. Because I love Beyoncé, I am a part of the Beyhive. Let’s talk about this. So, anything Beyoncé, I’m in. I feel like I am one of the members of Destiny’s Child that you never saw, okay? I was the bass harmony from the original girl group.
MW: I love the song. It’s a mood for the whole summer.
JUJUBEE: I was really lucky she released music on June 21st, which was my birthday.
MW: Happy birthday!
JUJUBEE: Thank you. So, there was that, and Queen of Hearts came out on June 21st. So, for me, it was like, wow, Beyoncé really moved the ocean to release music for me, because she loves me so much. So, shout out to Beyoncé. And, Beyoncé, you should listen to Queen of Hearts, girl, when you got time.
MW: I want to ask about your single, “Bad Juju,” which I think is really hot. I especially love that it is such a clear mission statement. For those who have not heard it, or don’t know it, how would you describe what “Bad Juju” is saying?
JUJUBEE: Bad Juju is, I believe, this energy that’s “you can do whatever you want, you can go for it, this is me.” Remember when I said, I demand my space, that’s what Bad Juju is about. She’s a boss bitch and I think all of us have that version of ourselves that we’re the go-getters, and we tell people, “I belong here and you’re just going to have to accept it or move out of my way.” That’s Bad Juju.
MW: That’s Bad Juju but that sounds good, though.
JUJUBEE: It’s very good. She’s not bad — she’s like, “Ooh, she’s baaad.”
MW: Which Juju is hosting Queen of Hearts?
JUJUBEE: Both. You need both. You need good Juju and bad Juju. There’s a nice balance, and with these contestants, I have to be good Juju because I need to hear everything they have to say, and then bad Juju’s the one that really decides whether or not they get a date, because, ultimately, I have to pay for it anyway and it’s my money.
MW: I think I saw the switch flip right there.
JUJUBEE: Yeah! And the thing about Queen of Hearts is I know almost immediately if there’s chemistry, and I’ll let them chat it out. But we play all these games, and a lot of the time, you can feel such cool chemistry between the people.
Then there’s a section where I even leave, and they get seven minutes together, Seven Minutes in Heaven — and that’s when none of us are there to hear anything. And when they come back and report back, you know if it’s going to work, because there’s that smile and there’s always that, “Wow, I wish I had more time, I need this.” So, that helps me make my decision, and I pay for their date and they report back to me, because I’ll chase them down and stalk them.
MW: What are your qualifications as the Queen of Hearts? What makes you the queen?
JUJUBEE: What makes me the Queen of Hearts is that I know what love is, and I know what people are looking for, and with Queen of Hearts, you’re not on an app. They can only see me. So, I hear them and you hear the inflections in their voice, and I just know if it’s going to work. And if it’s not going to work, then maybe they can hang out on their own time, but not on my dime. I know the questions to ask, and I know how just to make somebody feel like they belong and we’re all relaxed, and we just open up and talk about ourselves.
MW: I could do that with you.
JUJUBEE: There’s magic to this, baby. There’s magic to this. We can sit here all day, be like, “What’s new witchu, baby? Let’s talk about you.”
MW: I can feel that. Physically, what is the setup? No one’s in the studio with you, I take it.
JUJUBEE: No, we all do it from our own spaces. The cameras are off until I tell them to come on, and the only time it comes on is if there’s the two at the end, that’s the only time it comes on. And, every single time, there’s been a really beautiful reaction, because they don’t care about what the other person looks like. And then, suddenly, the cameras come on and they’re like, “Ooh, damn, maybe I do care because this person’s really beautiful.”
MW: We all have that anticipation. Voices do a lot.
JUJUBEE: Oh, yes. Voices, and then just the way somebody answers, and if somebody’s going to keep the conversation up. Because at one point in Queen of Hearts, there’s three of them, and one of them has to be eliminated or sent back to the apps. Sometimes it’s really confusing, because it sounds like the three of them might have chemistry, and then sometimes there’s just a third wheel and I’m over there like, “Come on, you’ve gotta say something. Do you want to be here?” Because ultimately, a first date is like a huge job interview. You want to present yourself in the best way possible, and when you only have your voice to use, you better say the right things and the things that stick out.
MW: That’s true. Have you been on many or any notable blind dates?
JUJUBEE: Oh, no. The last date I went on was at a hot pot. I think those are really good dates to go on because you see how somebody eats and how it all works, and that’s how the conversation can be. But I’m not a serial dater. I’m just a serial love-finder for other people.
MW: That’s true about how they eat. There are a couple of people that how they eat would be a no-go.
JUJUBEE: “No, that’s a no for me, baby. I’ll pay. Let’s go.”
MW: Yeah, it wouldn’t work. You play a lot of fun games on this show. One of them is called Morally Bankrupt, and there’s a Morally Bankrupt question that you said on the show would be difficult to answer, so I’m curious, what would be your answer: For $375,000, would you have a private sex tape screened in a theater with your entire family in the theater?
JUJUBEE: For $375,000? How long is the sex tape?
MW: That’s a good question.
JUJUBEE: Well, I know myself, so it’d probably be 35 seconds anyway. So, yeah. [Laughs.] It’d be like a short commercial break.
MW: Another game you played that I absolutely adored, especially because we gag over good drag names, is Drag Queen or Racehorse.
JUJUBEE: I love that one, I love that one. Drag Queen or Racehorse is one of the funnest games, because sometimes you really don’t know if it is a drag queen or a racehorse. I’m really praying that there’s a new queen that calls herself Horse Girl so that I can add her name to that.
MW: That’ll be impossible to figure out. Actually, I grabbed a couple of names, if you don’t mind playing for a round.
JUJUBEE: Oh, let’s play. Ooh, you’re turning the tables on me and I think this is so sexy.
MW: I love it, because I had fun looking for these. Silver Dust.
JUJUBEE: Silver Dust, that has to be a racehorse.
JUJUBEE: I got that?
MW: You got that one. Alright, Mo Betta?
JUJUBEE: Mo Betta? That’s a drag queen.
MW: Yes, yes, it’s a racehorse. I got these off the Churchill Downs website today.
JUJUBEE: Oh, my gosh, Mo Betta.
MW: Scrappy Legacy.
JUJUBEE: Well, that’s a trick question. Racehorse? Is it a racehorse?
MW: Drag queen.
JUJUBEE: Oh, no! I’m terrible.
MW: A drag queen with a racehorse name. Because that’s a racehorse name, isn’t it?
JUJUBEE: See, but that drag queen knew, she’s like, “One day Jujubee’s going to be asked this question, so I’m going to name myself this and she’s going to lose.”
MW: She got you. Now, as you said, you have a good instinct for what the chemistry is between people. Listening to the show, I hear that. Does that instinct come into play in your own love life?
JUJUBEE: Oh, yes, absolutely. Maybe. [Laughs.] Sometimes I like to lie to myself. I have a good time, we’ll say that.
MW: Are you dating now?
JUJUBEE: I am, I am, yeah. Actually, I just saw him last night. He is so tall and so smart.
MW: So, in other words, you’re not going to be a contestant on Queen of Hearts?
JUJUBEE: Sometimes I pretend like I’m looking for a date, just so I can feel like I still belong in that space, but no, I’m not looking for a date. I’ll just go out on a date with my boo, while I help people find their boo.
MW: Will your boo be in New York City with you for Pride?
JUJUBEE: Yeah, my boo’s from New York City. Ooh, we a long-distance love and it’s right.
New episodes of Queen of Hearts are available for streaming every Tuesday anywhere you listen to podcasts. Visit www.jujubeeonline.com.
Follow Jujubee on Twitter @jujuboston.
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