RuPaul :: Reigning Supreme
RuPaul isn’t a name you would likely forget: His mother intended it that way, "His name is RuPaul Andre Charles and he’s gonna be a star! Cause ain’t another mother f**ker alive with a name like that!" And if you don’t know who he is, you must be living under a giant rock - a stunning rhinestone-encrusted one, but still under it.
Ru has been around for quite a while and success has followed him like a well-trained, beautifully groomed lapdog, though I’m visualizing a not-so-obedient shih-tzu.
With two books, "Lettin’ It All Hang Out" and "Workin’ It! RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style," five top-selling albums, "Supermodel of the World," "Foxy Lady," "Red Hot," "Champion," "Glamazon" and soon to be six with this month’s release of "Born Naked," a talk show, a make-up line called Glamazon with a cologne by the same name, and - you heard it first at The Rage Monthly - a namesake candy bar! Things to watch for during the season six premiere of the super-successful drag-star-maker, "RuPaul’s Drag Race" on Logo Monday, February 24.
Her distinctive laugh is still echoing through my skull... and why do I continuously see the flash of sequins out of the corner of my eye?
HERE’S MY CHAT WITH THE ONE-AND-ONLY GLAMAZON:
So RuPaul, you have come a long way since leaving the shores of San Diego.
That was so long ago now; it is so crazy to think about it. You know if you live long enough, a lot of things change in your life! I was actually born at Mercy Hospital, but I left my mother’s house there when I was 15 or 16. I moved to Atlanta to live with my sister Renatta and would travel back and forth seven or eight times a year. Her husband had a business that allowed me to transport luxury cars back and forth. I did that until I was about 21.
My friends think I’m nuts, but I love cross-country trips. What fun that must have been for you.
I have to tell you, this country is amazing and so beautiful. It is so gorgeous and generally speaking Americans are really lovely people. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world and as far as people go we’re a great bunch. Not as lovely as Canadians, but... (Laughs).
I don’t think that people in the U.S. get to see the country from the road any longer; it is such a different perspective than flying above it.
I loved it, I drove cross-country about 50 times between 1976 and 1981. It was amazing, I had my music, I would smoke my cigarettes and some weed - I had a fabulous time! (Laughs). Though we don’t do those kinds of things any more!
Where did you end up after Atlanta?
I really started my career in Atlanta; I was there for 11 years before I moved to New York. I was already working and doing clubs there by ’82 but I was still living in Atlanta. I moved to New York in ’84 and lived there for six months before the city promptly spit me right back out (Laughs)!
I don’t think that you’re alone in that experience. It’s a bit of a culture shock; I don’t think I would have survived New York at that age.
Absolutely, It was hard; it was very hard in the beginning. But I guess it really depends on what your goals and aspirations are, what you want. I went back to Atlanta and then moved back for good in ’87.
At what point did you "discover" RuPaul - or as you have referenced "the Monster?"
Professionally, I started in the ’80s. Everything we were doing back then was a reaction to what was happening in the Reagan years. We were the bohemian kids, we were punk rock and we worked in clubs - everything like that. We were all disciples of Andy Warhol in that we became shape-shifters and would create identities. We didn’t want to be married to one particular idea. Drag became one of those things early on that sort of stuck. People had such strong reactions to me in a way that I had never experienced before. Eventually I realized that the universe was telling me "do that, do that" and it worked!
It’s one of the things that stands out about you, the concept of it being "meant to be," it’s that natural. You have done so much to change our perceptions on sexuality and what it means to be "male" and "female." That is something to be proud of.
Thank you, I am proud of that. What I am the most proud of though, is actually having heard what the universe’s stage direction was for me. I believe there is something like that for everyone. We all have an idea of what it is, but preconceived notions of who we "should be" blind us to those choices.
You have talked about drag as not really being about impersonating a woman, but trying to be the most beautiful possible, tell us a little more about that.
We chatted a little about it earlier with the Warhol mentality about being born naked and creating an identity, creating your superstar. Then actually not having to stick to it, being a shape-shifter and evolving - squeezing as many lives into this one lifetime as possible. Drag is so freeing in a particular kind of way and that’s sort of the bohemian philosophy. Also not to take yourself too seriously, which is not a new idea, but as a sort of post-modern concept it is. You are not just what it says on your driver’s license, we are so much more than that.
In some ways, our generation had fewer restrictions on what or who we could be because of the "free love" vibe. It allowed us to explore things. It’s very different now; we are so much more fear-based.
Yes, that’s an interesting point. I don’t know if I could actually do what I did in the same way today. Before MTV and now social media, things had more time to ruminate and grow. Time to organically morph into something bigger and better and develop into a different language. When MTV came around a new idea would get snatched up by a stylist, put on a music video and that trend would be over in a year. The turnover is so fast that you’re done really before you have the chance to get started!
That’s one of the challenges of social media and our instantaneous culture: we don’t always have the chance to mature things - actually to even be able to think about them - which can be a little unnerving.
You’re absolutely right, that is the challenge for young ones today. Being able to sustain interest, especially with their f*cking A.D.D. asses (laughs)! The ability to stick with something as long as it takes to make it work is a challenge.
The mind’s ability to grow is something that really hasn’t changed much though, even with the Internet and all our other media sources. It just takes that much time for the human brain to assimilate and refine what it is that you are doing.
The up-and-coming generations completely fascinate me, because of that access to information. It’s changing the way that they think.
They have access yes, but it’s done without a curator, which by the way, is what’s important about what things like your magazine does. Kids need a curator to help show them direction; sort of a cruise director who can guide them because there is so much information that it literally can flood their engines.
I think that’s one of the interesting things about having some time behind us... perspective. We integrated the changes wrought by the ’60s generation and I think it gave us some freedoms to create ourselves in a particular kind of way.
Everything is cyclical and with all the information the young have I think that the only place it can go is to a more organic sensibility. I think they have to slow down and create a sense of stillness. This manic energy that prevails right now is crazy. I think the only other way it can go is that their heads will explode (laughs)!
Let’s chat a bit about the upcoming RuPaul’s Drag Race and that part of your world! The girls in season six are amazing!
They are beautiful creatures, aren’t they? These are hungry, courageous kids who are so very talented. This year we have a group that is much more skilled, they are the Drag Race generation. They have grown up watching the show, have been a part of the business and really know what they’re doing.
Any teasers you can share with us?
Obviously I can’t talk about too much, but we do have a line-up of amazing judges coming: Khloe Kardashian, Adam Lambert, Paula Abdul, Exorcist star Linda Blair, Leah Remini, Jaime Pressly, Community’s Gillian Jacobs, Chaz Bono, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. It’s just as great as it has been before, but even better if you can believe it.
Your new album is coming out soon, isn’t it?
On February 24, the premiere night of our show. It’s called "Born Naked," and my third album with Lucian Pianni, we did Champion and Glamazon together. It continues the melodic pop dance aesthetic; I love it so much and am so proud of it! Plus, all of the season six girls have recorded some songs from my catalog; it’s available now and called "RuPaul Presents: The Covergirls."
And, I have a candy bar coming out (laughs). It’s called RuPaul! It’s coming out on the premiere night too, which is fun.
The RuPaul candy bar, I love it. With nougat, I’m sure!
Yes, with nuts or with no nuts (Laughs)!