actor, drag queen, model, author, and singer-songwriter, who first became widely known in the 1990s when he appeared in a wide variety of television programs, films, and musical albums. Previously, he was a fixture on the Atlanta and New York City club scenes during the 1980s and early 90s. RuPaul has on occasion performed as a man in a number of roles, usually billed as RuPaul Charles. RuPaul is noted among famous drag queens for his indifference towards the gender-specific pronouns used to address him—both "he" and "she" have been deemed acceptable. "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me." He hosted a short-running talk show on VH1, and currently hosts reality television shows called RuPaul's Drag Race and RuPaul's Drag U.
BiographyRuPaul was born in San Diego, California. His name was given to him by his mother, a Louisiana native. The Ru came from roux, an ingredient used in gumbo. RuPaul struggled as a musician and filmmaker in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1980s. He participated in underground cinema, helping create the low-budget film Star Booty, and an album by the same name. In Atlanta, RuPaul often performed at the Celebrity Club (managed by Larry Tee) as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole, which included the late Todd Butler. RuPaul's first prominent national exposure came with a featured role dancing in the video for "Love Shack" by the B-52s.
In the early 1990s, RuPaul worked the Georgia club scene and was known by his full birth name. Initially participating in genderfuck-style performances, RuPaul performed solo and in collaboration with other bands at several New York nightclubs, most notably the Pyramid Club. He appeared for many years at the annual Wigstock drag festival and appeared in the documentary Wigstock: The Movie. In the '90s, RuPaul was known in the UK for his appearances on the Channel 4 series Manhattan Cable, a weekly series produced by World of Wonder and presented by American Laurie Pike about New york`s wild and wacky public-access television system.
CareerIn 1993, RuPaul recorded dance/house albums which included Supermodel of the World. They were released through the rap label Tommy Boy, spawning the dance track hit "Supermodel (You Better Work)". The music video was an unexpected success on MTV channels, as grunge-rock (Nirvana) and gangsta rap were popular at the time. The song peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It further charted on the UK Singles Chart, peaking on the top 40 at #39. The song found the most success peaking at number 2 on the US dance music charts (known as the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart). Airplay, heavy rotation of the music video on the MTV network and television appearances on popular programs like The Arsenio Hall Show popularized the song.
|“||What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn't change what I decide to do. I don't choose projects so people don't see me as one thing or another. I choose projects that excite me. I think the problem is that people refuse to understand what drag is outside of their own belief system.||”|
RuPaul caused a controversy at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards when he presented an award with actor Milton Berle, who performed an altogether different type of drag early in his career. The two had conflicts back-stage, and when Berle touched RuPaul's false breasts, RuPaul ad-libbed the line "So you used to wear gowns, but now you're wearing diapers." A surprised Berle replied, "Oh, we're going to ad lib? I'll check my brain and we'll start even." The press portrayed the exchange as a crack in the "love everyone" message RuPaul presented, and as a young newcomer treating a legend poorly. RuPaul would later describe the situation in his autobiography, describing Berle's behavior backstage as sexually inappropriate and rude. He did regret the situation, saying: "Of course, what I should have done backstage is told him 'Get your dirty hands off of me, you motherfucker!', and then gone out there and been Miss Black America." That same year would also mark his biggest hit on the UK Singles Chart, a remake of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Elton John, which went to number seven. It was around this time that RuPaul co-hosted the BRIT Awards in London, also with Elton John.
MAC Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. Various billboards featured him in full drag, often with the text "I am the MAC girl." He also released his autobiography, Lettin' It All Hang Out. He promoted that book in part with a 1995 guest appearance on ABC's All My Children, in a storyline that put him on the set of Erica Kane's talk show "The Cutting Edge".
The next year he landed a talk show of his own on VH1, called The RuPaul Show, interviewing celebrity guests and musical acts. Diana Ross, Nirvana (even though Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994), Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Mary J. Blige, Bea Arthur, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Olivia Newton-John, Beenie Man, Pete Burns, Bow Wow Wow, and the Backstreet Boys were notable guests. His co-host was Michelle Visage, with whom he also co-hosted on WKTU radio. On one episode, RuPaul featured guests Chi Chi LaRue and Tom Chase speaking about the gay porn industry.
Later in the year he released his second album, Foxy Lady, this time on the L.A.-based Rhino Records label. Despite his growing celebrity, it failed to chart within the Billboard 200. However, the first single "Snapshot" found success in the dance market and went to number four on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. It also enjoyed limited mainstream success, charting at number ninety-five on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was his second and only other Hot 100 entry). The second single "Little Bit of Love" only charted at number 28 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The album featured covers of a 1981 Diana Ross song "Work That Body", co-written by Paul Jabara and "If You Were a Woman and I Was a Man", originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler. Because of his strong fan base within the gay community, RuPaul has performed at gay pride events and numerous gay clubs. During this time RuPaul helped launch the return of WKTU radio in New York City and would serve as host (with Michelle Visage) of the morning show until 1998.
In 1997, he released his third album, a Christmas album entitled Ho, Ho, Ho. He has had guest appearances in many films, including both Brady Bunch movies, in which he played Jan's female guidance counselor. In 1997, RuPaul teamed with Martha Wash to remake the classic disco anthem, "It's Raining Men". The song was included on the 1998 compilation CD RuPaul's Go Go Box Classics, which was a collection of some of his favorite dance songs by other artists; this would be his third and final release through Rhino Records and a major record label. It was during this time that he appeared in Webex TV commercials and magazine ads. In 2001 he recorded with Brigitte Nielsen, credited as Gitta, the Eurodance track "You're No Lady".
