There’s a reason why Jujubee has appeared on Drag Race more than any other queen, other than Roople: she is – and this is one of those statements that will never be up for debate – one of the most treasured drag entertainers of all time. Although she landed in the bottom for three consecutive weeks on UK vs the World, and was often told by the panel that she hasn’t “arrived”, the Glamazon Warrior has made herstory as the first queen to make it to the finale on four different seasons. With this week’s grande finale seeing the top four contestants competing in a US vs UK lip-sync smackdown for the crown, Jujubee – one of the franchise’s most revered lip-syncers – could finally sashay away with a title, this time: ‘Queen of the Mothertucking World’. Remember how the straights felt when Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar? This would be the queer equivalent.
With or without a crown and sceptre, Jujubee admits that UK vs the World is probably her “last time” appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a competitor. “I would love to be a part of Drag Race and with the WOW family and the BBC family in other aspects, but I feel as though there are so many amazing queens that have come through this franchise that deserve the space to share their talents,” she explains. “I know I’m great TV, I’m very aware. I’m great at what I do, and that’s not to degrade anybody else’s talent. I’d love to do more television and more theatre, perform and sing, but I believe that if I were to be asked to do another drag competition right now, I would respectfully decline.”
Here, Jujubee chats with GAY TIMES about her stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs the World, why she refused to allow her participation on the series leave her financially “insecure” and the importance of treating social media trolls with kindness.
Jujubee! How are you?
I’m ready to have a gay time!
Did you get your vegan sausage roll?
Not yet. Okay, where is Greggs in London? Because I think it’s up.. there. Like, it’s in the Northern area.
We’ve been in quite a few offices at GAY TIMES but there’s never been one nearby, but there’ll always be one near a station or inside a station – if it’s a big one.
Oh, I should go to [whispers seductively] Waterloo or [whispers seductively] Charing Cross.
I know there is definitely one in [whispers seductively] Waterloo and [whispers seductively for the last time] Victoria.
You’ll probably see Baga [Chipz] and myself there, just looking in the window.
The queens of Drag Race UK vs the World in their natural habitat. Juju, let’s talk about your trajectory across this season. There’s a lot I disagree with, I’m just gonna put it out there! Was it surprising for you to get the “Wake up Pearl!” treatment this series?
Was it surprising? I don’t think so. You know, it’s really hard to navigate because I bought good Juju spiritually, but I think physically she wasn’t there. I did feel as though I kept on being told I wasn’t there, but I always felt like I was very present. I’m a very present person. I was there, it’s just my suitcase wasn’t filled with the things that I wanted to be there, you know? And when it comes down to timing and travel, it’s not just me. Just like all the queens, it’s not just them, it’s a whole team of people. So, we rely on other artists. Sometimes in a pandemic, it’s hard because all of us are emotionally drained. We’re all confused. This was my first pandemic that I remember. Maybe I lived another life where I experienced another. But this time around I was like, ‘What do I do?’ and I knew that I wasn’t going to serve the best version of myself. With that said, I knew that the judges weren’t going to love it. And with that said, I knew that the fans were going to hate it. So, I was ready for that and I’ve been preparing myself for a year for that. It’s fine, babe. I’m going to therapy. I’ve unpacked my childhood trauma and all the people that have sent me hate, I recommend that. Unpack your childhood trauma. And that way you don’t go online and hate on the queens that you love so much, you know?
To this day, it still baffles me how much hatred is within the Drag Race fandom…
They can tell me they hated a look, but it’s more of the, ‘You should quit. You should quit your life. You should kill yourself.’ It’s more that. I gained pandemic weight and somebody was like, ‘Wow, you got really fat and you look ugly,’ and I was like, ‘You say it like getting fat is a bad thing? It’s not.’
Juju, you are gorgeous. Can I just say that there were so many times I didn’t think you deserved to be anywhere near that goddamn bottom?
For RuPaul’s look, I thought that was really nice.
I really liked it too! And Ru liked it.
West End Wendy’s, you shouldn’t have been in the bottom. Snatch Game, I know the rules had changed, but that was one of my favourite impersonations ever. You made me howl with laughter.
Did you like “Charcuterie”?
Yes and “Hey, it’s me, Cher.”
That’s my thing! If you’re really terrible at a character, you just have to lean into it and lean into the terrible so it’s like, “Hey it’s me, Cher.”
I thought it was bloody brilliant. I loved it so much. How does this experience on UK vs the World compare with your… 12 other times on the series?
15. 15, actually. This was the hardest competition that I’ve done. It was so hard. Season two, I had no idea. I had $84 in my bank account. I spent $0 to prepare. I begged people to borrow things. All Stars 1, didn’t spend a dime. I had Raven and Raven is a goddess and she brought just an array of things. I brought an array of things. If you refer back to the runway where we did our 60s look: I brought a 60s look, she brought one, we didn’t know. And it just worked. All Stars 5, I spent $30,000, baby, and then we went into a pandemic. So, the turnaround for me was nonexistent. I also worked on music which was another $30,000. I was living my dreams. Then when I got the phone call for this, I said to myself, ‘You could bring Juju and your personality and your spirit and your love,’ but I was just not going to allow myself to be insecure economically when I returned back home because I’m a human that lives a life. So, I gave myself a budget and I stayed within that budget. And that was one of the pieces to it. We’re also relying on other people. It was really hard because everybody else was trying to find the best job and maybe working with the queen wasn’t going to pay them the most at that time.
