RuPaul needs no introduction. His name is legendary in the world of fashion and beauty. Not only was he the first spokesmodel for M.A.C.’s Viva Glam cosmetics line, but he revolutionized the culture of drag queens culture with his universal appeal. The Queen-in-Charge is making a majestic return with “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a dramality competition that will allow the winner to record with the supermodel. RuPaul spills the tea with ESSENCE.com about his disappearing act, why people mistrust drag queens and the reason he believes President Obama supports gay marriages.
ESSENCE.COM: The Original Diva is back! We are loving the show. Why’d you choose now to do it?
RUPAUL: People have been trying to do a show like this for years but it never got off the ground. I wasn’t ready to do reality TV. It was important that I keep the integrity and place drag in our rightful place. Over the past 8 to 10 years our country swung into this fundamentalism, fear-based philosophy that made it impossible for free thinkers like me to carry on. All of a sudden, liberal became a bad word. In that climate it was the best time for someone like me to go underground and take a step back because people like me become a target of the lynch mentality. I hope my show will help change that.
ESSENCE.COM: So will the show be filled with a lot of diva drama?
RUPAUL: We really could have focused on the bitchiness and there is definitely the cattiness, but that is inherent in any competition. The real focus is the creativity to step out of the house as a boy with lipstick, heels and be fabulous. The show focuses on the challenges; it’s like “America’s Next Top Model” meets “Project Runway.” Throughout the course of the show, you do get each of their girls’ personal stories and there is a level of camaraderie and commonality among them. I wasn’t prepared for how emotionally involved I’d get with the girls. I handpicked each of them and fell in love with them all.
ESSENCE.COM: Now that you’re famous, do you still get the naysayers?
RUPAUL: I hear all kinds of things. It obviously goes deeper than, Oh you dress as a woman. I think there is an innate distrust of not only gay people but drag queens who are, again, quite frankly, making fun of the culture. That’s where the mistrust lies because we are saying to the culture, Don’t take yourself so seriously because you are an extension of The One who created this universe, so stop playing yourself small by limiting yourself to this box and own your power. That’s what [The First Family] means to me. Their presence says: step up to your throne and own your power! I think drag queens have always been placed in a bad light but everyone needs to know that you are not your religion or your race. You are a part of something much bigger.
ESSENCE.COM: You mentioned the First Family. How do you feel about President Obama’s stand on civil unions versus gay marriages?
RUPAUL: First let me say that I am so grateful to have witnessed his election. Not only has it given me back my country and made me proud of my country, but it has infused our country with so much hope which is a tangible valuable. His presidency is more than an idea. It changes the way we dress, the way we see ourselves—–everything. If this man and his wife do nothing else, they’ve done enough because what they’ve given us as a people what can’t be put into words. President Obama is a very intelligent man and he’s also a politician. People always want to force your hand on what they want you to say. He’s no dummy. He knows exactly what to say to make everybody cool with him and everyone feels included. Of course he supports gay marriages. He knows there’s no difference and we all have personal liberties, but he also knows there are certain things he can’t say or else folks would be up in arms. Remember, you can’t say everything to everybody. Folks like to think they can handle the truth, but they skirt around it so much it’s obvious they truly can’t.
ESSENCE.COM: Throughout the history of drag culture, impersonators have received a lot hostility. Are there any misconceptions about drag queens that you’d like to clear up?
RUPAUL: As drag queens we understand what is real more than anyone else because we manipulate the truth in costume and makeup. It’s a huge part of why the human spirit is so engaging. The truth about drag queens is that we are only one person, we are not separate. Drag celebrates the beauty of being a human and says none of us should take ourselves too seriously. People should do whatever they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. As far as what other people think, some people have their own agenda when they try to categorize. I’m not a stickler for details because I believe we are all one. We like to break ourselves into categories like sex, politics, race, the car we drive and so on. But I say: Stop it already! We’re all human and have the same needs and it’s time we start focusing on what makes us the same and not different.
Check out Drag Race on Logo on Mondays at 10 PM ET