RuPaul Andre Charles put it best when he said in his own words, “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.” Popularly referenced in the entertainment industry as simply RuPaul, the world’s first drag queen supermodel for MAC Cosmetics (or any other company) hit the ground running with the international dance classic, “Supermodel (You Better Work)” via Tommy Boy Records. His follow-up singles “A Shade Shady (Now Prance)” and “Back to My Roots” both went #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts in 1993. That same year, a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Elton John would land RuPaul the highest single of his career on the UK Singles Chart (it went to spot #7). In total, the outspoken singer-songwriter would release four studio albums and one holiday album between the years 1993 and 2009.
Born in San Diego, California on November 17, 1960, RuPaul was raised as a “little adult” and had three female siblings. With their mother and father fighting a lot of the time, the children would run and hide in their bedrooms and look after one another. RuPaul has said of this formative time, “The divorce was as ugly and nasty as it could have gotten. I thought it was all my fault. I wouldn’t understand how traumatized I was by it until I was well into my twenties. My mother basically shut down for a couple of years – isolating in her room with Valium and Lithium. We went on welfare and we kids became little adults, taking care of mom and keeping secrets from social workers, daddy and anyone else who could threaten our family.”
When he came out in his twenties, RuPaul encountered hardship. He wrote, “I had moved to midtown that summer and lived with my first boyfriend, Todd. We had a rocky relationship which proved to me that I had learned more from my parents than I thought or cared to. It’s no wonder why it had taken me so long to hook up.”
Perhaps best known for his role in producing the reality game show RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul became a household name utilizing his talents for placement, pop, and pizzazz. MTV-owned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) channel Logo premiered the one-of-a-kind fashion adventure show on February 2, 2009. The first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race was considered the most successful launch for the three-year-old Logo network. Traffic to the show’s website broke records and RuPaul was front page news. A feat never accomplished by a drag queen before him (African American or otherwise).
RuPaul released his 2009 album Champion directly to iTunes and Amazon and it shot to the #1 spot on the iTunes Dance Album chart with singles, “Cover Girl” and “Jealous of My Boogie.” RuPaul premiered his second reality television show for Logo called RuPaul’s Drag U on July 19, 2010.
* Photo by David Shankbone