Since season two, even All Stars 1, there’s more of an emphasis now on the runways…
Babe, if you go back and look at my fashions on season two, you would have set your television on fire. You know, I was in the bottom three weeks in a row.
Here’s a fun fact for you. Do you know that the number three has haunted you throughout your Drag Race career for good and bad reasons?
Do you know that I’m the first of three children?
There we go. We can add that to the list. You ranked in third place every season, competed in three balls and were in the bottom three times each season you were on. You’ve also won the reading challenge three times and were the 33rd queen to reach one million followers on Instagram. So, number three is your number!
I think number three is my number. I’m the 33rd queen to reach 1 million?
You should have been one of the first.
How did you figure all this out? That’s insane.
I did not discover that for myself! I cannot take credit for it. Juju, would you say this is your last time competing on Drag Race or would you return for a fifth?
I want to say this is my last time competing as a drag queen. I would love to be a part of Drag Race and with the WOW family and the BBC family in other aspects, but I feel as though there are so many amazing queens that have come through this franchise that deserve the space to share their talents. I know I’m great TV, I’m very aware. I’m great at what I do, and that’s not to degrade anybody else’s talent. I’d love to do more television and more theatre, perform and sing, but I believe that if I were to be asked to do another drag competition right now, I would respectfully decline. I think it’s a smart thing to know when to quit. It’s because that opens up possibilities and probabilities for other things. Because the universe is vast, darling! I did try to become Queen of the Universe, but that didn’t work. So now I’m going to try to be Queen of the World, darling.
Queen of the Universe technically didn’t ruin your impeccable track record because it’s not part of the Drag Race universe. Your statistics are still safe!
That was a cool thing, and I think it’s just really cool and amazing for me to have such a huge family. I think out of all the Drag Race daughters, I probably have a connection with the most queens and I find that really beautiful. In season two RuPaul said, ‘Your name is Airline. That is like a lifeline because we all need air to breathe and it’s like a spout of air and you’re giving us life.’ And she said to me, ‘Fly high, airlines fly high.’ I’ve been soaring ever since, you know? So you’ll see me fly high and score. I think in life there’s peaks and valleys and it’s beautiful to experience everything because, without the sadness and the madness, I wouldn’t know what actual happiness felt like.
Juju, you are so beloved. The trolls who want you to “quit living” deserve… nothing.
They deserve love, though. They deserve love. Actually, there was one person that told me to kill myself and I said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard this recently, but I really love you and I hope you have a great day.’ They DM’d me and said, ‘I’m so sorry. I was in a bad headspace. And I was like, ‘I know.’
Kill ’em with kindness.
I think this is a message to everybody, actually. I think, sometimes, we try to make people fit into our world the way we think it should happen. I say expectations are premeditated let-downs; allow the world to be the world and move through it with grace. The only thing that we can control is how we respond and react to people, and I think that’s really important because you never know what anybody’s going through. For the people who are just mean to other people, they’re only ever going to be able to meet somebody else as deeply as they make themselves. So, that really says more about where they are in their life. And we just got to pray for them and hope that they find the light that’s been there the whole time. Oh, this bitch is so wise.
It’s cliché, but I do like the saying: “Treat people how you want to be treated.”
You don’t want to be a jerk. But if we twist it, if we actually shift that thought and say, ‘I will only treat people as good as I treat myself,’ now think about it like that. If you can decipher that, it comes back to you and then you’ll realise, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe I only said this because it was all me? I’ve got to take responsibility for what I do in my life because without that, how do you grow?’ We are merely energies trapped in a body. When this is gone, my energy will move forward to another part of the world, to another part of this vast space that we live in. Energy is not something you can create or get rid of, it just changes.
Juju, you need to be on one of those mindfulness apps, because the way in which you said all that… I feel so calm.
It took me a really long time to find this voice. And I will admit fully, it’s because I’ve sobered up. It’s because I’ve been around Ru, who is a light. Ru really has this way about them where, when they walk into the room, you just know that you’re going to hear something that you need to hear in that moment, and it’s a gift. I’m only here because I’ve had the gift of desperation and I’m glad that I could share some of the light with people.
You absolutely did that on last week’s episode, when you opened up about your journey with alcohol in a really beautiful conversation with Baga. What kind of impact did you witness that conversation have on the fanbase?
I haven’t seen the episode yet, but the fans have reached out and, I have a lot of fans here in the UK who… Actually, you know, we live every day with this mindset where it’s like, ‘Let’s just live one day at a time. Let’s just stay sober today.’ And there was one fan that reached out to both me and Baga on Twitter, and they said that they’ve been binge-drinking for two weeks straight, and for some reason they just turned on the television, and that was the conversation that was there for them. They said, ‘That was something that I needed to hear and I don’t know how it happened.’ My first instinct to that is, ‘Is it odd or is it God?’ It’s always God. There’s always a reason. And when I say “God”, I mean a God of your understanding, not the one that’s been written for us to understand. I believe that we all, as humans, we all work as one organism, right. We just have to help each other and that’s the gift.
The RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs the World finale airs 8 March on BBC iPlayer.