U Better Learn
RuPaul Charles has certainly done more than his share to bring the riveting world of drag to the masses. From his beginnings to the New York circuit to iconic music and his lasting media infiltration, RuPaul has emerged as an entertainment mogul. Now he's bringing us all along for quite the educational ride. Many may be familiar with RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo, the tumultuous, dramatic and exceedingly entertaining quest to find America's next favorite drag queen. Now coming up for a second season is RuPaul's Drag U, a competition that merges feel-good Oprah-like makeovers with some serious sass, death-defying heels, and mile-long mink eyelashes. Gearing up for the season premiere of the show that gives women a boost with the guidance of some of our favorite Drag Racers (Raven, Manilla Luzon, and Shannel lead the lessons this Monday), RuPaul talks about the transformative powers of drag — and Carly Simon.
The Advocate: So how did you know that the female viewers of Drag Race were saying to themselves, Hey! I want to do that too?
RuPaul: Drag really is something that we are all doing. We're spiritual beings having an experience, and everyone on the planet is essentially creating a character. Drag also just reminds us to have fun. It's important to not take the character we've all created too seriously.
I am amazed at how conversations can get really contentious about our favorite queens on Drag Race. Do people confront you, appalled with any particular eliminations, or decisions to keep other queens?
No, I think people get very passionate about their favorites, but they're along for the ride, they see what's going down. They see, basically, people who don't come up to bat for the challenge. They may get passionate about it, but no one's really gotten combative to me about it. I think everyone understands that I want them all to succeed. I've basically handpicked each of them. Nobody's going to get through if I don't think they're ready to succeed as a star.
I've noticed that you and your Drag U professors are avid Facebook and Twitter users. How has social media used the way drag queens work?
What I admire about these kids now is that they're very courageous
people who really look outside the box. They've had to earn their place
outside of the box. They're very clever, and really very sensitive about
what's happening socially. In fact, when I was working downtown in New York, us girls would have to go out to every single club so promoters knew we stayed excited about us. Now there's so much information out there that if you're not around for a week, people forget you. It's hard to keep people on your mind. I was just telling someone this week that as a child I owned about two albums, and for months I would play them over and over: No Secrets by Carly Simon and the Beatles' Let It Be. Kids today, there's so much out there, but unless they've been told or they know something about it, they don't know to go and look up those records or even stuff put out a year ago. But what's great is that now I can see a little clip of someone and then that leads you to dig up their whole
body of work spanning back decades.
What is a lesson that all people, male, female, gay, straight, whatever, can learn from drag queens?
The takeaway is that you are a spiritual being having a human experience. So much so that this body you are in is like a drag queen. So the biggest lesson is don't take life too seriously. It's the same lesson that witch doctors and shamans — another name for a drag queen in another time — have learned: You are so much bigger than your ego. Don't get lost in your character. That's why so many people oppose drag; it's less the gay thing, but more the ego is threatened because drag queens mock the ego. Ego loves identity. Drag mocks identity. Ego hates drag.