JuJuBee didn’t win RuPaul’s Drag Race. But it saved her life. Sort of.
“It rekindled my relationship with drag,” she says. “It’s opened up my mind to just try new things. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try it again. If that doesn’t work out, pick something else.”
The diminutive diva (whose real name is Airline Inthyrath) has emerged as one of the show’s breakout stars, thanks to a sassy sense of humor, kitschy glamour and killer hips. She finished third during season 2 and earns big laughs on RuPaul’s Drag U, a spinoff that transforms frumpy, biological women into over-the-top divas — with the help of a fierce, fairy dragmother.
Before sashaying into Houston, the 27-year-old (“I just realized I can’t say that I’m in my mid-20’s anymore. I don’t mind it. I guess”) talked singing, sisters and the importance of eye makeup:
What have been the biggest advantages to doing the TV shows?
It opened my mind up to just do anything with the art of drag. You kind of adopt the confidence that you have when you’re in drag into your own life, too. It’s imaginative, and that’s what I love about it. If I didn’t get cast on (RuPaul’s Drag Race), I was actually going to stop doing drag because I wasn’t interested anymore. I didn’t have that passion. Now I’m doing it full-time, so it’s pretty amazing. Thank you, Ru. OK?
Has it opened any new doors?
Singing was huge in my life (as a little boy). I’m starting to actually work on that, and I want to do more acting. I’m working with an awesome producer and DJ here in Boston. It’s in the beginning stages. I have a few songs that I’ve written. I just gotta get my vocals together, honey, ’cause I do not wanna sound like a robot.
Where does the JuJuBee fierceness come from, exactly?
JuJuBee has body. I mean, yeah. Come on. I think I might have modeled her body after Jessica Rabbit, which is really what I wanted. RuPaul’s always been my No. 1 drag idol. But I also look at all my sisters from Drag Race: Raven, Tyra, Morgan (McMichaels). I get inspired by what they do as well. It’s fun. It’s a nice little family.
Was it strange giving your own sister a Drag U makeover on a recent episode?
I was so nervous when they asked me to see if she was interested in doing it. I didn’t think that there was anything that I could inspire her to do that she didn’t already see. We didn’t grow up the most standard way. I found some great things out and about her, and we’ve gotten a lot closer. We’ve been hanging out every single week. It’s been amazing. I’m glad that it happened.
Your love-hate relationship with fellow finalist Raven has been a highlight this season.
ARaven’s one of my best friends. I love him. David (Petruschin, Raven’s real name) is actually a truly great, great person. The character of Raven, she’s just a little bit more harsh. But I totally understand it, and I accept it, and I love it. I think we could be a good Lucy and Ethel. And I’ll get her back. If I don’t get her back now, I’m going to get her back next time.
Do you get recognized much out of drag?
I do, and I think it’s really cute. It’s a little awkward at first, because I don’t have that same spunk that you see when I’m in interviews sometimes. I’m totally not in character. I’ll get people coming up to me, and they’ll quote things that I’ve said, and I’m like, ‘I’ve heard that somewhere. Did that girl just say that to me? I don’t get it.’
How long does it take to get yourself dolled up?
It takes me about 2½ hours if I’m not interrupted. I’m so ADD. I’ll see something shiny and walk over to look at it. I’ll waste 30 minutes doing that. The hardest part is getting every contour perfect so that it looks good from every angle. Sometimes, it’s really difficult. I’ve seen the pictures. Don’t lie.
What’s the JuJuBee rule for being fabulous at all times?
Know that you’re already beautiful. Everything that you put on is just an accessory to your beauty. I think that’s what everybody should believe in, especially women. Men, we don’t need to be told that we’re pretty. And then, of course, a little mascara goes a long way.
Are you ready for Houston?
I’ve been to Dallas, to El Paso, to McAllen. I’m like, ‘Come on, Houston. I’m waiting.’ You guys know your food there. Whenever I go anywhere, I gotta find food that I can’t find anywhere else. I will eat anything once.