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Explainer

Who is RuPaul? The man redefining drag for a generation

Bea Mitchell April 27, 2018

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

You’re here because you don’t know who RuPaul is, which means you’re here because you were cryogenically frozen in 1980 and have only just been thawed out.

It’s fine, we’re here to help. Gay marriage is legal in the UK and US, and a drag queen named RuPaul has taken the world by storm.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, RuPaul Andre Charles (his full name) is an American drag queen, actor, model, singer, songwriter, TV personality and author.

He’s most famous producing and hosting reality competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race since 2009, for which he received two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016 and 2017.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

(Amanda Edwards/Getty)

To give you an indication of just how important RuPaul is, the 57-year-old host of RuPaul’s Drag Race very recently became the world’s first drag artist to be recognised with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

RuPaul said he was “overcome with so much emotion” to get the honour he’d dreamed of since he was a child.

“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” he added.

Related: Drag Race star Tyra Sanchez banned from DragCon as fans report her to the FBI

RuPaul’s Drag Race

 

(RuPaul’s Drag Race)

Drag Race is a reality series which pits drag queens against each other to perform drag shows on a catwalk as they compete to be crowned winner.

The show is now in its tenth season, and Ru Paul is in search of the next top “drag superstar” and mentors the cast as well as hosting the show and being the head judge on the show too.

American TV personalities Michelle Visage, Ross Mathews and Carson Kressley are the other permanent judges on the show, but a rotating panel of guest judges (including Christina Aguilera this series) appear here and there.

(RuPaul’s Drag Race)

Related: Everything you need to know about RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10

Contestants take part in weekly challenges which lead to the ultimate final challenge, where one racer will be crowned drag queen of the series.

Challenges are split into ‘mini’ and ‘main’ challenges, with one main challenge per episode which has its own distinct theme. Challenges can involve making outfits, or the way an individual queen conducts themselves in front of an audience.

All prior seasons of Drag Race are available to watch on Netflix.

What about RuPaul’s personal life?

 

RuPaul and Georges LeBar (Getty for Time)

Related: RuPaul apologises for anti-trans drag queen comments

Well, RuPaul is a pretty private man, so we don’t know all that much about his personal life.

However, we do know that he married his partner of more than two decades, Georges LeBar, in a secret wedding in January 2017.

LeBar, a Wyoming rancher, had managed to stay out of the public eye for 23 years before the pair were snapped by paparazzi together last year.

Of his marriage, RuPaul told Hollywood Today: “We got married, actually, on our 23rd anniversary.

“I met him on the dancefloor at Limelight in 1994 on his birthday, so we got married on his birthday, the anniversary of when we met, this year in January.

“We wanted to do it… we were looking into it for tax breaks and financial things.”

And, of his husband, he added: “He’s a great guy, he doesn’t care about showbiz at all. He couldn’t care less. When [the paparazzi] caught us, we were in New York.

“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” – RuPaul

“Most of the time he’s on the ranch in Wyoming.

“He has a 6,000 acre ranch, but when we have a chance to do anything, we want to go somewhere fabulous like Maui or New York because… god bless you Wyoming, but it’s very boring and the most isolated place on Earth.

“When I go there, I dress up in Western wear but nobody cares! I dress up in the most gorgeous Western outfits.”

After revealing he’d got married, RuPaul was subjected to homophobic abuse.

One wrote: “Donald Trump will end this liberal gay agenda BS,” in a post on social media.

“Whoever gives a f*** about him or her or whatever the fuck it is should kill themselves”, another pondered.

Another comment read: “Freaks, this shit should not be glorified.”

Ru ignored the abuse and responded to the mainly positive reaction, writing: “Thank you all for the love & kindness. ‘I cry not for myself, but for those who never felt the joy we felt’~The Supremes “I Hear A Symphony””.

An abundance of other notable things RuPaul has done

RuPaul studied theatre at the North Atlanta School of Performing Arts. He became the lead singer of rock band Wee Wee Pole before moving to New York in the mid-eighties.

Although he was named Queen of Manhattan in 1989, he became internationally famous with the song “Supermodel (You Better Work).”

His first feature film was Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, though he has had roles in over 50 films and TV sitcoms, including 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader, as well as TV shows Bojack Horseman, 2 Broke Girls, The Muppets, and Ugly Betty.

In 1994, Ru became a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics, raising money for the Mac AIDS Fund. He was the first drag queen to land a major cosmetics campaign.

In the same year, RuPaul got his own talk show, The RuPaul Show. He hosted over 100 episodes, simultaneously co-hosting the morning radio show on WKTU with Michelle Visage, with whom he currently hosts the podcast RuPaul: What’s the Tee?

There’s more…

RuPaul Charles poses with his Emmy(Frederick M. Brown/GettyImages
(Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

Related: RuPaul’s Drag Race stars throw shade over Robbie Turner’s car crash claims

RuPaul has also released 14 studio albums, including Foxy Lady (1996), Champion (2009), Glamazon (2011), Born Naked (2014), and American (2017).

He has a wax portrait at Madame Tussauds in NYC, an annual drag convention – RuPaul’s DragCon – which gets 75,000 attendees each year, and Bad Robot and Star Wars‘ JJ Abrams are developing a Hulu scripted TV series based on Ru’s life, which, presumably, will need to have 500+ episodes to fit it all in.

Because he’s also won two Emmy Awards (Outstanding Host for a Reality Competition Program), a Critics Choice award for Best Reality TV Host, an MTV 2017 Movie and TV Award for Best Reality Competition, and he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2017.

And, finally – and most importantly – he’s been made into a Funko Pop! toy.

More: drag, drag queens, rupaul, RuPaul's Drag Race

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