June 05, 2014

RuPaul Makes it Work

How long can RuPaul keep fan-pleasing Drag Race rolling along? The statuesque television phenom talks this, playing a villain one day – and loving Bewitched.

Christine Champagne

Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race has wrapped, and season 7 was greenlit months ago for 2015.

Given the success of the series — which sees hopefuls compete to become “America’s next drag superstar” — you have to wonder: if the ratings stay strong, and Logo TV wants a season 8, 9 or even 10, how long will RuPaul keep going?

“Oh, please!” he says. “I never understand it when an actor on a series decides, ‘I’m leaving the show.’ It’s like, are you crazy? Do you not have a mortgage? I’ll do this show until they drag me away. I’ve been doing this too long not to realize that you don’t take this stuff for granted.”

Born in San Diego, RuPaul André Charles became a fixture of the drag and music scenes in Atlanta and New York City in the 1980s and early ’90s. He built an underground following of fans drawn to his statuesque beauty and sharp wit.

In 1993 he captured mainstream attention with the dance anthem “Supermodel (You Better Work)” off his album Supermodel of the World, and then went on to land The RuPaul Show on VH1, a modeling contract with MAC Cosmetics and memorable roles in both of The Brady Bunch movies (as Jan’s female guidance counselor).

More recently, he has guest-starred on series like Ugly Betty and Happy Endings, both of which found RuPaul out of drag.

“Drag allows me to put on a disguise to lighten up,” he observes. “But I’d like to tap into my intensity in a role where I could play a villain. In the past 10 years or so, network television has really gone there with deep, intense shows like American Horror Story, 24 and Dexter.”

A true student of the medium, RuPaul loves to talk about and analyze TV. “I speak fluent television,” he declares.

Growing up, he says, “I loved Samantha on Bewitched. I loved how smart she was. I think the reason she has prevailed as a character on TV, and the show is running somewhere in America right now, is because she is a supernatural being having a human experience, dumbing down to fit in — which is the story with most of the kids on Drag Race.

It’s definitely my story. All the kids I grew up with had to dumb down to fit in in their towns, and then finally they were allowed to spread their wings.”

RuPaul’s favorite current show is Judge Judy, and he owns every season of Murder, She Wrote on DVD. In fact, he’s fallen into a routine of watching some of the series every night before bed.

“I like watching her deduce what’s real,” he says, referring to Jessica Fletcher, the mystery author and amateur detective Angela Lansbury famously played on the long-running show. “In fact, part of my drag persona, and what we do on Drag Race, is we deconstruct ideas and images and identity, and that’s interesting to me.”

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