How Juanjo Cristiani made the genius decision to make RuPaul’s Drag Race in to a tarot deck
The hilariously-accurate illustrations are available to purchase as an actual deck, and have even garnered much attention from the queens themselves.
- Joey Levenson
- 7 October 2021
It’s a crossover that makes so much perfect sense, that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before. Thank god it was Juanjo Cristiani (AKA Enjoy My Cake) who got there first, as his tarot card illustrations of the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race are simply magic. On initial view, they’re incredibly funny and full of quirks. But upon closer inspection, each tarot card reveals a world of detail and talent that Juanjo has funnelled into them. “Since I was a child I was obsessed with witches,” Juanjo tells It’s Nice That. “Eventually my love for witches led me to become interested in the paranormal, spirituality and of course, tarot.” When Juanjo came of age and began to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, it became a new obsession of his – “it made my head explode,” he says. But more importantly, the show became a fundamental part of his life, as each episode was watched over and over again (as most of us have admittedly done by now). “Then, the logical step to me was to mix two of my passions: tarot and RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Juanjo explains. And, one evening, after watching a documentary on famed astrologer and gay icon Walter Mercado, Juanjo witnessed the tarot card title sequence and knew it was a sign for him to do something with the medium.
Juanjo’s project has been so successful that now he gets to sell the tarot cards by the deck. So much so that he’s even released two volumes – to much fanfare. “I had only 2,000 followers when I started and now I’m at 12,500,” he says. “People all around the world showing love for my art has been an amazing feeling, almost like a fuel to keep up.” The phenomenon of Drag Race has only grown in the last few years, becoming something of a juggernaut. Endless fans flock to endless drag queens, and the demand for merchandise is palpable.
On the show, fans admire the contestants as walking, living art. With Juanjo’s tarot illustrations, they become collectable art. “My creative process is quite complex. It all starts with a written brainstorming session in which I analyse the original Rider-Waite-Smith tarot card,” Juanjo says. “I identify the meanings on a card as well as their symbolism, later I write which possible queens, looks or moments of the show that can be cohesive with what the original card represents.” What results is a sketch or two on Procreate that is gradually refined. “If I have more than one idea and I can’t choose which one I like the most, I consult with my followers through a vote, so they choose which they think would be the most appropriate representation for a card,” Juanjo adds.
For Drag Race fans, the cards really do have everything: from Pearl in a stare-off with Mama Ru, to Shangela throwing a drink over Mimi Imfurst, to the infamous Lil’ Poundcake reveal. That’s not to mention incredible renditions of runways from Violet Chachki, Gottmik, Raja, Valentina, and more. Juanjo even includes Drag Race’s many international spin-offs, with iconic moments from UK, Down Under, Spain, and Canada in the mix.
The project is far from a corporate money-grab so often seen with the proliferation of drag these days though. This is a genuine passion project. “I couldn’t pick just one favourite,” Juanjo admits. “My cards are made with a lot of love and there is a lot of work and thinking behind each one of them, however, I feel very attached to Crystal Methyd living the lesbian fantasy on Sesame Street in the Lovers card.” Crystal Methyd, of Season 12 of the US franchise, loved the cards so much she even purchased an entire deck herself and posted a video about it all. “When I saw her posting a whole video about my deck on their Instagram, I was mind-blown,” Juanjo says. “I couldn’t believe it.” It’s not just Crystal who’s shown her love for the cards, however. Juanjo reveals to us that contestants Gigi Goode, Jujubee, Peppermint, Sasha Velour and Aja, to name a few, have all requested and received copies of Fortune Queens.
“My biggest wish would be for a tarot reading queen to enter Drag Race and do a reading with my cards in the werkroom,” Juanjo says on his ambitions for the project. However, we can’t help but feel an even better idea would be for Juanjo to go into the werkroom himself and give the reading. Or, by the very least, have a booth for his tarot at Los Angeles Drag Con in 2022. As for what card he’d love to draw on the queens? “Death,” he admits. “I think both visually and in their meanings it’s a beautiful card and people that don’t know much about tarot often are afraid of it, but Death, it’s all about transformation.”
enjoy.mycake: Crystal, Pearl and Aja as The Devil. Fortune Queens: A Drag Race Tarot (Copyright © Juanjo Cristiani, 2020)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.