Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, RuPaul is arguably the best-known drag performer in the world, and one of the most prominent advocates of the LGBT+ community in the US.
HIGHS AND LOWS
Born in San Diego, California, RuPaul Andre Charles moved to New York City in the 1980s, where he began performing in the queer scene. During his early years in New York, however, RuPaul lived in poverty and struggled with alcohol and drug dependency. Sober now for almost twenty years, he still plays an active role in raising awareness of the issues surrounding addiction.
The singer, actor, songwriter, author and producer achieved success in the early 1990s with the song Supermodel (You Better Work), which earned him a modelling contract with MAC cosmetics. Shortly after that, he performed the duet Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Elton John, which topped the European charts. He went on to feature in a number of movies and eventuallyhost his own talk show, The RuPaul Show.
RUPAUL’S drag race
However, the breakthrough in RuPaul’s career and the foundation of his showbiz empire came in 2009, when RuPaul’s Drag Race first aired. This reality show, aimed at selecting the best drag queen in the US, is now in its fourteenth edition, winning twenty-four Emmys so far out of forty-eight nominations. Eleven international franchise editions have been created — including in Italy and Spain — and a whole drag entertainment industry is being enriched with numerous spin-offs, including a movie and a world tour called Werq the World.
RUPAUL’S DRAG PERSONA
Extremely tall and imposing, when he is out of drag RuPaul likes to wear elegant three-piece suits, which he can easily switch to flamboyantgowns and huge wigs for his drag persona, which, he says, is inspired by artists such as Cher, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton and David Bowie. Through his looks and work, he aims to display “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent”.
RUPAUL’S DRAG WISDOM
RuPaul stresses the importance of self-love and instructs fans on how to be self-confident, urging people to express their singularity to empower themselves. He believes in positivity, the power of laughter and in rejecting any form of definition.
In his autobiographical book GuRu (2018) he shares his most evocative aphorisms, such as: "You’re born naked and the rest is drag” or the now-iconic "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”, underlining the relationship between loving oneself and loving others.
RuPaul is noted among famous drag queens for his indifference towards the gender-specific pronouns used to address him—both "he" and "she" have been deemed acceptable. "You can call me ‘he’. You can call me ‘she.’ You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me.