by Twunty McSlore
Ladies and gentleman, start your engines, RuPaul’s Drag Race is here!
Next week, a fabulous new show that combines the glamour of America’s Next Top Model, the talent of American Idol, and the design acumen of Project Runway will debut on the Logo Channel. RuPaul, along with his production staff at World of Wonder has narrowed down thousands of drag hopefuls down to a lucky nine contestants who are set to wow us with their gender illusionist skills and hopefully, no definitely, prima donna behaviour. I, for one, cannot wait. He is famous for his VH1 telivision show, his hit song “Supermodel,” his duet with Elton John of “Don’t Go Breking My Heart” and his movie roles in “The Brady Bunch,” Too Wong Foo..” and “Starrbooty.” The winner will receive $20,000 from Absolut Vodka, a spot on their upcoming “Real Fruit” tour, MAC cosmetics, a spread in Paper Mag and a shoot with greg Gorman for l.a. Eyeworks.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the most famous drag queen in the world and someone I am lucky to call a friend, the incomparable RuPaul. Let me first state for the record that he is one of the nicest people ever to put on a pair of nine inch heels and he walks better in them than I ever could dream of. He applies his make-up better, his wigs pack more punch than my real hair ever could and with the proper push-up bra, his boobs look bigger than mine. He is also intelligent and thoughtful with a quick wit and a kind heart. (and I am a world class suck-up) On to the Interview, shall we?
by Twunty McSlore
TM: What’s it like having your own show again? It’s been a while since the one on VH1.
RP: It’s been ten years. And I’m doing this one with World of Wonder as well because in the reality television world it’s usually about making people look terrible and showing the lowest common denominator. I didn’t want to get into that and when I finished the Rupaul Show on VH1 the only offers I had for television were realty and showing drag in a derogatory “wah wah waaah” sense and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be a part of that. Also, politically and socially, in our culture it became fear based and drag had to sort of go underground. This show couldn’t have happened during that time. Finally, things came around and are swinging back to the left and it’s time for me to pop my head out like a lady groundhog.
TM: Yay, you’re back!
RP: It’s funny because our show debuts on Groundhog’s Day!
TM: That’s perfect!
I read all the bios and watched the videos of the girls you chose. How did you narrow it down to just nine?
RP: We went through thousands of applications and narrowed it down to A; showgirls, who are working for a living in clubs and B; we wanted to go the younger route because a lot of people are going to be exposed to drag for the first time through the show and we wanted to give it a fresh approach and take cues from some of the younger girls that are working out there.
TM: One of the girl’s(Akashia) mothers works right down the street from me and I would love to speak to her but I read that he hasn’t spoken to her in seven years.
RP: He got kicked out of the house when he was seventeen because he’s gay.
TM: That’s sad.
RP: It is sad but that’s what makes this show interesting and exciting because these girls have so much courage and each of these contestants are already at the top of their game in their profession and are ready to take it to the next level of being America’s next drag superstar. It’s a big deal because no one has come after my crown in all these years. There needs to be more, not just one, there needs to be tons!
TM: Do any of the girls actually sing?
RP: They do, and that will be part of an upcoming challenge. (can’t tell you any more than that, it would be a spoiler!)
TM: Does anyone have a big ego, a prima donna kind of attitude?
RP: Oh, honey! (laughs)
TM: Why am I even asking this?!
RP: No, they do but they have to have it to get to where they are because when the world is against you and you live in a masculine culture, the boys that play with femininity have to be tough and strong and most people don’t understand that and go, ‘what a sissy,’ but you have to have muscles and nerves of steel.
TM: Is everyone gay? Are they all out of the closet?
RP: Oh yeah, totally. They all are.
TM: Has anyone had plastic surgery? That one boy (Rebecca) has some pretty big lips.
RP: His lips and his nose are real. Some of the girls may have had a little bit of filler but, you know, who hasn’t? (laughs)
TM: Not me, unfortunately.
A lot of the girls talked about the lack of privacy with the fans. Do you think that is a sign that drag is coming back?
