RuPaul Drag Race Judge Carson Kressley Says He’s Living His Best Life

RuPaul Drag Race Judge Carson Kressley Says He’s Living His Best Life
Image: Carson Kressley. Image: Facebook

Carson Kressley, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was in Sydney recently, and he took the time to speak exclusively with the Star Observer about his remarkable career path and his status as one of the most recognisable LGBTQ celebrities on television. 

“I grew up in a very rural town in Pennsylvania, outside of Allentown, which is a steel town; so not super progressive or forward-thinking,” Kressley says. “Growing up there, you just know that you’re different. You think there’s something wrong with you.”

“Then I did the classic experience, which is as soon as you’re old enough, move to New York City, and then you find your tribe and you come out…When you’re in a new city, especially someplace like New York or San Francisco or Sydney or London, you find a lot of people that are like you and you find a safety net. And that’s when you feel comfortable and empowered to really be your authentic self.”

Coming Out To Family


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Kressley says coming out to his family didn’t come as a major surprise. “I think they always knew. I was the kid that was asking for tea sets and Barbie dolls, so I think they knew and like many parents, they probably did not want to either broach the subject or didn’t want to believe it, but they knew it.”

“When I came out, just before doing Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I had all those fears most people do of rejection and being kicked out of the house, even though I had my own house…But they were wonderful and wound up being incredibly proud of all of my work and just who I was and it was not an issue. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Kressley’s transition into a TV and media celebrity is something he is proud of, particularly for it showing others that it is ok to be your authentic self.


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“I’m very proud to be involved with two of the most important LGBTQ shows on television, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think what’s similar about them, even though they’re like 20 years apart, is that they show Queer people…being authentic, being unapologetic, and just being visible.” 

“Visibility is so important. You could be in Malaysia or Milwaukee, and you can see people on Drag Race being celebrated for exactly who they are, and often they’re people that have not had an easy time getting to where they are. They may not have been celebrated much before but a light has been shone on them and their craft…and that’s very powerful for young people to see. It says hey, I can I feel different or I feel marginalized, but I see people who are being celebrated for being exactly who they are. I can be proud of myself as well.”

From Ralph Lauren To Queer Eye

Before he became a household name, Kressley had no idea of what life had in store for him.

“I was working for Ralph Lauren. I was a stylist at a great job. We went all over the world with beautiful male models and cashmere sweaters, and Labrador Retriever puppies, shooting beautiful ad campaigns. Then a co-worker said, ‘oh, I heard about this show; it’s going to be on Bravo,’ and at that point, I was like what’s Bravo? A nonstick cooking spray? She said, ‘you should try out.  They need a stylist who is a real live out gay man.’ I was like, ‘that’s moi.’”

“They cast the pilot based on the chemistry of me and four other gays. I told my bosses at Ralph Lauren, ‘I’m just gonna go do this thing but like nothing’s gonna happen.’ Then nothing did happen for a year. Then they call back saying, we’re going to make the show…Can you quit your job?”

“I was like, ‘Do you even have dental insurance?’ How am I going to quit my job? I have a great job and it was literally like $2,000 an episode and the guarantee was eight episodes. I was like, I’m quitting my job for $16,000!”

“I had a fantastic boss at Ralph Lauren named Liz Paley. She [said], ‘You should do it. And if it doesn’t work out, we’ll hire you back,’ which is like the ultimate scenario. So I did it.”

“I didn’t really think anybody was gonna see it. There was some trepidation from other networks; they’re like, ‘oh, no, the name is too aggressive.’” 

“Bravo from the get-go was very supportive about it. The producers and the creators of the show were very adamant that it be called Queer Eye because it was…reclaiming that word, and putting a positive spin on it…it’s not something derogatory.”

“The show came out in 2003, and like a week later, we were on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The network sent us to LA and we got to the Beverly Hilton and they had sunglasses for us like ‘you’re gonna need these,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t think so.’ But we did. And here I am. 20 years later, still working.”

TV Celebrity


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Kressley has continued to build an enviable CV of reality show appearances including I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, season three of Celebrity Big Brother and season 13 of Dancing With the Stars.

Kressley was named “America’s Favourite HouseGuest” for his appearance in Celebrity Big Brother. “I’m not sure if that show is always toxic,” he says. “It’s not my kind of show. I was just like, ‘I’m not going to be a conniving horrible person. I’m just gonna have some integrity and have fun,’ which is what I did.”

“The most important thing on a show like that, having done TV for 20 years, is that you learn about perspective. These shows are on for six or eight weeks and then it’s over. So do not ruin your life by trying to win a reality show. It’s not worth it.”

Dancing with the Stars was a happy experience for Kressley. “I had a great time…and that is a very positive show. Even though it’s a competition, it’s not. It’s more of a competition with yourself.  I think most people get that and they try to be the best version of themselves. They try to be a good dancer, but they know that they’re not, you know? They don’t have to win at all costs; so you become a family. I made great friends on that show.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Carson Kressley, Michelle Visage, RuPaul Charles and Ross Matthews. Image: Facebook

As for Kressley’s regular appearance as a Drag Race judge, is it hard not to play favourites with cast members? “As a judge, we don’t really see the backstory and the drama and the personal relationships between the cast until the show airs,” he says. “We see it with the audience.”

“My job is to come in, learn what the challenge was, look at the runway looks and then give very objective, hopefully, considered constructive criticism on how they can stay on the show. I don’t really get into the personal drama.”

“As you watch them go through the process of the show, there are certain people you just are more drawn to that become favourites, but I think we do a really good job…in keeping it as objective as possible and saying this was the challenge this week.”

One important part of Kressley’s life that fans may not know is that he is a champion equestrian with a couple of world championship titles to his name.

“There’s a breed called the Friesian. They’re from Holland so I have a couple of titles there. My favourite breed is probably American Saddlebreds which are like the supermodels of the show ring. They’re high-stepping and very fancy. They have great hair and makeup and cute outfits. I have a couple of titles from there. Then I just got a new horse last year. That’s a completely different division which is basically driving like a racehorse. Hopefully, I’ll do well in that division also.”

Love Of Styling

As for Kressley’s love of styling, he says he now only does it “for friends and family and some celebrities who asked me to do it.”

“I don’t do it professionally anymore, but whenever I see a great catalogue or an ad campaign, and when I see a great Ralph Lauren photo or a runway show, I think, ‘oh my god, I really would love to go back and do somebody’s catalogue and go to the Bahamas for two weeks and just, you know, put outfits together. It’s so fun.”

“My favourite thing in the world is putting a person in clothes and then telling the story through your photograph.”

Kressley admits he is living his best life.  “I wake up and literally my mantra is like, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ I’m so blessed,” he says.


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