Big Wigs, Big Gowns, Big Money: How Does RuPaul Spend All That Money?

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 21, 2021

Big Wigs, Big Gowns, Big Money: How Does RuPaul Spend All That Money?
  (Source:@rupaulofficial/Instagram)

RuPaul's entertainment and real estate empire has come into the spotlight once again in a new feature in the South China Morning Post.

RuPaul's celebrity caché has significantly increased since the 2009 debut of the hit series "RuPaul's Drag Race," which has since grown into a global franchise, recently expanding its reach to Australia and New Zealand. Conversely, the show has also contended with criticism around the show's historical lack of trans-inclusion. (This season welcomes its first transgender male contestant, Gottmik.)

Whether fans have stayed or sashayed away, the drag entrepreneur's hovers around $60 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

With a career spanning more than three decades, RuPaul first stepped out of New York City's club scene in The B-52's "Love Shack" music video in 1989. But it was the 1992 single "Supermodel (You Better Work)" and its parent album that launched the mainstream career of a Black, openly gay, drag queen — no small feat for that particular period. RuPaul's song also gained popularity because it was a pulsing and catchy house single released when the genre was emerging as a viable commercial alternative to Seattle's "grunge" and alternative rock.

From 1996-1998, he hosted "The RuPaul Show," a popular talk show on VH1 which featured LGBTQ allies such as Cyndi Lauper, Cher, and a rare appearance by Diana Ross, a hero of RuPaul's. He would also appear in hit LGBTQ-themed films such as "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" (1995) and "But I'm a Cheerleader" (1999), the latter in which he played a conversion therapist who fails miserably at being straight.

In the decades since, RuPaul has established himself as one of the most relevant pop culture figures. And with that comes a love for money and opulence. Of course, that's also part of a public persona as the queen bee on "RuPaul's Drag Race."

In an interview with Money.com, RuPaul admitted to spending upwards of $10,000 per gown, and when asked how many he had, said, "Oh, I don't know. I've lost count. Our show has been on the air for 10 years, and there are—I don't know—14 gowns per season? So..."

In 2019, RuPaul spent a whopping $13.7 million on a 10,309-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion, according to Variety, with black marble Corinthian pilasters, formal living and dining rooms and designer appliances.

But it's Ru's sprawling Wyoming ranch and land parcel, which he co-owns with husband Georges LeBar, that has raised eyebrows. Last year, in an interview with NPR, RuPaul alluded to the land's use, saying that a "modern ranch, 21st-century ranch is really land management... lease the mineral rights to oil companies and you sell water to oil companies, and then you lease the grazing rights to different ranchers."

Twitter user Rory Solomon (@rorys) used a site called FracTracker to map the land.

Early in 2020, environmentalist and progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Representative for New York's 14th District, appeared as a guest judge on Season 12 — presumably filmed before she introduced a bill to ban fracking, and certainly before RuPaul's NPR interview.

Over the summer, both RuPaul and longtime friend and co-judge Michelle Visage wiped their Twitter accounts.

With less time on social media, RuPaul will have more time to spend on the ranch, at his Beverly Hills mansion, or one of his other properties in West Hollywood or New York City.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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