RuPaul Andre Charles (born November 17, 1960 in San Diego, California), known mononymously as RuPaul, is an American actor, musician, writer, producer, supermodel, entrepreneur, and drag queen. By far the preeminent face of drag in North America and much of the western world, he's been a pop culture fixture for much of the 90's and later became known as the creator and host of RuPaul's Drag Race, which not only revived his own career, but has become partly responsible for bringing the art of drag into mainstream popular culture since its debut in 2009.
Ru was born in 1960 in San Diego, California. His affectionately-foulmouthed mother gave him his distinctive name to encourage him to become a star, because as she put it, "Ain't no motherfucker alive got a name like that!" At the age of 15, he moved with his older sister to Atlanta, where he started his performing career, dabbling in drag, acting, and singing in his glam rock band Wee Wee Pole. And selling used cars by day. After nine years in Atlanta, Ru moved to New York City in 1984 with fellow drag queen Lady Bunny to go for the big time. In addition to taking the crowded NYC drag scene by storm, his first mainstream appearance was as a backup dancer in The B-52s' video for "Love Shack." From there, he made several friends in the media and became known to the general public for his brief but memorable bit parts in films and TV.
As a recording artist, Ru has released ten studio albums as of 2016. His debut single "Supermodel (You Better Work)" was the theme song for MAC Cosmetics during his years as their spokesmodel, and became a minor US chart hit in 1992. He's also collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Taylor Dayne, and Martha Wash.
Selected filmography note
- RuPaul Is: Starbooty! (1987) as Starbooty
- Crooklyn (1994) as Connie
- The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) as Mrs. Cummings
- A Very Brady Sequel (1996)
- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) as Rachel Tensions
- The RuPaul Show (1996 — 1998) as herself
- Nash Bridges (1996 — 1998) as Simone Dubois
- EDtv (1999) as herself
- But I'm a Cheerleader (1999) as Counselor Mike
- RuPaul's Drag Race (2009 — present) as himself / herself
- RuPaul's Drag U (2010 — 2012)
- RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race (2012 — present)
- Drag Race Thailand (2018)
- RuPaul's Drag Race: UK (2019)
- Skin Wars (2014 — present) as himself
- Skin Wars: Fresh Paint (2015 — present)
- Gay For Play Game Show Starring RuPaul (2016 — present) as himself
- Hurricane Bianca (2016) as Weather Man
- Girlboss (2017) as Lionel
- Broad City (2017) as Marcel
- Adam Ruins Everything (2017) as Gil
- Show Dogs (2018) as Persephone (voice)
- Grace and Frankie (2019) as Benjamin Le Day
- AJ and the Queen (2019) as Ruby Red (also co-creator & executive producer)
- Supermodel of The World (1993)
- Foxy Lady (1996)
- Red Hot (2004)
- Champion (2009)
- Glamazon (2011)
- Born Naked (2014)
- Realness (2015)
- Butch Queen (2016)
- American (2017)
- Ho, Ho, Ho (1997)
- Slay Belles (2015)
- Christmas Party (2018)
- Remember Me: Essential, Vol. 1 (2017)
- Essential, Vol. 2 (2017)
RuPaul provides examples of:
- As Himself: Many of his film and television credits consist of him playing himself (or herself) in bit parts.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Since drag really wasn't in the mainstream consciousness in the 1990's, many straight men (including Seth Rogen) were attracted to Ru's drag persona without realizing they were jerking it to a man.
- Be Yourself: The message behind "Born Naked".
- Camp: His brand of humor bounces between this and Refuge in Audacity, such his cameo in To Wong Foo where he's wearing a Confederate flag dress. The fact that he's doing it as a black man in drag makes it all so over-the-top that it's almost impossible to be offended. He and John Waters are often referred to as "Camp's Favorite Sons".
- Dark and Troubled Past: Faced alcoholism and drug addiction in his early years, which he's since recovered from.
- Drag Queen: As a drag performer, he's dabbled in all three of the broadest drag categories (campy, fishy, genderfuck), but is most commonly associated as a campy queen.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Averted; he fully embraces his birth name, and used it for his drag persona.
- Gender-Blender Name: RuPaul isn't a very common name, so it's not associated as being either masculine or feminine.
- LGBT Fanbase: For obvious reasons, RuPaul is practically a deity in queer pop culture. Many drag queens cite him as their inspiration to do drag.
- I Am Not Spock: Averted; RuPaul is actually his name, and not just an pseudonym he uses. However, this can be seen as being played straight as far as his drag persona; in more recent years the only time he dresses in drag regularly is for his main show Drag Race (and even then, only for the last third of an episode), otherwise in all of his other shows (Drag U, Gay for Play, Skin Wars) he appears exclusively out of drag.
- I Call It "Vera": He refers to his drag persona as "The Monster". Also, he names each of his wigs. Additionally, his hats all have names.
- Mainstream Obscurity: Has gone on record as stating that despite the great leaps and bounds drag has taken towards acceptance in popular culture, that it'll never become truly "mainstream". A large part of this is due to the fact he says no matter how popular his show Drag Race or drag in general may become, it will never be taken seriously by the masses, and will always be seen in some aspect in a humorous light.
- Money, Dear Boy: Despite being one of the most well-known drag queens in the business (maybe the world), he says he only does drag because he's paid for it, not because he has a passion for it:RuPaul: "It's not my passion. The only time you will ever see me in drag is when I am ... what? Getting paid. It is my job."
- N-Word Privileges: He's a bit polarizing in the transgender community over whether or not it's appropriate for him to use transgender slurs like "tranny" and "she-male" in his music and tv shows. Even though he respects the community, trans people and their supporters mince no words in pointing out that he's still cisgender and doesn't have a "pass" to use their slurs.
- Only One Name: Almost exclusively known by his first name.
- Platonic Life-Partners:
- With Michelle Visage, one of his closest friends. They co-hosted The RuPaul Show together, and he brought her onto Drag Race when Merle Ginsberg left. They also host the What's The Tee? podcast together, and she's typically the emcee of Drag Race's annual touring show.
- During his Club Kid days he was this with fellow drag queen Lady Bunny, the two having been inseparable in the early days.
- Pronoun Trouble: Subverted; while he identifies as male outside of drag, Ru has gone on record as saying he answers to both masculine and feminine pronouns:RuPaul: You can call me "he." You can call me "she." You can call me Regis & Kathy Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me.
- Pungeon Master: Puns are pretty much a second language for Ru.
- Religion Rant Song: "Devil Made Me Do It" addresses religion in relation to homosexuality.
- Shameless Self-Promoter: Infamous for this. The full title of Drag Race includes his name, and he's always promoting whatever his newest project is — usually on Drag Race itself, which has featured challenges based on his music and films.
- Starmaking Role: While Ru himself had no definite moment that unambiguously shot him to the top, RuPaul's Drag Race has become this for many of his contestants, many of whom went from only being known in their hometown's drag scenes to becoming international stars.
- Trope Codifier: Even before Drag Race, Ru has been the face of Drag in North America. He's basically the American equivalent of Dame Edna.
- You Can't Go Home Again: The song "Never Go Home Again" is about how queer people often escape unaccepting home lives and create new families within the LGBT community.