Since shattering the music industry’s reinforced-glass ceiling in 1992 with the seminal club classic Supermodel (You Better Work), RuPaul has followed his own advice.
The 51-year-old drag pioneer hosts two popular reality TV shows as well as juggling album releases and appearances in much-loved films like To Wong Foo and But I’m A Cheerleader. It is this strong work ethic combined with a rock-solid belief in the power and beauty of drag that finds Ru, as he is affectionately known, at the very top of his game — 30 years into a glittering and groundbreaking career.
Early next month the San Diego-born diva will return to Australia for the first time in 13 years to promote the new season premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Lifestyle You with a handful of eagerly anticipated club shows and to perform at Mardi Gras — on the same bill as one of his favourite divas, Kylie Minogue.
“Love, love, love my Kyles,” he said in a surprisingly convincing Australian accent.
“I presented an award with her years ago at the Brits. So it’s really lovely to be reunited with her. You know, the Australian national treasure.
“That was in the early ’90s when Elton John and I co-hosted the Brit Awards. They wrote this awful joke where I had a magnifying glass and I said, ‘Are you there, Kylie?’
“I felt terrible afterwards and thought, ‘I hope I haven’t hurt her feelings’.”
As well as catching up with the pop princess, who we’re sure won’t hold a grudge, there are other, more personal reasons for the gay icon’s Australian visit.
“I love the culture,” he explained. “I’ve been with this Australian man [artist Georges LeBar] for the past 18 years. He’s from Perth and we’re going to Perth to see his family.
“It’s my family, my adopted culture. I just love it. I love the humour. I love the irreverence and the cheekiness.”
RuPaul then unexpectedly opened up about his romance with LeBar, discussing their open relationship and why it works so well for them.
“As you get older you realise that relationships never end but the form they take on changes,” he said.
“Over the 18 years, the form of our relationship has changed but it hasn’t changed how I feel about him and how, I know, he thinks of me. We are soulmates. If he feels the need to be with someone, then right on. I know that’s not going to change how he feels about me.
“Most people don’t talk about this. Nobody talks about the issue of sex, actually transcending that sexual thing. Nobody talks about it but I know one thing is for sure, no one has ever loved me more on this planet than him and I can tell you this, I’ve never loved anyone more than I’ve loved Georges.”
Clearly warming up to the topic, the quadruple threat (singer/dancer/actor/TV host) turned his attention to more traditional relationships.
“Monogamy really is against human nature,” Ru declared. “It’s a hoax. It’s all based on how fragile someone’s ego is. If you choose to have your bits and pieces exclusive to one person, right on!
“But the human spirit doesn’t abide by that law. The human spirit goes where it wants to go.
“I’m not a slut or anything. If you love someone, you want them to have all this life has to offer … what I’m saying is actually the truth. This is where we, as humans, really need to be.”
After an unexpected detour through his personal life, the proud creator of Drag Race talked enthusiastically about the soon-to-be-aired new season of the popular reality series.
“Oh my god, that’s a great season,” he cheekily boasted. “I’m so happy for you guys because we elevated the show to absolutely amazing heights, really celebrating the art of drag and why it’s so important to our culture and to human beings.
“It’s just so interesting to watch and the kids are hungry and they’re talented and funny. I’m so proud of the show and I gotta tell you, the thing I’m the most proud of is, we get to really unleash these fabulous creatures, these beautiful creatures onto the world.
“It’s so exciting. I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and you know, except for a few people here and there, I’ve been basically alone in this field. So to have 50 girls who have come through our show [is] super exciting.”
While the talent pool might have expanded, RuPaul will show why he still towers over the competition — literally and figuratively — when he takes his club show around Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“It’s gonna be songs from the last two albums but obviously Supermodel and something from my Red Hot album but there’s so much really lovely stuff from the last two albums that I don’t know how much of the older stuff I’m gonna do,” he revealed when asked what we can expect from his live performances.
We concluded our chat by discussing the chances of another drag performer making the leap from community-level success to the mainstream.
“I think that it is possible,” Ru said hopefully. “I think there are certain windows in our culture, in our time where these things can happen.
“In America, in the ’70s, there was a window of time where people who danced to the beat of a different drum sort of slipped through.
“I slipped through in ’92 when politically, Bill Clinton got into office and then I re-emerged during the Obama administration.
“I think those windows come every once in a while and they’re rare. Someone has to be prepared for it. I think it can happen.”
His voice shifted to a more contemplative tone.
“I’m amazed by how our culture feels comfortable in fear and in closed-down-ness. Even gay people. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the gay movement sort of close and regress. It’s a weird study in human behaviour.
“Why do we feel so comfortable with fear instead of openness and love?”
INFO: Catch RuPaul live at Mardi Gras on March 3. Season 3 of Drag Race premieres on You on February 27, 10.30pm.