“Every woman has a secret. Mine happens to be a little bigger… I’m a man” – Alyssa Edwards, RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, season 5.
RuPaul’s Drag Race is arguably the best and most dramatic reality competition show on modern television, and I really will have a heated debate with anyone who thinks otherwise. I firmly believe that everyone needs a little bit of drag queen drama in their lives, and throughout the NINE seasons of Ru Paul’s there have been too many memorable queens and moments to count. But, forget the contestants, we are gathered here today to talk about the one, the only, RuPaul Charles.
Born in San Diego, RuPaul knew that he had something before anyone else really did. In his 20’s he moved to Atlanta working as an emcee and go-go dancer, acting in amateur movies and doing drag shows. Eventually he moved to New York City to see just how far he could take his drag persona, as that’s what he knew that he needed to do. In his own words, “when I got into drag, straight men, straight women, everybody, would go, “Bitch, damn.” And I could feel it. I had never felt it before. I knew that it was important for me to get a lot of work done, wherever I was.”
RuPaul Charles was a visionary of the times, breaking into the national spotlight with hit song Supermodel (which went on to sell over five million copies) and a gig on the Arsenio Hall show, which led to him landing a contract with MAC Cosmetics as the first face of the Viva Glam line (which has gone on to be one of the longest running and most influential beauty lines in the world). In 1996, the RuPaul Show debuted on VH1, making him the nation’s first openly gay talk show host (and drag queen).
The RuPaul Show boasted an incredible lineup of guests from the get go with Diana Ross as the first attendee. Notable names on future episodes include Chaka Khan, the Backstreet Boys, Cher, Tina Turner, LaToya Jackson, and NSYNC. Michelle Visage, longtime friend and co-host of RuPaul’s Drag Race said “it was a brilliant fucking show and way before its time… I knew when I was in it that it was different, but it didn’t feel different as in weird. It felt different as in groundbreaking. I didn’t feel like we were moving mountains, but it was definitely the only thing like it on the landscape.” Besides the fact that he was one of the first openly gay hosts on public network television, the nature of the guests and their celebrity in different ways made the show something that hadn’t been seen before.
As always, though, all good things must come to an end. Abruptly after the 100th episode, the show was canceled and Ru was back to square one… albeit with a huge cult following. Such birthed a new love child in the form of television show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. According to his own biography, “RuPaul’s Drag Race began modestly, in a scrappy studio in Burbank with hallways for set pieces and closets for control rooms.” The show obviously took off and ratings skyrocketed bringing guests like Marc Jacobs, Lady Gaga, Khloe Kardashian, and Ariana Grande.
Since it’s start, RuPaul’s Drag Race is in its 9th season of production, has moved from Logo to VH1, and has picked up an Emmy. In addition to the show, Ru (at age 56) is in the process of writing a book, just produced the 100th episode of his and Michelle Visage’s podcast series, is giving guest lectures at universities, producing music, and is working with director J.J. Abrams on a scripted series based on his club days in the 1980’s.
Who knows what’s next? There’s no way to be positive, but one thing is for sure: the future of RuPaul Charles? It’s going to be fabulous.