You Better Work!

Drag queens go to battle, preparing to be read by RuPaul, strut their stuff on the catwalk, and do anything they can to avoid hearing the words "Sashay…away" on RuPaul's Drag Race.

BY Dan Avery

January 30 2009 1:00 AM ET

 Ru PAUL'S DRAG RACE Shannel Xlarge (LOGO) | ADVOCATE.COM

The best part of American Idol is when they
show the train wrecks and rejects. Were there a lot
of hot messes in the submissions for Drag Race?
There were plenty of disasters -- and I wanted
them all on the show. But fortunately other people had
some say in the casting. It would’ve been a
very different show. [Laughs] I love a good train
wreck and I don’t think there’s really a
wrong way to do drag. Anytime someone celebrates the
human form it’s a good thing. The worse the better.

With nine drag queens in one room there must’ve
been a lot of drama.
Tons and tons of drama. It was a really diverse
group -- queens from all over the country ranging from
their early 20s to late 30s. So of course
they’re going to get heated. But mostly I
wasn’t prepared for how emotionally involved
I’d get in them as people. Yes, there’s paint
and powder. But what you really walk away with is the
courage of the human spirit. What kind of person would
go against our culture’s last taboo, messing
with gender roles? What lengths will people go to live in
beauty and love?

In the first episode the girls have to create
brand-new outfits out of thrift store clothes. Are all
the competitions based on their ‘look’?
No, there was a lot more to them. If
they’ve gotten as far as being on the show,
they should have the look down. In one episode they have to
write a rap to my latest single, “Cover Girl.”
Another time they have to read the news from a
TelePrompTer, sell a product on TV, and then interview
a celebrity -- all in just a few minutes. There’s no
time to rehearse; it’s really about seeing what
they're made out of. The challenges sort of follow my
own career. I want to see how well they can do what
I've done.

Getting back to Project Runway for a second,
how did PR contestant Santino Rice get
chosen as a judge? Does he have a drag background?
I’d met Santino a few times before -- we went ice
skating together last year -- and we had a good
connection. I don’t know if he’s done
drag, but he has an amazing background in fashion and pop
culture. Our other regular judge, Merle Ginsberg, is a
fashion journalist who’s been in the biz for
years and she cowrote Paris Hilton’s Confessions
of an Heiress
. Honestly, though, I think
anyone with a clear vision can relate to drag. We all do it
to some extent. You’re born naked and you die
naked. The rest is drag.

Tags: television

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