RuPaul Charles has been host and executive producer of the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked! franchise for some 10 years, during which time he has won three consecutive Emmys as host of a reality-competition series.
Sparking spin-off series RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked!, the talent competition to find ‘America’s next drag superstar’ has been a hit around the world including Australia, Israel, the Netherlands and the UK. The BBC is set to launch a local version of the show this month, once again with RuPaul as host.
His career started in the early Eighties when, after attending drama school in Atlanta, Georgia, he began a music career with his band RuPaul And The U-Hauls, winning notoriety from occasional appearances on local TV show The American Music Show. His outgoing persona and striking appearance led to a fast rise to fame — something he believes was always on the cards.
“When my mother was pregnant with me she went to a psychic who told her that I’d be famous,” he said. “I grew up with that storyline, so I’ve always dreamed big. Over the years I’ve listened to the universe and followed its stage direction. And I’ve lived by the credo, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent’.”
An early supporter of his career was British singing star Elton John, someone whose flamboyant personality and vocal support of the LGBTQ+ community, has been an inspiration to RuPaul and many other artists.
“My idols growing up were artists like Elton, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Cher and Diana Ross. They were such free spirits on so many levels,” he said. “And I loved the irreverent humour of Monty Python. As a kid, those performers made me feel that my tribe was out there, waiting for me to find them.”
And he sees his work as not just entertainment but also part of a wider campaign. “I’ve been shunned by whites for being black, by blacks for being gay, and by gays for being fem. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a show of queer people, by queer people, for queer people with a message of love, inclusion and acceptance in world still dominated by the white patriarchy. Every time I bat my false eyelashes, I’m making a political statement.”
And he has found allies in his campaign from the streaming companies. “For Drag Race, streaming has provided global visibility. We proudly produce our show for VH1 in the US, but streaming outlets have allowed it to reach people — and especially queer people — in places that I could never have dreamed of a decade ago.”
And while he believes this industry has made great strides with diversity and inclusion, he believes it can do more. “And still I find hope in the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Of his award, he said: “It’s a great honour, and a testament to how our show appeals to creative, sweet, sensitive souls around the globe. My proudest professional achievement has been to help launch the careers of 140 (and counting) beautiful and talented queens onto the world stage.” But his visit to Cannes won’t be all about business. “I’ve been working for three years straight, so my husband George and I are squeezing in a European vacation around this trip. It’s always a thrill to be in France.”
RuPaul’s MIPCOM Media Mastermind Keynote is on Monday, October 14 at 17.00 in the Grand Auditorium. More info here
This is an advance extract from the MIPCOM Preview magazine; full version online soon!