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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 15
RuPaul on how straight culture takes from the Gays
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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RuPaul on how straight culture takes from the Gays

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

RuPaul, 55, is perhaps best known for the 1992 international hit, 'Supermodel (You Better Work),' and the drag queen reality TV show on the Logo Network, 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - now in its 8th season. RuPaul is also an author, having published two books: Lettin' It All Hang Out: An Autobiography (1995) and Workin' It!: Ru Paul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (2010).

These days, RuPaul, like most drag entertainers that have performed in front of audiences for more than two or three decades, has developed a reputation for being a source of sage advice. Ru says things that just make sense. Call it real talk, wisdom, or the truth - it doesn't matter the description - what matters is that when RuPaul speaks people (Gay or straight) listen. Obviously, this kind of access to your advice by the public comes with a great deal of responsibility. If Ru were to say something that was provocative just for the sake of being provocative, people would begin to lose interest. After all, we've heard that before. For whatever reason, RuPaul has the ability to call it like the drag entertainer sees it. The latest published interview with RuPaul, published March 23 at www.Vulture.com, is no exception. However, the highlights of the article have caught the eye of both fans and people who may not even really know who RuPaul is and the Internet has been buzzing.

The interview, conducted by E. Alex Jung, is a good read for anyone that might feel like the word police are getting to be a bit much and that even though Gay people have been creating art for years, a lot of what we do does not catch on until a straight person repackages it and presents it as their own. The success that RuPaul now enjoys - particularly with 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' which recently filmed its 100th episode - proves to be the credentials needed for the entertainer to stand atop a soapbox and tell the world a qualified opinion.

Working for Gay media, I have had my fair share of conversations with drag queens. And the one thing that has always made me pause for a second is, whether or not the queen is known or unknown, they talk about the art of drag as if it is a lifesaving thing. Sort of like a religion. And unless you, yourself, have been a drag queen (not for just a night, but a booked queen in a show, longer than a month or so) you really can't know what it is all about. When Jung asked RuPaul about the power of drag in the Vulture.com interview, he says it is a lifesaver, 'because each of those kids were little boys, sometimes in small towns, who were alienated and ostracized. And even in the face of such adversity, they prevailed and shine today.'

RuPaul says that the hit reality show, 'Drag Race,' is 'a story of strength.'

'That's what the appeal is for the audience,' said RuPaul. 'Here are these people who have prevailed and succeeded against insurmountable odds. It's a great story for anyone who watches.'

RuPaul goes on to say that if you're smart and you're sensitive, you see how this all works on this planet. 'It's like when Dorothy looks behind the curtain. Like, 'Wait a minute. You're the wizard?' And you figure out the hoax. That this is all an illusion.'

After that, there's only a few areas you can go, according to RuPaul. 'First, you get angry that you've been hoaxed and you get bitter. But then, you take more steps beyond the bitterness and you realize, 'Oh, I get it. Let's have fun with it. It's all a joke. You mean I don't have to stick with one look or one whatever? I can shape-shift? Great.' That's when you can save lives because otherwise the mediocrity and the hypocrisy is so mundane, it's better to just not do it.'

In short, RuPaul says drag saves lives 'because for people who are highly sensitive and super-intelligent, it tickles the brain. It gives them something to live for. It's the irreverence. I was the same way when I was 15. I said, 'Okay, I'm gonna do this life. But I'm gonna do it on my terms, and I'm never gonna join the Matrix.' That's why it saves lives.'

RuPaul says that drag will never be mainstream. 'It's the antithesis of mainstream. And listen, what you're witnessing with drag is the most mainstream it will get. But it will never be mainstream, because it is completely opposed to fitting in.'

The proof, says RuPaul, can be found in the fact that despite the success he has achieved, RuPaul has never been on 'Ellen' or 'David Letterman' or 'The Tonight Show.' 'I've never been thought of as someone who can go on there,' said RuPaul. 'Because it makes those hosts feel very, very uncomfortable, especially if we really talked. It would be the opposite of what they're used to. So am I part of the mainstream? No. People know my name, people know what I look like, but am I invited to the party? No, and there's a reason for it.'

