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Synthia Kiss and Juice Boxx Are Taking Their Semi-Qualified Queens Podcast On The Road

Photos by: Fernando Cysneiros

Synthia Kiss and Juice Boxx Are Taking Their Semi-Qualified Queens Podcast On The Road

The Canada’s Drag Race queens are taking their fan-favourite podcast across Ontario and Eastern Canada to a stage near you…

Juice Boxx and Synthia Kiss are way more than semi-qualified. Aside from both competing on seasons one and two (respectively) of Canada’s Drag Race, they’re also the hosts of a pretty popular podcast, too. Semi-Qualified Queens tackles weekly recaps of different Drag Race episodes and chats with guests from both different franchises of the series as well as other artists. Recently, it won them a Canadian Podcast Award for “Outstanding Television & Film Series Podcast.” The response to the podcast has been so good they’ve decided to take it on the road, hosting live episodes in front of an audience on the west coast this past January.

IN had the chance to speak to both of them before they get back on the road and bring Semi-Qualified Queens to stages all over Ontario and Eastern Canada. They chat about their favourite part about being podcast hosts, what makes a good critique, and who they’d cast on a season of Canada’s Drag Race All Stars.

Okay. I’ll just jump right in What made you decide to start the Semi-Qualified Queens podcast?
Synthia Kiss: So, this podcast kind of was the idea from our manager. He saw a chemistry, a familiarity between the two of us, and actually suggested that we start this podcast (laughs). Then we had a gig together. We actually did vibe and kind of just went from there!
Juice Boxx: We ran with it!

After getting comfortable recording it in a studio, what made you decide to take it on the road and do it live in front of an audience? 
Synthia Kiss: If we’re like a hundred percent [honest], these months, like January, and February are slower months for drag. So we were like, “why not create work for ourselves?”. You know… like build this tour out, celebrate having a hundred episodes and winning a Canadian Podcast Award, and bring the show on the road. Just create those gigs for ourselves and then also opportunities for other people. It’s chilly outside. People, you know, they just, they don’t want to go out right away. And we have the advantage of that platform from Canada’s Drag Race. We were in the living rooms of people all over this country, smaller, bigger cities. So now we get to kind of go to these places, IRL, and they get a chance to support live events.  

You’ve chosen to bring a local artist out on stage with you at each stop. There must be so many good choices. How do you make the decision on who to bring on stage?
Synthia Kiss: It is really hard because there’s so many people. But for us, it was about looking at who has something to talk about within their community or who’s really made a difference in their community? Who is kind of funny too, because it’s a comedy show, right? So we want somebody who’s going to be able to banter with us and then someone who kind of piques our interest. So someone we want to pick their brain about, you know? So, we’re really happy with the people that we’ve chosen and we wanted to make sure we had a diverse group of guests. So it was kind of the way that we would see drag shows when we would go. We don’t want to just see a bunch of like white queens with blonde hair because we cover that. We don’t need more of that.
Juice Boxx: That’s already covered!
Synthia Kiss: You know, we cover that angle. So we wanted to really just roundabout and find really interesting people that we could talk to. 

What’s your favorite part about hosting the podcast whether it be recording it in a studio or live in front of an audience that’s different from other gigs you’ve had in the past?
Synthia Kiss: The long format programming of a podcast. We basically talk for an hour. And so we’re in people’s ears. There’s something so intimate about podcasts. You never know if they’re driving to work, they’re on an airplane, they’re crafting, like we’re sitting with them, much like we are right now. And so you’re building these connections with listeners all over the world. We run into people all the time who say, “I listened to the podcast!”, and then they’ll drop a fun fact we mentioned just on a whim in a certain episode. And I’m like, “Oh my God, we really do get to connect with all our listeners.” I love it so much. It’s so cool.

Both of you have a unique perspective when it comes to critiquing the Drag Race franchise. Any long time fan of the show knows it’s changed a lot in the last five to ten years. What is your favorite thing that has changed in the newer seasons and what is an element you think should be left in the past? For example, I love split premieres because as somebody that also recaps the show, it’s nice that there’s more time to get to know each and every queen. However, I do think that they should cap the amount of original songs that are performed in the variety show challenge.
Juice Boxx: I have never agreed with a person more in my life! It makes me crazy, the original songs. Like…it’s very polarizing. Some people love the original songs, some people don’t. I am a person who wants to see you swallow fire. I want to see you do something crazy. Like, I get you could do “catchphrase, catchphrase, catchphrase”. Anyways…I agree with you on that front being left in the past, but what I love personally is the inclusion of trans women. I’m so happy to see that Drag Race changed that and added trans women on. And now we get to see these incredible pioneers and heads of our community come on. Like Sasha Colby, The Girlfriend Experience, like those incredible, incredible trans women showcasing their talent. That’s what I love.
Synthia Kiss: It’s so inspiring to see how elevated the drag is at this point. I feel like there was a point in time where high fashion inspired Drag Race. And now I feel like Drag Race inspires high fashion. It’s on this level that’s so impressive, and I have a design background. I studied fashion design at school, so to see what we see on television these days, it’s just like, I feel like it’s the latest runways. It’s fashion week every week. So for me…
Juice Boxx: But is it fashion? Is it fashion?(laughs)
Synthia Kiss: And I know what you mean about the original music too, but we would never have had “Let Loose” by Loosey LaDuca otherwise.
Juice Boxx: That’s fair.

