Jujubee never thought she'd be cast on RuPaul's Drag Race after she auditioned for season 2 over 10 years ago.
Not only was she wrong, the Boston queen went on to make the top three. Then she landed a spot in the first RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, and she is now returning to All Stars for its fifth season on VH1 this Friday.
But Jujubee is more than an entertainer. "Black Lives Matter," she said to kick off the interview with The Advocate, before acknowledging how she feels like it is her role as a drag queen, a public figure, and a gay Asian-American to uplift the voices of marginalized people.
"RuPaul's Drag Race cast me and it changed my life. It helped me see how beautiful the art of drag actually was," Jujubee said.
"I think before it was seeking attention or the feeling of beauty, because I never felt like I belonged," she said of how her perspective of drag shifted after being on the show. "But I think from that it brought me to this person now, and now I'm a super queen and I'm here to stand up for what's right for people who don't have voices."
Jujubee did not always feel this way. For a long time, she did not speak out on issues due to a fear of being judged or being uncomfortable. But all that is over. "Fear has this way of manifesting more fear," said Jujubee, adding, "I've realized that that little bit of uncomfortableness is worth feeling if it's going to help somebody else's life.
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the protests against police brutality, Jujubee also has a reminder to folks about the reason for the Pride season: Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and the other Black and Latinx transgender activists who started the riot at the Stonewall Inn over 50 years ago.
"We wouldn't have Pride month without a Black trans woman. We wouldn't be doing what we do. We wouldn't be living in this world that we live in without somebody who fought for us," Jujubee said. "And I think that that needs to be understood, because what's going on right now today is history repeating itself, and we just have to learn."
Watch and read the conversation below.
The Advocate: It's been an intense last couple of days, and before we really dive into Drag Race, I just want to acknowledge this historic moment of protests we've had against police brutality. How are you feeling? Is there a message that you want to get across?
Jujubee: Well, honestly, let's just start off by saying Black Lives Matter. It's something that I think needs to be repeated because we need to finally learn that that is what it is. I'm so glad to be a part of a network and RuPaul's Drag Race, because they're in support of this movement. I live right here in Boston, and I looked out my window last night and this amazing protest was going on. It was very peaceful and it was incredible to see the amount of people come out and just fight for what's right.
As a drag queen, you're an entertainer, but you're also a leader in the LGBTQ+ community. And I'm curious what you feel your role is right now. What are your responsibilities to the public?
I'll be openly honest with you, I'm still learning that. I know that in my heart. I want to do everything that's right and I know that I have a position to speak and to be open about things. So I am here for all of that and I'm here to be proud to be who I am and to teach people that we wouldn't have Pride month without a Black trans woman. We wouldn't be doing what we do. We wouldn't be living in this world that we live in without somebody who fought for us. And I think that that needs to be understood, because what's going on right now today is history repeating itself, and we just have to learn.
And happy Pride, by the way!
Happy Pride! But I always think it is Pride. I celebrate Pride like every day, because I'm that gay. I'm happy that we could say that to each other. Happy Pride and I love you. That's what Pride is to me. It's about love and it's about being present and being here. This is what we're doing right now and this is where we are and we're chatting. This is what it is.
As a drag queen, it certainly feels like you must bring Pride wherever you go, because you do inspire that joy among people.
Pride and sassiness, honey. I want to talk about my first experience of Pride. I was so scared. I was a young kid and I just saw people who like looked like me who acted like me out here and just lived and were happy. I thought that that was the coolest thing. And now I'm on this side of it and I see these messages in my inbox telling me that they looked at me and I gave them some inspiration to be themselves. And I think that because of RuPaul's Drag Race, that's why I get to do this and that's why I get to be this person.
Thank you for being you.
Oh, well, thank you for accepting me!
You're returning to All Stars for the second time this week. How does that feel?
