b. November 17, 1960
“With hair, heels, and attitude, honey, I am through the roof.”
RuPaul is one of the world’s most famous drag queens. He is a successful actor, singer and television host.
Born RuPaul Andre Charles in San Diego, California, RuPaul learned about fashion from his mother and three sisters. His parents divorced when he was 7. At 16, he moved to Atlanta to live with his sister and brother-in-law.
In Atlanta, RuPaul studied acting, performed as a bar dancer and sang with a band. He gained national exposure with a cameo role dancing in the video for the B-52s’ “Love Shack.” In 1987, RuPaul moved to New York, where he became a popular entertainer in the Manhattan nightclub scene. He was crowned “Queen of Manhattan 1990.”
In 1993, RuPaul collaborated with Elton John on a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The following year, RuPaul had his first solo hit single, “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which topped the dance music charts. Three more dance hits followed: “Back to My Roots,” “A Shade Shady” and “House of Love.”
His appearances in “The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995) and Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn” (1995), along with the release of his autobiography “Lettin It All Hang Out” (1996), landed RuPaul a talk show on VH1. He described the “The RuPaul Show” as “the most creatively satisfying, fun-filled working experience I’ve ever had.” That same year, he became a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. In six years, RuPaul helped raise over $22 million for the M.A.C AIDS Fund.
RuPaul had a role in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (1995). In the late 1990’s, he co-hosted the morning show on WKTU-FM, a New York dance music station. He produced and starred in the film “Starrbooty” (2007), which he adapted into a nightclub act. He is the host and executive producer of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and hosts “RuPaul’s Drag U” on Logo.
In 1999, RuPaul was named Entertainer of The Year at the GLAAD Media Awards. In 2002, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Most Beautiful Transsexuals in the World Association.
In 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,
His next two songs/videos, "Back to My Roots" and "A Shade Shady (Now Prance)" both went #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and furthered his campy persona. Between them, "House of Love" was released without a video. It failed to place on any US charts, despite rising to #68 on the UK Singles Chart.
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.
RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for 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." It 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 it 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, 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 wasMichelle 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, he 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 its 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 2002, 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."
related news:RuPaul speaks about society and the state of drag as performance art
On June 13, 2006, RuPaul released ReWorked, his first remix album and fifth album overall. It features reworked versions of songs from his back catalog, as well as new recordings. The only single released from the album is a re-recording of "Supermodel (You Better Work)", reaching number twenty-one on the U.S. dance chart. June 20, 2007 saw the release of Starrbooty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on iTunes in the US. The single "Call Me Starrbooty" was digitally released in 2007. The album contains new tracks from the singer as well as interludes with dialogue from the movie. The film was released on DVD in October 2007.
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 Premiereparty 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.