RuPaul talks to Awards Daily TV about the empowerment of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the impact of winning an Emmy® Award last year.
RuPaul’s Drag Race holds a place as one of the funniest and hands-down most entertaining shows on television. Year after year and week after week, the fan base grows. Stories of inspiration and empowerment fill social media. People share their stories with the fierce contestants and its host RuPaul about what the show does for them and helps them to find courage. Its message to love yourself and to love others resonates with fans everywhere.
I caught up with RuPaul to talk about his own inspirations and why he thinks the show has become a phenomenon over the years. RuPaul’s Drag Race is an Emmy contender for Best Reality Competition Program. Its positive message needs to be considered because it’s simply everything we need in our life to give us confidence and make us laugh.
I remember reading Lettin It All Hang Out when it first came out, reading your story. There’s this great quote, “When asked what she named her baby boy, my mother replied, ‘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!’ ” Here you are!!It’s been over 24 years since “Supermodel” was released. How does it all feel looking back on how far you’ve come?
It’s interesting that the only time I ever look back is when I’m being interviewed and someone asks me about it. My M.O. is being here and now and looking forward because the business requires that I look forward to next year with planning.
When I do look back, it seems like yesterday. It’s been so much fun. I can see how very lucky and blessed I am. And yes, I am very ambitious, and I love to create things even if they don’t stick around as long as Drag Race has. I do realize how blessed I am.
What is your motivation that gets you up in the morning?
I love beauty, and I love music, love, color, and creativity. That’s my motivation. It wasn’t always that. For years, I was motivated by trying to get my father’s approval as validation, but many years of therapy have worked that out. Probably around the time I turned forty, I realized I need to do this because of my love of creativity and the fabulous things that life has to offer.
RuPaul’s Drag Race and even DragCon is a phenomenon growing. What do you put that growth down to?
I think it has to do with the tenacity of the human spirit. People watch our show and they recognize themselves in the queens who are competing. They recognize themselves not because they are drag queens, but because every human has a dream to live out their fantasy. A lot of times most humans don’t do that because they’re afraid of what other people say or how their family would react. It’s not just the dream of being a drag queen. It’s the dream of doing anything that is outside the box. I think the audience at home relates to the queens and the experience of doing drag on that level. On the level of being courageous and following your heart.
Also, our show has a huge social media following among young people. RuPaul’s Drag Race gives them an opportunity to meet their tribe in person. It’s one thing to tweet and to have followers and friends with who you communicate with on social media. It’s a completely different thing to go to a place and meet all of your tribe. That’s why this year we are doing a second DragCon in New York.
I think social media allows that communication.
Do you feel that’s helped with the opportunity for people to be open and courageous more so now than in the 80’s and 90’s?
Yes, it does. Things have changed since then. When MTV came around, all the stylists would lift looks and concepts and put them in music videos. This accelerated how a trend would circulate the globe, but at the same time, it shortened the lifespan of a trend because the trend wouldn’t have a chance to organically grow into its own thing.
The same is true for social media because it’s so fast a lot of vernacular trends and feelings and movements don’t really get a chance to ruminate and morph into their adulthood. They get stuck in infancy. I’m talking about ideas and thoughts and trends.
You must also get a ton of audition tapes to watch. What stands out for you?
When someone is authentic. When someone is not pretending to be what they think I want them to be. Seventy-five percent of all auditions I see are all people trying to be a certain way that they think I want them to be. Those people don’t move forward. The people who move forward are their authentic selves where, because they’re authentic, I know where to place them in the ensemble. We cast the show as an ensemble where there is the Comedy Queen, the Body Queen. There’s the ingenue. We do that every season, and we can’t place someone if they’re not being themselves.
Also, a queen has to be a showgirl. She has to have some experience in any facet of drag. We let some girls come through who may be YouTube queens, but a lot of times without the club experience, they can’t move beyond many of the challenges because it takes that kind of experience to take on these challenges.
Some of my favorites were having Lady Gaga as a judge and the roast. What were some of your highlights from this past season?
Well, I have to bring up Valentina’s lipsynch. No one expected that.
Oh my God. Yes.
Well, she faltered in the challenge itself. She and Nina Bonina didn’t put the work in to create their sitcom, and so they wound up in the bottom. When they wound up there, Valentina was not prepared for the lip synch and that was heartbreaking because I really had high hopes for her.
