There is nothing I genuinely love more than seeing the people who inspire me be rewarded for their talents and hard work. Time Magazine just announced that RuPaul Charles—better known just by his mononym, RuPaul—has been awarded a coveted spot on their annual 100 Most Influential People list. The past few months have been particularly monumental for RuPaul, having married his partner of 23 years, Georges LeBar, in January, and finally winning the Best Host Primetime Emmy for his work on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (“RPDR”). He also just released two new albums, “Remember Me” and “American.”
While he is arguably the world’s most famous drag queen, his “glamazon” persona is only one element of his multifaceted talent. With a career spanning over 35 years, RuPaul has been a TV host, judge and personality, international supermodel, activist, author, recording artist, actor, comedian, podcaster, producer, and mogul—not to mention a motivational “Mama Ru” to all his fans. That is a lot of hats—or should I say lace front wigs—for one person to juggle wearing. But no one looks or does it better than RuPaul.
People often ask me why and how RuPaul speaks to me. I think that the people who ask me this misunderstand what RuPaul is all about. There is a misconception that drag is only for the enjoyment of the LGBTQ community. However, even as a straight cisgender woman myself, I have been welcomed with open arms into the fandom. Through his activism and art, RuPaul has strived throughout his career to create opportunities for creativity and to inspire people to be accepting of others and themselves, whether they be members of the LGBTQ community or their allies. In
RuPaul’s eye, we are all equal, even if you have been discriminated against for your race, creed, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, class, or gender. He is a firm believer that “what other people say about you is none of your business” because “usually it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.”
RuPaul’s courage as an individual and a storyteller has always encouraged me to stay committed to my craft no matter what others may think. More importantly, he instilled in me from a young age the importance of not only being kind to others but also to myself. And the end of every “RPDR” episode, he reminds the contestants and the audience that “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” and it has become a creed for the fandom.
Well aware of the stigmatism of drag, RuPaul wants to set the record straight, no pun intended, about misconceptions of and purpose of this performance style: “The purpose is to remind people to not take themselves too seriously. We mock identity … Identity is not to be taken seriously. We show people we’re shape shifters.” Drag asks the audience to question the performative nature that society places and demands on gender. To truly expose something for its flaws, there is no weapon more powerful than comedy.
I realize that some people do not understand or respect drag entertainment in any of its forms, but it is my hope that one day it will be universally recognized for its artistry and the irreplaceable role in storytelling, whether on the screen or on a stage. While drag requires certain senses of humor to enjoy, it is not worthy of the ridicule it receives. Drag performers are incredibly talented artists who keep a tradition coined by Shakespeare himself alive. But there’s so much more to these performers than their aesthetics or sexual orientations, and “RPDR” does an excellent job for showcasing these artists.
So how and why does RuPaul speak to me? It’s the same reason why Time Magazine is recognizing the important influence he has on the world and so many peole watch “RPDR.” Because he inspires us all to be compassionate, confident, and creative people who use their “charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent,” as he words it, to tell our stories and listen to others, as well.