It's surreal, I'm gonna say. It's amazing and I'm very grateful and excited, but I still can't believe it. I know that it's been done. It's been filmed. I text messaged [fellow contestant Miz] Cracker this morning and we both pinch ourselves. We're like, this is actually happening. It's exciting. It's really exciting.
It's been a long journey for you with Drag Race. Did you ever imagine when you first auditioned over a decade ago that you would still be involved with this world?
Honestly, I didn't ever think that I would be on at all. I really didn't. I took a chance and I can say that my passion for drag at that moment in my life was completely different. But RuPaul's Drag Race cast me and it changed my life. It helped me see how beautiful the art of drag actually was. Because I wasn't doing drag before because of what I do now. Does that make any sense to you? I think before it was seeking attention or the feeling of beauty, because I never felt like I belonged. But I think from that, it brought me to this person now, and now I'm a super queen and I'm here to stand up for what's right for people who don't have voices.
Especially right now, we're seeing this surge of anti-LGBTQ, anti-Asian-American, racist sentiments, which is because we're in the middle of a pandemic. What message do you hope you can send into this world right now with all that in mind?
Fear has this way of manifesting more fear. And when people are afraid, they react. I try my best to take a step back and decipher why I feel certain things and what is it that makes me uncomfortable. And for a really long time, speaking out made me so uncomfortable because it was like oh my gosh, people are gonna judge me. But I've realized that that little bit of uncomfortableness is worth feeling if it's going to help somebody else's life. It's going to help somebody else's rights. So I'm going to continue to feel uncomfortable and I'm going to continue to speak up because I think that that's what we all should do.
Thank you for that.
No, thank you for asking these fantastic real-life questions because you know, I'm a drag queen but like, you take this all off, I am a gay Asian man living in the United States of America. And I'm left-handed, by the way.
You were really an early pioneer in being an influencer on social media from the Drag Race world. Wou were one of the first people verified on social media platforms. Can talk a little bit about that, about your work in building not just a brand as a drag queen but as someone who is followed on social media, who has that voice who can project all those things that you're saying before?
It's so interesting because on season 2, I think all we had was actually Facebook ... and I just didn't really understand what I was doing. I just knew that I was posting things that people liked, and I think a lot of things I shared [were] like cat things. I will share my opinions and sometimes it's not liked, but I think that that's the beauty of where we are in this world. We live in a country where we have freedom of speech and we can give our opinions about things.
Now with social media, my goodness, it's expanded so much. And there's Instagram now, which I'm still trying to learn how to use. I'm a little slow. Twitter's pretty cool. I just signed up for TikTok. I don't really know how to use that so I haven't posted anything. It's crazy the amount of coverage somebody has with social media. Like I said before, I think it is important to use these platforms, of course, to be funny and to be great and to be fantastic, whatever. But to be real and honor the people that have to go through the things that have to go through just because of who they are, whether they are Black, or queer — these are things that happen and these are things that have been going on for generations. This is not new. So we got to go against what the system has made this into and just live freely and be fabulous. I wish that I had the answer or a solution. But I just know that I'm here and y'all tell me what you need me to do and I will shine for you.
What do you think the impact of All Stars is for viewers right now in the current moment?
It's really interesting for me to try to grasp but this is very interesting times. Even us doing this — I never would have thought we would have done interviews like this. But hey, this works, and as queens we are a very resilient people. So we just change with things. We just shift and we make things work. ...
I feel like [viewers] are gonna have more time to make the decision to watch this. I hope they watch. I know they're going to watch. I know for me, when I was sitting here watching season 12, I was into it because all I've been doing is tidying my apartment. I'm like done with that, so I was into it and I'll rewind and all that stuff. But I really think that now that people have time to just sit and collect themselves I think that this opportunity to watch All Stars in quarantine is going to be pretty great. Y'all are gonna watch because it's fantastic.
What message do you have for your fans who are rooting for you?
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for supporting me for this long. Dreams do come true. That's what I would say. Keep dreaming and keep fighting for your rights.
Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars premieres Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on VH1. Watch the trailer below.