Drag legend RuPaul has always been rather relaxed about gender specifics, famously declaring in his 1995 autobiography, You can call me he. You can call me she. I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.
Call him I did, and on the day we chatted, RuPaul was studiously working in an LA production office -” presumably de-wigged, so he seemed more appropriate. Besides, there was no time to agonise over pronouns -” his sheer delight at hearing an Australian accent threatened to derail the interview before it even began.
Oh, I’m an Aussiephile, more than you could ever imagine, he purred.
Who’s your favourite, the Star wondered? Hugh Jackman? Eric Bana?
I would have to say my ex-mother-in law. She is completely out of control. She looks like the mother in Strictly Ballroom -“ she wears shoulder pads under her T-shirts. Always in pedal pushers and high heels. Total drag queen. She truly has personality.
He’s keen to revisit Australia, but said, I wouldn’t come at this time of the year. When I came for Christmas in ’95 I was in Perth, and I couldn’t believe the flies flying into my eyes, my ears and my nose.
Perhaps he’s overdue for an appearance at Mardi Gras?
I could do that. Do the flies also attack Sydney?
Not really, I reassured him. They’re all eaten by the funnelwebs -” you know, those spiders that like to hide in people’s clothing and can kill a person with a single bite.
There was a worried pause at the end of the line, followed by an uproarious laugh that doesn’t seem to end.
It’s this infectious positivity that’s been instrumental in RuPaul’s success since he entered public consciousness in the early ’90s. Over the years, the seven-foot tall gender-bending African-American has collected a wide range of unlikely fans.
People who might have otherwise thought of my profession as subversive were able to get on board because I’m a likeable person, he explained. Grandmothers, grandfathers, people who wouldn’t otherwise be fans -” they find it easy to be in a room with me.
Nowadays RuPaul is an industry, with successful forays into film, music, modelling and TV presenting. He recently made a notable cameo appearance in the film Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild. The Star had previously spoken to Jimmy Clabots, the token straight hunk of the cast, who described the filming process as like gay summer camp. RuPaul agreed with his
It was great. Jimmy was a real joy, and his big titties and his big fat ass were a joy to see every day! he laughed.
We filmed it a year ago, right before Christmas, and to spend my Christmas on the beach with all these beautiful men was fantastic.
With the film in the can, RuPaul is moving on to another project, this time in reality TV.
RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres on US gay-friendly cable network Logo in February (Australian viewers will be able to watch the show via the website, www.rupaulsdragrace.logoonline.com).
It’s America’s Next Top Model for drag queens, with nine showgirls battling it out for the title of America’s best. Despite this new foray into reality TV, RuPaul has never been much of a fan of the genre.
I haven’t, mainly because the tone of most of the shows is kind of mean. We made sure we are celebratory, rather than inflammatory. It really celebrates the courage it takes to do drag.
Despite the celebratory nature of the show, RuPaul acknowledged the very concept of nine drag queens competing against each other brought with it a whole lot of drama.
There has been a lot of drama on the show, but these girls are professionals and at the top of their game -” we had thousands who applied, and we only picked these nine.
The contestants face a number of celebrity guest judges during the series, including ex-Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams and Tori Spelling (who’s arguably about as close to a drag queen you can get when you’re born with a vagina).
The contestants had no idea what was coming, so they were very excited to meet the guest judges. But they were really more excited to meet the cabana boys on the show who were prancing around in very little clothing. That kept them on their tippy-toes.
Interestingly, RuPaul said he felt Drag Race couldn’t have been made even a few short years ago, with the recent election of Barack Obama setting the cultural mood for the show.
We’ve been living in a culture of fear for the last eight years, and they’ve controlled us with that. Now the pendulum is swinging firmly and swiftly to the left. I think the show is really part of that -” this show couldn’t have happened without a collective shift in our consciousness.
I really believe that this show is going to go down as one of my crowing achievements. Not only am I introducing the world to the girls, but in a way I’m passing my crown on to a new generation.
He may be passing on his crown, but RuPaul shows no signs of slowing down.
I’m a creative person, I love creating. I’d love to produce a girl group of drag queens, I’d love to create a line of clothing and wigs, I’d love to write another book. There’s still plenty left to do.
info: Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild available now.