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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 14
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
RuPaul, supermodel of the world
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
RuPaul, supermodel of the world

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Drag superstar, singer-songwriter, actor, and author - RuPaul Andre Charles has done it all.

For 29 years, RuPaul - more commonly known these days as simply 'Ru' - has done it big: big hair, big ideas, big hits. In 1993, Ru made her mainstream debut with the release of 'Supermodel (You Better Work),' which catapulted her to international fame and earned her the title of RuPaul: Supermodel of the World. Drag would never be the same.

Then, in 2009, the world's love affair with RuPaul rekindled when she taught us all to 'put the bass' in our walk with the launch of the wildly successful reality television show RuPaul's Drag Race.

Drag has officially gone mainstream. RuPaul is at the helm of a drag queen revolution with no end in sight. She is diva personified, and we love her for it.

I caught up with Ru this week to talk about Drag Race, her affinity for the Emerald City, and how a little Gay boy from San Diego grew up to be Supermodel of the World.

THE RISE OF RU
In November of 1960, the world would get its first look at RuPaul. She was born in San Diego, California, to humble beginnings and always dreamed of one day becoming an entertainer. 'No matter where my career has taken me, I have always felt like that little boy in San Diego who was in awe of all the beautiful colors, laughter, and music,' Ru told SGN. 'My real talent comes from getting excited about beauty and love. At my core I am really just a showoff, and I apply that to whatever media I am in front of.'

Ru knows a thing or two about different mediums of entertainment, having penned two books, recorded and released music since 1983, been the face of MAC cosmetics, and worked as a runway model. There is just no end in sight to what she is capable of.

A lot of RuPaul's past came to light in 1995 when she released Lettin' It All Hang Out, which Ru describes as 'part autobiography, part how-to manual.' After the release of the successful follow-up book, Workin' It! RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style, she told SGN she is beginning work on a third book.

'I really enjoy writing,' she said. 'I love it. At the end of the day I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. When I am writing I lock myself away and get to work. I'm always looking under my own hood for mysteries and mysteries solved. Looking inward allows me to see that the emperor is indeed not wearing any clothes.'

THE FAME GAME
There is no doubt that RuPaul's Drag Race (all three seasons of it) is a resounding success. 'The world is watching,' said Ru. 'We are broadcast in 30 different countries.'

'I go into everything with every intention of it being the best thing since sliced bread,' she joked. 'I absolutely thought Drag Race would do well.'

Fame is often followed by scrutiny - a game that Ru says she knows all too well. Not all of her projects have taken off; her 2004 album was a commercial failure and her short-lived VH1 talk show was canceled after its second season. It is safe to say that RuPaul has developed thick skin.

'The way I handle myself is under scrutiny,' Ru told SGN. 'After 29 years of doing this, I take it as it comes. But that is the beauty of drag. A big part of being a drag superstar is that you find out that you may not be who you think you are. You realize that you are a spiritual being having a human experience. We are shape-shifters.'

With a show like Drag Race, Ru says casting is important, and can be a tough job. 'We want queens from all over the U.S., and it would be great to see a queen from Seattle get cast,' she explained.

RuPaul knows Seattle. She told SGN that she has had a love for our rainy city since the early '90s when she once performed at a nightclub with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love in the audience. 'I absolutely love Seattle; it's so moody,' said Ru. 'There is a lot of feminine energy that radiates from the city, and I love it!'

Ru wants some of that energy on the cast of Drag Race. 'I liken my casting style to putting together a boy band. We need the bad boy, the big brother, and the stronger queen who will win out. The queens I choose have to fit into the ensemble.'

Ru said the perfect example is a current fan favorite on season three: Alexis Mateo. 'Alexis auditioned two times before we finally had a cast that she would fit into.'

Week after week, millions of fans tune in to watch the queens try to best one another with challenges that seem to get zanier by the episode. 'People who are Gay are very creative - it almost goes hand in hand,' says Ru. 'The show is based on my production company and my collective love for color and music and laughter. The challenges are designed for people who dance to the beat of a different drum. We never run out of ideas; sometimes we have too many of them.'

LIP-SYNCING FOR YOUR LIFE
I asked Ru if it is hard for her, as the season progresses, to look a queen in the eye and tell her to 'sashay away.' Her answer was heartfelt, yet to the point.

'It is very hard,' she said. 'After 29 years in this business, you have to understand that there are big fish that eat little fish. This competition doesn't end at 'lip-sync for your life.' The queens go on to perform all over the country and in many cases, the real superstar comes out within each of them. Each season I fall in love with these kids.'

Speaking of lip-sync for your life, RuPaul has given the world more than one Gay phrase that can be heard at bars or clubs around the country. 'You better work!' has been in Gay slang since we first heard Ru demand it of us in the early '90s.

'My phrases are very deliberate,' she said. 'My mother collected sayings, and so I am carrying on the tradition. I take things that people would regularly say and put them through the Gay queen machine!'

Last year, Ru launched RuPaul's Drag U, the follow-up to Drag Race where everyday women compete in a series of challenges to unleash their inner diva. The series received lukewarm reviews. Many people saw the show as mean-spirited or unentertaining. Although Ru wasn't able to disclose all her information, she did assure me that this season will win over critics and fans alike.

'We have cracked the code,' she proclaimed. 'We have figured it out. We've turned this bitch out and it is fabulous! Talk about a show that changes lives; I've really never seen a show that uplifted people the way that this season's Drag U has.'

DOING IT BIG
Aside from drag, music is the other big love in Ru's life. 'I'm working on a new album and it's really, really gorgeous. I'm excited about the forthcoming album Glamazon. We haven't set an official release date, but it will be out soon. I woke up this morning with my own song playing in my head. That is a good sign.'

Ru says she is a big fan of the new Britney Spears album, 'which I think is fantastic plastic pop in the best way - I just want to chew on it, and it tastes delicious.'

RuPaul says she has a specific message for her fans in Seattle: 'Don't fuck it up - 36, 24, 36!'

Keep up with RuPaul on her official website, www.rupaul.com.

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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
RuPaul, supermodel of the world

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