All the way from LA we speak to the gorgeous RuPaul about the best way to deal with young drag queen tantrums, living the bohemian lifestyle, Britney’s ‘bitch track’, and men in dark rooms where it doesn’t matter what they f**k!
How does it feel to be a national treasure?
Who have you been talking to? (Laughter) I didn’t know I was. The best anyone can do is to be themselves to the fullest and to not really compromise your own lovely beautiful spirit. I think if other people get something out of that, that’s great, but that’s never been my reason for doing what I do, to give other people something. It’s really a selfish reason, it’s really to have fun whilst I’m here on this planet. I mean it all starts with you. Self preservation is love and nature. Even as a performer on stage if you have fun the audience will have fun.
A lot of people looked up to you and appreciated your advice on Drag U. Do you have any advice for our readers who want to become drag queens?
Well I think it’s probably important for anybody who’s going to get into show business to get your real estate licence, (laughter), because you probably won’t be making enough for your rent money. Show business is a hard business. Most people see all the glamour and their names in the paper but that’s just such a small part of what it takes to maintain a career. You have to be very resilient, you have to know thyself and you have to have an understanding of what is being asked of you by the public. What is it they get from you? What your value is?
What do you think Drag Race has done for you personally in your life?
You know, in terms of my legacy as a performer on this planet in the past 32 years of me working in show business it has been my crowning glory, honestly, because I’ve been able to create something that other performers can use as a launching pad and through them my legacy will live forever, because I was able to introduce the world to them.
Who was your drag mother. Did you have one?
I actually did not. I had several mentors throughout my life who guided me and who’s advice I trusted. When I was 9 years old my sister married a guy who was very influential in guiding me. When I was 21 I met an older gay man named Dick Merchant who looked after me and taught me about Tennessee Williams and Tallulah Bankhead and social politics. You know drag wasn’t really about the drag it was more about being bohemian and drag just happened to be a tool to sort of ride the bohemian train. Drag calls out, its always been there to remind us not to take life so seriously.
How does it feel to be the drag version of Tara Banks?
(Laughs) I’m not going to answer that. I’m Ru and I mean honestly when you compare yourself to other people you really do yourself a dis-service.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was from my 10th grade acting teacher Mr Purnell, who I’m still friends with. He said ‘RuPaul, do not take life too f**king seriously.’ And that really is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. You know when you’re young it doesn’t really resonate as much, so the older you get the more important that message becomes.
What’s the best way to deal with upstarting drag queen tantrums?
Well, we are doing a reality show so we do like a bit of drama, but if they’re becoming violent or something then we would have to threaten their ass with being kicked off the show and they don’t want that. We do encourage, actually we don’t even have to encourage drama. Drama is inherently there with drag queens. Usually the kids understand what they’re there for. They know this is their launch pad and they know there’re gonna be watched and there’s cameras on them at all times. I think the worst thing a girl could do really is just sabotage her own chances. There’s nothing really she could do to the other girls, the world is watching, the world will see how you behave and decide whether or not they want to follow you or support you.
I know you’ve had many camp moments in your life, but was there a campest moment?
You know I think all life is irreverent and campy and part of the bohemian lifestyle that I grew up with was to make fun of everything. Nothing is off limits except unkindness. Deliberate cruelty is not fun. I think of everything as camp. I think this life is all a dream, it’s all a funny fuzzed up illusion so I have to laugh at everything, I think it’s all camp.
You decided to get clean and sober. How does that improve your outlook on work and do you have any advice for readers struggling with that right now?
Well you know I’ve been sober for 14 years. I feel incredible. If you wanna lead a life on this planet there’s an evolution a story line, somethings get left behind. It’s like a rocket and a fuselage. To launch a rocket into space you need to use the fuselage but at some point you leave Earth’s atmosphere and you don’t need that fuselage anymore and you realise its important to break it off, if you want to move further. My point is you have to be present enough to understand when it’s time to give certain things up, but you also need tools to know how to deal with being present, because sometimes being present is really f**ked up. Sometimes you get really bored, sometimes you have a lot of pain, a lot of loneliness, but you need the tools to deal with that otherwise you’re gonna be in a lot of pain.
What do you think it takes to have longevity in this business?
I think a sense of humour. I think it takes an open perspective because for me I have to see outside of what I think I am, because there’s more to me than even I can see. Throughout the years I challenge myself to do different things which is a multi diversity of writing books, scripts, designing clothes, designing shows and contests, so there’s lots of different things you can do. You can’t just lock into ‘oh I’m and actor, oh I’m just a singer’ you have to go across the board and this is not just show business this is with everybody on this planet. We all live much longer than we did 100 years ago so in one lifetime you can have several different careers like Jane Fonda or Quincy Jones who have just done so many things with one lifetime.
What’s your favourite way to be entertained?
I love to laugh. I love to dance. I love beauty and art and colour and I love being present and clear enough to see the beauty in some of the smallest things which otherwise would not be given a second thought.
What’s going to be big in fashion this winter?
Fashion has been around for a long time. I’ve always followed fashion and the truth is there’s nothing good out. It’s really all the same. You have two legs, two arms and a torso. For young people a lot of things they’ve never seen before so it seems like it’s new but it’s not new. There’s a new way people can interpret something that’s old, but there’s nothing new. I love fashion, I just cant stand the pretentious people. same with art. I love art, can’t stand the pretentiousness around it.
What do you think of Britney’s version of ‘Work Bitch’?
I wish there was more to it. I wish there was more melody. I loved that bridge but the rest of it is what we called in the 90s a ‘bitch track’, where you talk over a track and there’s no melody to it.
We now have some readers questions for you.
Christmas or Halloween?
Oh definitely Christmas I can’t stand Halloween. (They’re going to love that for TheGayUK Halloween edition) Christmas is a renewal of and the ability to give thanks and appreciation to all the people around you. I’ve always resented Halloween because I think it should be Halloween every day. I like to dress up every f**king day. I hate the fact they sanction it to one f**king day a year. That’s the day I would NOT dress up.
Shocking Pink or Emerald Green Nail Varnish?
Oh Shocking Pink. It looks so good with brown skin.
What’s the best way to convert a straight guy?
He’s gotta forget about converting anybody. He’s gotta just focus on himself. The truth is as a drag queen you get any man in a dark room with a couple of beers and they will stick their thing in any hole and you realise what a big hoax our culture is, as men like to f**k and it doesn’t matter what it is they f**k. Honestly, everybody’s really a big big lier when it comes to that stuff, but converting someone, you don’t wanna be with someone who needs to be converted it takes too much time and life is too short.
What’s next for Ru?
Well I’m making a record right now and writing another book and I’m redoing my house. I like to take it one day at a time. I do have long term plans but mainly I like to focus on what’s happening right now.