I did too, and it was sad to see it go tits up.
Yes. Unfortunately, she wasn’t prepared, and that’s a perfect example of why certain girls who are YouTube queens who don’t have the club experience, that’s where they falter.
Is there anyone you’re dying to have as a guest judge. You’ve had so many great judges each season so who’s left out there?
Oh, there are so many. I would really love to have Judge Judy, Cher, and Madonna. That would be great.
Judge Judy as we know is such an inspiration to you.
Let’s talk about her. What does Judge Judy mean to you?
Aside from the fact that she looks and acts the way my mother would act. My mother was very direct and no BS. That was my mother. Judge Judy looks like her with the hair and everything.
I love her clarity and her intellect. I love how she understands human behavior. When people end up in small claims court, it means that they have used up all their chances to be cordial and civil, and they actually need someone to break that shit down for them. Judge Judy is there from the top. She is someone who understands human behavior so well, and I love that especially in this day and age. Everything is spin and calculated in the media. So, to have an hour in the afternoon where somebody is really breaking it down is such a sanctuary for me.
One of the looks that was loved this season was the Club kid runway look. Is there a style you’re looking to see next season?
I always love the punk rock and club kid look. There are so many to choose from and the queens who come on the show bring their backgrounds and their influences. People ask me all the time, “What makes a great queen?” I always say a sense of humor, a sense of history and a sense of not taking life too damn seriously. Those qualities allow for the creativity to come through, and our queens bring it every year.
Every season! You won the Emmy last year. What did that win mean for you?
The show is collaborative. It meant everything in terms of the people I work with because Logo TV, and it’s moved to VH-1 now. Logo TV is a small network, and to get that recognition is huge. They’ve worked so hard over the years as has World of Wonder, the production company. The award meant so much because of the collaborative effort because of the parties.
Do you ever think about what would it be like to go through this competition and, if you do, what strategy would you approach or take?
First of all, every season there is only really ever one winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and that’s RuPaul. [Laughs]
Ain’t that the truth!
If I were in the competition, I would definitely win. This is the thing, all of the challenges are based on my own career they are all things I’ve done or I’ve had to do. That’s why the show is so captivating because you get to watch the girls work out in real time how to solve a problem. There have been queens who say they’re not a comedy queen, so how can they do the comedy challenge. In the course of the show, we see them push themselves, or they fall flat on their faces so to speak.
Watching a person die and become reborn is what’s so captivating about it. They have to stretch their own self-imposed limitations. I’ve had a whole career of doing that. I tell the kids to do like me. Do a lot of different things and that way you can have a long career. I’ve done morning radio, written books, music, and I produce movies. That’s what it takes. That’s why the challenges are designed in that way because these are things I’ve done in my own career.
I think I’d definitely win. Also, there’s an element of charm that plays in the competition. If a person is charming, a lot of times they’ll get by even if they didn’t do so well in a challenge.
Charm goes a long way.
It certainly does.
So, if you were to give young queens a box of movies, TV shows, music, and books, what would be in that culture box?
It would start with The Wizard of Oz, and it would go into Grease and Mommie Dearest and then Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. It would then go into Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio. I would also add Fellini Satyricon, and I would put in Auntie Mame. Toss in Mahogany just for good measure.
I saw Mommie Dearest for the first time ever a few months ago. It’s great.
It’s really fabulous, and Faye Dunaway gives a stellar performance. The camp is in full blast, but most people miss the fact that her performance is absolutely stunning.
You’re also going to be in Broad City. What can you tell us?
I have been a fan since the beginning. Those girls are the funniest thing on TV. I lived in NYC and still do. My 80’s experience is going to be turned into a TV show, and what they portray on the show is what my New York experience was in the 80’s. The way New York is such a shining star on this show is something I love. They knew that I was a huge fan of the show, and they asked me to be on it. They’re also a fan of our show, so it was a mutual lovefest.
What’s your ultimate beauty tip?
It really has to do with your state of mind. It’s so important to be mindful and to be aware of your thoughts and to be the awareness behind your thoughts. What you think eventually shows up on your face and in your body. Most people don’t have a real connection about what you think and how you present yourself and how you live your life affects the way you look and your beauty.
Consider Oh My Gaga!