RP: Drag did have to go underground for so many years because it wasn’t safe and as you well know, in New York Guiliani put the kibosh on anything that was edgy and fun and not family oriented. But I think it will alway be there because it reminds us to not take ourselves too seriously. Little boys who were ostracised and never allowed to participate in our mainstream culture find out that once you step ouside of society’s parameters you find that it’s all a hoax. Doing drag is like the ultimate ‘fuck you’ punk rock because in a male dominated society you just say, ‘okay I’ll do the pre-fab female thing, question authority and the entire establishment,’ and drag is the epitome of that.
TM: Do you have any drag idols?
RP: The first one I ever recognized as drag was when I was eleven years old and it was Sylvester, as he appeared in the Cockettes, and I thought, wow! What is that? And it planted the seed that A; San francisco is the place to be, and B; There’s more than one way to skin a chicken. (laughs)
TM: What photographers did you use on the show?
RP: Matthu Anderson has always worked with me on everything and he did all the promo stuff for the girls. We also have Mike Ruiz who directed my movie Starrbooty, he’s one of the judges and helps out with some of the challenges on the show. He also directed the video for my new single ‘Cover Girl’ that the winner appears in.
TM: Do the girls design most of their own clothes?
RP: Yes, they do and as a matter of fact one of the challenges is ‘drag on a dime,’ where they are asked to create a couture-worthy outfit using dime store and thrift store remnants.
TM: Didn’t we all go through that in New York?
RP: Absolutely. All of the challenges were sort of patterned after my career and all the things I’ve done to become America’s drag queen sweetheart. Only we left out the gag reflex challenge. (lol)
TM: Describe your judging style.
RP: I like to keep it based on what the challenge actually is, with humor and a soft glove. I was surprised when I watched the five episodes that I’ve seen that aspects of my personality that you don’t normally see, not just the really animated person in drag, really come out in an intimate way, as a friend, as a mentor, as a kook. It’s really fun, at this point in my career, to reveal different sides of me. So, I think that over all I’m very fair, with a sense of humor.
TM: Isn’t it hard to go from mentoring them to judging them?
RP: It really was, especially on an emotional level because these are all the top girls in the United States and to eliminate any one of them was heartbreaking. In the end I had to tell myself that this is a TV show, an elimination TV show and somebody’s got to do it but in the end they’re all winners because they’re going to be famous from it.
TM: Who is the toughest judge? (The regular judges are Santino from Project Runway and writer Merle Ginsberg)
RP: Santino is definitely the toughest judge. He doesn’t hold anything back which is good because, as you well know, once you are out there auditioning for things people can be tough. This is business, though, not personal.
TM: Does he do a RuPaul imitation? He did a mean Tim Gunn on Project Runway.
RP: He probably does but he hasn’t done it around me.
TM: Were any of the girls intimadated by you?
RP: I don’t think so, they all looked up to me but I don’t think they were intimidated by me because I wanted to bring out the best in them. So, it definitely wasn’t my intention. They may have been intimidated by the whole process, by having cameras around them all the time.
TM: Out of curiosty, does ‘tucking’ hurt?
RP: It definitely can, especially if you’re sitting down for a long time.
TM: Doesn’t shaving help?
RP: Yes, it definitely does and there are two distinct types of tucking; Hot Dog style, where you pull everything back towards south of the border, and the Stuffed Hot Dog, where you stuff everything into your body cavity.
TM: Ouch! Are you going to have any surprise guest stars on the show. I noticed Charo in one of the preview clips.
RP: Yes, Charo stops by for a siesta at one point and talk about drag queens, talk about a classic drag queen, she’s one of the icons. So, we have a few of those moments where people pop in and stuff.
TM: You’re not going to tell me any other people?
RP: No, no. (laughs)
TM: Dammit! Alright. And thanks so much for talking with me. Drag queens made my life in New York. Without you guys I wouldn’t have had a social life! Or have laughed as much!
RP: Well, that’s what drag is all about, it’s about not taking life so seriously.
Words to live by. Drag Race will begin airing on Monday nights at 10pm est/pst February 2nd on the logo channel. If your cable provider doesn’t carry logo, you can watch the episodes online.