It’s handbags at dawn and wigs to the wall as RuPaul’s Drag Race makes its debut on UK screens. Jeananne Craig meets the show’s host for some tips on living fabulously
With decades of drag queen experience under his belt and a wig collection to rival Dolly Parton’s, RuPaul Charles knows a thing or two about glitz and glamour.
Now the 54-year-old is bringing his unique brand of fabulousness to our shores, as hit show, RuPaul’s Drag Race – in which America’s drag elite compete to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar – hits UK screens.
Here, the 6ft 4in star – who has left the stilettos and false lashes at home in favour of a sharp, tailored suit and glasses when we meet – shares some unique pearls of wisdom from the worlds of drag queens, pop queens and even Queen Elizabeth.
1. We’re all born naked
“Drag is really about reminding the public not to take itself too seriously, and I think that’s an important message. Drag is what we’re all doing – you’re born naked, and the rest is drag. RuPaul’s Drag Race, at its core, is about the tenacity of the human spirit.
“The human spirit cannot be put down – you can try to hide it for a little while, but when all is said and done, it has to shine, and that’s what our show is really about. And lots of gorgeous costumes and characters that come from different backgrounds – sometimes really sad backgrounds, but they’ve prevailed, they’ve really made it through.”
2. Mind your manners
“I know the British public will love our queens. They already have a fabulous Queen, so we are presenting them with the best America has to offer in terms of queendom. I’m a big fan of Queen Elizabeth, because she represents the country in a way that really sets the standard for civilisation around the world. We all get our etiquette and manners and elegance from Great Britain, that’s where it all comes from, and she is the perfect representation of British civility. No one can rock a handbag like Queen Elizabeth.”
3. Listen to your tribal instincts
“It’s important to know thyself, and for people who don’t feel they fit in, it’s important to find your tribe. I remember the first time, when I was a kid in San Diego, California, I felt so alone and I felt I’d been dropped here by aliens from another planet. I remember when I saw Monty Python’s Flying Circus on television, people with this irreverent sense of humour and these ideas towards identity and drag and everything, I felt like, ‘That’s my tribe’. After that, I set out to go and find my people, and I eventually did. So the truth is, your tribe is out there waiting for you. You have to be willing to leave your village or leave your place and go find them, because they’re looking for you too.”
4. Caring and Cher-ing
“We’ve had a lot of huge celebrities on the show, from Paula Abdul to Ariana Grande and Pamela Anderson to Henry Rollins, the list goes on and on – but the real coup would be to have the queen of all drag on the show, and of course, I’m talking about Cher. That would be such a coup. We’ve had her mother and her son Chaz on the show, but we’ve never had Cher herself. We need to make that happen!
“My idols, like David Bowie, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton and Madonna, would also be great, because the truth is, they’re all doing drag. Everyone in showbiz really is in drag. And that’s another reason celebrities do so well as judges on our show, because they understand what it takes to do this.”
5. Follow your heart
“There’s been a lot of talk about Bruce Jenner [the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star who is reportedly undergoing gender reassignment surgery] and people transitioning, but I hold true that every human on this planet is somehow transitioning, we’re all evolving. And I think becoming the realisation of your own imagination is the most powerful thing you can do on this planet. So I applaud anyone who has the courage to be who they feel they are from their heart.”
6. Fake it ’til you make it
“There are days when I don’t feel like leaving the house and I don’t want to dress up, so I do just that, I don’t leave the house. I live in Hollywood and it’s a company town, there are people watching all the time, so if I don’t feel particularly great, I won’t leave the house. But there is an old saying, ‘It’s always good to look your best when you feel your worst’, because it could also turn your mood around when you put on a gorgeous outfit. And that’s the philosophy behind drag – fake it ’til you make it – and you can always create your look through your own imagination.”
7. Take care of yourself
“I love to feel good, and I think whatever life you live ends up showing on your face. So it’s important to be mindful, not only of the thoughts you think, but how you live your life. I used to smoke cigarettes for many years, I quit that a long time ago. I used to drink and party and all that stuff, I don’t do that anymore because as time goes on, especially in showbusiness, it’s important to be there for your work and your loved ones. It’s important to be mindful.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race will air every Monday and Tuesday on truTV from Monday, June 1 at 10pm, followed by RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked, containing exclusive behind-the-scenes content