In the great wide world of design, discussion is often dominated by talk of brand systems, color palettes, and typefaces. And while we love a killer rebrand around here, we’re just as into pushing the bounds of what we consider design, and thinking outside the deck. Like what about those artists whose canvas is their very own body, or those who have designed full-on performance personas and identities?
The beloved drag queen Jujubee is one such artist, who’s been designing her character since she first found drag in Massachusetts at the age of 16. “From that moment, it brought me to a place that I’d never imagined before,” she told me via video chat, dressed in a metallic purple gown. “I’ve always known that I was this queenly aura.”
When I asked about her intentions behind the initial design of Jujubee, she said, “The first thing for me is love. Everything has to be done out of love. That’s what my drag is.” Jujubee views drag as a conduit for creating and spreading joy, not just for those watching her, but for herself.
“It’s this crazy thing that I call ‘drag magic,’” she continued. “Once you get in drag, it’s this transformative thing that’s more than physical. It’s a superpower! I feel like my art is completely in control of me, and I’m here to express every facet of myself. Because you know, there’s so many different versions of us as people, but as artists, we’re just expansive and limitless.”
Drag is a particularly limitless form of creative expression, with the ability to strip away restrictions we so often put on ourselves as people, especially in terms of identity. “I go to drag shows and I watch these performers get on stage and let go of any insecurities, or walls they built up from past traumas and experiences,” said Jujubee of the power of drag. “It takes a certain type of person to be a fully-fledged drag queen, because you have to be unapologetically you, and also maybe even represent more than what you think you are.”
Jujubee burst into the public eye in 2010 when she appeared on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race and immediately endeared herself to the show’s judges, her fellow queens, and viewers alike. Jujubee was so adored that she was invited back for not one, but two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, where she appeared in season one in 2012, and then for season five in 2020.
Drag has a special way of bringing artists together, and facilitating creative partnerships both on and off stage. In the All Stars season five finale, Jujubee commissioned designer Diego Montoya to help her create her final runway look. “When I work with an artist, I like to explain what I need, but also give them their right to use their art and elevate them,” said Jujubee. “So Diego and I collaborated, but I was also super trusting. He’s an incredible designer. Being able to have him bring to life my vision of what the fully enlightened version of Jujubee is, it was unreal— it was a dream come true. I think it’s really beautiful to be able to understand another artist on that level.”
Jujubee’s success on Drag Race catapulted her into stardom and provided her with a platform to record original music and perform all over the world. She’s used her art of drag to spread love and positivity throughout the entirety of her career, and now she’s extending this idea into a whole new realm: podcasting. In partnership with Wondery, Amazon Music, and Rococo Punch, Jujubee has developed a new blind-date game show podcast called Queen of Hearts, in which she serves as a matchmaker for real singles looking for love.
“I always wanted to work on a podcast— I just didn’t know what kind, because there’s already a podcast for everything out there,” she said. “We wanted something that was funny, light-hearted, with sweet moments of realness, and we just created this beautiful show!” Jujubee described herself as a third wheel who’s actually the driver of these dates, since if she senses a connection between the two by the end of each episode, she’ll treat them to an in-person date.
“Believe it or not, I can tell when there’s magic and chemistry, and I can tell when there’s just dullness,” she said. “And as Queen of Hearts, it’s my responsibility to guide them. If I don’t believe in it, they’re not going to get a date— because it’s my money, and I am a cheap bitch!”
Though Jujubee lives primarily in Boston, this inaugural season of Queen of Hearts features singles in Los Angeles. “I really want to go to a lot of different cities,” she said of what’s next for the podcast. “I feel like dating in Los Angeles would be completely different from dating in New York City, or dating in Miami, or in Chicago. Maybe one day I’ll take Queen of Hearts internationally. London, Paris— I’m gonna have to learn French!”
Considering the core tenets of Jujubee’s persona, it’s not surprising that she was compelled to create a podcast about love and relationships. While these values have been a constant foundation for Jujubee, she told me she’s simultaneously evolved in other ways. “I’ve changed so much! And not just as Jujubee, but as the person behind her, Airline,” she said. “I’m able to understand myself more, on a deeper level than ever. The evolving has taken the form of taking charge of every single angle of myself: being available for myself; giving grace to myself. My cats are constantly looking at me, and they’re like, Lighten up, bitch. Your life’s great.”