On your podcast, both of you are very skilled in the art of giving constructive critique and criticism. We all know that it can be easier to be shady or read other queens. How do you make the call between just being straight-up shady or more constructive with your critiques and opinions?
Juice Boxx: I feel like because we’ve been through it, we kind of get how it feels to hear somebody rip you to shreds. We love to do a compliment sandwich. We love to be like, nice, bad, nice, right? We like to frame it like, “Hey, it’s not good, but it could have done this and this was successfully done”. We try to sandwich it in because it doesn’t feel good to hear those bad things. So we try to keep it in jest and we try to keep things a little bit light. It’s been very rare that we’re like, “I have nothing good to say. This is garbage”. You know? It’s very rare that we say that.
Synthia Kiss: Cause we’re going to run into them at a Drag Con soon, so there’s a motivation to be polite. And yeah, it doesn’t feel great to just have a smackdown.
Juice Boxx: And I have had some run ins in the past where I have not done my compliment sandwich and then we’re in the back room at a gig and they go, “I know exactly what you said about me”. And I’m like, “uh.. hahaha”.  

Is there a specific episode or challenge that you really look forward to critiquing or just talking about in general?
Synthia Kiss: Design challenges are always fun because you get to kind of see what they’ve created in that workroom. It’s fun when they make something there and then Snatch Game for me.
Juice Boxx: Yeah, I always love to chat about Snatch Game and I love to talk about the promo looks. Because we still don’t really know them yet, you know? It’s all about those first impressions and getting to celebrate them. I love to talk about promo looks. 

Who would be your pinch me or wildest dream guest for the podcast?
Juice Boxx: (With no hesitation) Michelle Visage.
Synthia Kiss: Ooh, that’s a good one. Um, who would I love to see? Hmm… Katya. That’d be really cool.
Juice Boxx: Katya and Michelle Visage? We’d be so famous. That’d be so cool. We’d be so famous.  

On the podcast, it’s a running joke that you (jokingly) say that you’re semi-qualified, but I would argue that both of you are very much qualified. For example, in one episode you talked about how a certain type of rhinestone can tend to look like a pimple on TV. With that in mind, can you name three Canadian queens, excluding yourselves, you would like to see on a hypothetical season of Canada’s Drag Race All Stars?
Juice Boxx: Aurora Matrix.
Synthia Kiss: Yes. Um…Us?
Juice Boxx: She said excluding us (both laugh)
Synthia Kiss: I’m trying to think…Tynomi Banks. That would be fabulous.
Juice Boxx: Big fan of Tynomi Banks. One of the best drag queens in Canada.
Synthia Kiss: I feel like she inspired so many to do drag. So it’s like, I want to see her have her moment, I want her to get her flowers on the show.
Juice Boxx: I said Aurora because I’m just such an Aurora fan.I’ve known Aurora since she started doing drag and I just love that sweet little bean so much. So I would love to see her on TV again. And she does make good TV. And then let’s pick one more.
Synthia Kiss: If she doesn’t take over the whole season’s drama, Miss Fiercealicious does make good TV.
Juice Boxx: Oh my god. She does make good TV. You know what? I’m gonna say, you can say Fierce. I’m gonna say Irma Gerd.
Synthia Kiss: Oh, we love Irma!

I know you’re not recapping the most recent season of Drag Race since you’re a little busy at the moment with the tour, but if you’re keeping up with the show, who’s your top choice to win currently?
Synthia Kiss: Ooh, Nymphia Wind. Big fan. Or Sapphira. I really like Sapphira too.
Juice Boxx: Yeah. And honestly…
Synthia Kiss: I know you’re going to say it.
Juice Boxx: kind of… Plane Jane.
Synthia Kiss: Anyone who starts it off with going, “and honestly”, I know the answer already (both laugh). 

Aside from all things Semi-Qualified Queens, what’s coming up for both of you that you can share?
Synthia Kiss: We are very excited to be attending DragCon LA this year. We’re actually going to be sharing booths together. Little booth buddies.
Juice Boxx: Booth girlies.
Synthia Kiss: And then, I feel like Pride season is just around the corner. And once that kicks off, we’re kind of everywhere.
Juice Boxx: We’re going to wrap up the tour and then we just sort of glide right into Pride season.

To see Synthia Kiss and Juice Boxx in Semi-Qualified Queens live in a city near you tickets can be purchased through the link in their Instagram bios @synthiakiss and @juiceboxxofficial.

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