RuPaul told Vulture.com that he thinks that the Lip Sync Battle on Jimmy Fallon, host of 'The Tonight Show,' is a poor rip-off of 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'

'Regular, straight pop culture has literally lifted things from Gay culture as long as I can remember,' said RuPaul. 'And that's fine, because guess what? We have so much more where that comes from.'

RuPaul maintains that, even today, with all of the advances that the LGBTQ community has made over the past few decades, there's a certain 'Gay shame' that exists.

'Gay people will accept a straight pop star over a Gay pop star,' said RuPaul, adding, 'or they will accept a straight version of a Gay thing, because there's still so much self-loathing, you know?'

'They talk so much about acceptance now today and it's like, yes, but trust me - I'm old and I know this shit - it's superficial,' RuPaul continued. 'Because as soon as the lights go out, you'll see how advanced people's thinking is. This so-called 'Will & Grace Acceptance' era is just people fucking posing. Things haven't changed that much. You see it in politics right now - that's the fucking truth of people.'

RuPaul revisited the controversy that he found himself in when some members of the Transgender community said that RuPaul and others should not use the word 'tranny.'

'It's stupid. They're dumb, and it's stupid,' said RuPaul. 'If I said, 'Boy, I really love corn dogs!' it doesn't mean I actually love a corn dog. Because love has nothing to do with corn dogs. But it's just language. It's a state of mind. You take for granted that my intention is really to express that I enjoy them a lot and I want to eat one right now. That's what it's meant to do. But if you have an agenda and you want to take my sentence apart, you could certainly say, 'Oh, my God! You love a corn dog? What do you mean by that? Do you want to marry it? Do you want to put it inside of you?'

'It's like, 'That's not what I meant and you actually know that's not what I meant and you're only using it because you have an agenda so that you could get attention for whatever reason you have,' said RuPaul.

RuPaul says the intention behind that word is a portmanteau that was meant as a way to be fun and to enjoy language. 'I talked earlier about the sweet, sensitive souls who find this world, when they uncover life's cruel hoax,' said RuPaul. 'The first stage is anger. Then bitterness. The third stage is laughter and irreverence and understanding that, 'Oh! I can have fun. Don't take it too seriously. Have fun with it.' So twist a phrase, curl a word, paint on a mustache. We do not stand on ceremony, and we do not take words seriously. We do take feelings seriously and intention seriously, and the intention is not to be hateful at all. But if you are trigger-happy and you're looking for a reason to reinforce your own victimhood, your own perception of yourself as a victim, you'll look for anything that will reinforce that.'

RuPaul also admits that he was not the decision maker behind taking out 'She Mail' to describe email on the show. 'The network did that, and you'd have to ask them why they did it, but I had nothing to do with that.'

RuPaul said that the topic of drag's relationship to the Transgender community is a boring one. 'I don't really want to talk about that because everybody wants to ask about that. It's so topical, but they're complete opposites. We mock identity. They take identity very seriously. So it's the complete opposite ends of the scale. To a layperson, it seems very similar, but it's really not.'

RuPaul says he doesn't think it's complicated.

'Some people take identity very seriously. I don't,' he continued. 'I choose to laugh at identity and play with it. I'll wear a suit or I'll wear a sailor's outfit. I'll dress femme. I'll dress butch queen, which is the name of my new album, by the way. I'll do whatever. All of the experiences I've learned and every ascended master you've studied will say the exact same thing: Life is not to be taken seriously.'

In a surprisingly frank moment, RuPaul stated, 'Most people are dumb as fuck. If you look at their voting habits and their eating habits, you realize people are stupid. So we could talk about stupid people or we could just stay with smart people who know how to have fun and not even focus on what dumb people do. It's not worth it. I tell you this as someone who's a smart motherfucker: Don't waste your time fooling with dumb people or trying to figure them out or trying to educate them. It doesn't work. It's a lose-lose situation.'

Whether or not you agree with RuPaul on most topics is one thing, but to read the article for a look into the thoughts and opinions of one of our most recognizable entertainers and faces of pop culture is another. I personally appreciate the fact that RuPaul doesn't feel silenced or shamed by any other group for thinking the way he does. Say what you will but it takes a brave and confident soul to be as honest as RuPaul appears to be in the Vulture.com interview.

To read the full interview, go to http://www.vulture.com/2016/03/rupaul-drag-race-interview.html.

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