Hello hello hello!
So for my next blog post, I wanted to write about someone who is a great inspiration to me, Rupaul Charles. There is little doubt that Rupaul is the world’s most famous drag star. Yet this post aims to delve into the history of this man to detail his rise to fame and his career which spans nearly 25 years in the zeitgeist.
Born in San Diego in 1960, Rupaul was born to a Louisiana native mother, Ernestine, who called him Ru after “roux”, the base of a gumbo. His parents divorced in 1967 and he, along with his three sisters, continued to live with their mother. Aged 15, Ru moved to Atlanta, Georgia to study theatre at the North Atlanta School of Performing Arts. During his 20s, Rupaul struggled to gain prominence as a musician and filmmaker, making the underground film Star Booty as well as an album of the same name. During this period, Rupaul became notorious in the Atlanta scene, regularly working at the Celebrity Club as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole. Moving to New York in 1984 with fellow drag performer Lady Bunny, Rupaul was known on the New York club scene for his gender-fuck style of drag. His first exposure on a national stage was as a dancer in The B-52’s video for Love Shack in 1989. In the 1990s, Rupaul appeared on the Channel 4 series Manhattan Cable, a series about New York’s public access television system.
In 1993, Supermodel of the World was released, the album which spawned the hit Supermodel (You Better Work) which peaked at #2 on the US Dance Charts, as well as the singles Back to My Roots and A Shade Shady (Now Prance), both of which went to #1 on US Dance Charts. Following this musical success, Rupaul was signed to a modelling contract with MAC Cosmetics for their VIVA Glam cosmetics line, making him the first drag queen supermodel as well as one of the first male spokespeople for cosmetics. He released a biography in 1995, Lettin’ It All Hang Out. In 1996, he created a short-lived talk show on VH1 called The Rupaul Show, in which Rupaul interacted with showbusiness legends like Cyndi Lauper, Dionne Warwick and Bea Arthur. Rupaul continued to release albums over the next decade including Foxy Lady, Red Hot and Starrbooty to commercial success.
Yet, Rupaul’s greatest success would come with the premiere of Rupaul’s Drag Race in 2009, a drag competition show in which drag queens compete to be selected as “America’s Next Drag Superstar”. The show has launched over 100 drag artists, including Bianca Del Rio, Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 and Adore Delano to global success and fame, bringing drag into homes across America and the globe. The show continues to go from strength to strength in terms of ratings, with the premiere of Season 9 reaching over 1 million viewers in the US alone. Rupaul has also benefitted from the show with albums like Champion, Glamazon and Born Naked all doing very well on the US Dance Charts. For Rupaul’s Drag Race, Rupaul won the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, showing critical acclaim for Rupaul.
In 2017, Rupaul was awarded the title of one of the top 100 most influential people in the world in 2017 by Time Magazine, showing that even 25 years after he first entered the collective consciousness, Rupaul remains relevant to the zeitgeist and is of benefit to the prominence of the LGBT+ community in pop culture.