In 2004, RuPaul released his fourth album, Red Hot on his own RuCo Inc. label. It received some dance radio and club play, but very little press coverage. On his blog, RuPaul discussed how he felt betrayed by the entertainment industry, particularly the gay press. In one incident, it was noted that the magazine Entertainment Weekly refused to review the album, instead asking him to make a comedic contribution to a fashion article. He likened the experience to "a black person being invited to a party, but only if they'll serve." Despite his apparent dissatisfaction with the release, Red Hot showed RuPaul returning to the top of the dance charts in the US with the lead off single "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" hitting number two on the dance chart. The second, "WorkOut", peaked at number five. The third and final single from the album "People Are People" a duet with Tom Trujillo peaked at number 10. The album itself only charted on the Top Electronic Albums chart, where it hit number nine. When asked about this in an interview, RuPaul said, "Well, betrayed might be the wrong word. 'Betrayed' alludes to an idea that there was some kind of a promise made to me, and there never was. More so, I was disappointed. I don't feel like it was a betrayal. Nobody promises anything in show business and you understand that from day one. But, I don't know what happened. It seemed I couldn't get press on my album unless I was willing to play into the role that the mainstream press has assigned to gay people, which is as servants of straight ideals."
In mid 2008, RuPaul began producing RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality television game show which aired on Logo in February 2009. The premise of the program has several drag queens compete to be selected by RuPaul and a panel of judges as "America's next drag superstar". The first season's winner was BeBe Zahara Benet, and first runner-up Nina Flowers was chosen by fans as "Miss Congeniality" through voting via the show's official website. In publicity preparation for the new show, RuPaul made appearances as a guest on several other shows in 2008 including as a guest judge on episode 6 of season 5 of Project Runway and as a guest "chef" on Paula's Party.
In March 2009, RuPaul released the album Champion to iTunes and Amazon. The album topped the iTunes dance album chart at #1 and features the dance singles "Cover Girl" and "Jealous of My Boogie", both anthems from the reality show RuPaul's Drag Race. Logo's second annual NewNowNext Awards in 2009 were hosted by RuPaul. There he performed "Jealous of My Boogie (Gomi & RasJek Edit)". In March 2010, RuPaul released his second remix album, Drag Race to iTunes. The album features remixes of songs from the 2009 album Champion and the brand new song "Hit the Floor".
In April 2011, coinciding with the finale of season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race, RuPaul released his fifth studio album Glamazon, produced by Revolucian, who previously worked with RuPaul on his album Champion. The album charted on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart and the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart at #11 and #8 respectively. In July 2011, RuPaul released another remix EP on iTunes entitled SuperGlam DQ, which features remixes of tracks from Glamazon, remixes of the "Drag U Theme Song", and a new song, "Sexy Drag Queen". Starting in June 2011, the second season of RuPaul's Drag U aired. Late 2011, promotions for RuPaul's Drag Race (season 4) began. RuPaul made appearances on The Rosie Show and The Chew, and also attended a Drag Race NY Premiere party at Patricia Fields store in New York. Season 4 of RuPaul's Drag Race premiered on Logo (TV Channel) on January 30, 2012, with RuPaul returning as the main host and judge.
Supermodel of the World (1993)
Foxy Lady (1996)
Red Hot (2004)
Year Title Role
1994 Sister, Sister Marje
1995 In the House Kevin
1998 Hercules Rock Guardian "Hercules and the Girdle of Hyppolyte"
1998 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Member of the Witches Council/A hair dresser
1998 Walker, Texas Ranger Bob
2001 Popular Sweet Honey Child
2002 Son of the Beach Heinous Anus (credited as RuPaul Charles)
2009 Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World Tyler
2009 – present RuPaul's Drag Race Himself - Host/Judge (also producer)
2010 Ugly Betty Rudolph, emcee of the cabaret
2010 – present RuPaul's Drag U Himself - Host (also producer)
Year Title Role Notes
1987 RuPaul Is: Starbooty!
1994 Crooklyn Connie, the Bodega Woman
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Mrs Cummings
1995 Wigstock: The Movie Himself
1995 Blue in the Face Dancer
1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Rachel Tensions
1995 Red Ribbon Blues Duke
1995 A Mother's Prayer Deacon "Dede"
1996 Fled Himself
1996 A Very Brady Sequel Mrs Cummings
1998 An Unexpected Life Charles
1999 EDtv RuPaul
1999 But I'm a Cheerleader Mike
2000 The Eyes of Tammy Faye Narrator
2000 The Truth About Jane Jimmy
2000 For the Love of May Jimbo
2001 Who is Cletis Tout? Ginger Markum
2005 Michael Lucas' Dangerous Liaisons Cameo
2006 Work it Girl: The Music videos
2006 Zombie Prom: The Movie Delilah Strict
2007 Starrbooty Starrbooty/Cupcake
2008 Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild Tyrell Tyrelle
Year Title Role
1983 The Blue Boy Terror
1983 Wild Thing
1983 Terror II
1984 Terror 3D
1986 Mahogany II
1986 Psycho Bitch
1986 American Porn Star
1987 Police Lady
1989 Vampire Hustlers
1999 Rick and Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World Daryl.com
2004 Skin Walker
2006 Zombie Prom Mrs. Strict
2008 How We Got Over