Wishing a Queen a Happy Birthday: A Tribute to RuPaul
It’s been a rough couple of days, to say the least, but there is some joy to be had on this dreary Tuesday. For those who sadly aren’t in the know, allow us to enlighten you. On this day, fifty-five years ago, a wiggling, sashaying RuPaul Charles was brought into this world. But if you forgot to send out that email to your professors, or your boss, or visiting relatives who just wanna “kick it” with you, telling them why you must take the time to observe this most momentous day, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered.
Here is a short, easy mock up of the email you could send out to get out of whatever earthly obligations you might have:
Subject Heading: Why I Must Sashay Away
Dear (Professor/Family Friend/ Distant Relative/ Boss),
Hello. How are you? As you may or may not be aware, I am not where I said I would be today. Please forgive my absence, as well as the apparent tardiness of this email. That was Ru-de of me.
However, today is Ru’sGiving, also known as the day when Rupaul Charles gave the world the ultimate gift: himself. Yes, Rupaul was born on this day fifty five years ago in San Diego, California. We’ve never been to San Diego, but have heard tell that the exact place of his birth is still covered in holographic sequins, winged eyeliner, and a single MAC lipstick in Ruby Woo. We don’t know how an entire area can be covered in winged eyeliner, but we also don’t question miracles. Mother Ru taught us better than that
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Many know RuPaul from the reality tv show RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which regular drag queens compete for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. There’s crying. There’s se-quence. There’s also this:
But we digress. The show has helped bring a formerly taboo art into the mainstream, taught your mother just what a “shady queen” she really is, and launched the careers of previous contestants like Latrice Royale, Pearl, and the queen of the read herself Bianca Del Rio, giving them opportunities which may have otherwise been hard to come by. It has simultaneously spawned a platform for queens to talk candidly about life with HIV, life in the closet, and life as a trans woman, while still providing the internet with enough gif fodder to last generations. And in between the thousands of rhinestones which make up Michelle Visage and the ever-fabulous guest of the week sits RuPaul, judging it all.
Even as the queens get fiercer and fiercer, there hasn’t been one yet who can quite top Mother’s style. In fact, the only one who can really compete with RuPaul is, well, Rupaul.
Even out of drag, Ru does not disappoint. It’s always somewhat of a shock to see the queens of the current season peel off their eyelashes and wash away the contour, but seeing Rupaul in nothing more than glasses and a suit, bereft of all of the curls he’s so known for, seems nothing short of natural. Refreshing, even. Perhaps it’s the aura that simply comes with being HBIC. Perhaps it’s the utter glamour of these same suits. In colors ranging from fluorescent beige to metallic aquamarine and everything in between, the reveal of RuPaul’s latest threads is just as intoxicating as his runway reveal.
But then, Ru has always had impeccable taste in suits.
In 1983, RuPaul was the twenty three year-old vocalist of punk band Wee Wee Pole. By this point, he had already made the move from San Diego, where he’d come of age surrounded by his sisters and tough-loving mother, to Atlanta. It would be a time of inspiration and contemplation. Here he attended the North Atlanta School of Performing Arts, and began his first forays in the drag scene. Although he wasn’t in drag here, he maintains that this is no less a true representation of both himself and the boundless creativity he had to share.
He remained a part of Wee Wee Pole until 1985, when he decided to make another drastic move, this time to New York City. Videos resurfacing from the eighties show an only slightly less polished but still campy baby Ru dancing through a kaliedescope show or terrible 80’s lighting. Under a blonde wig and pounds of foundation, Ru would makes appearances in the B-52’s ‘Love Shack’ as well as Spike Lee’s film Crooklyn. He would become close friends with both Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, as well as Madonna. But his true claim to fame would come with dropping 1993’s hit Supermodel (Of the World).
Serving up Naomi Campbell meets Joan Crawford realness, the song became an instant hit, not least because of it’s campy use of product placement as well as the enduring demand to “Werk.” After that, the rise was meteoric. The following years would see Ru become the face of MAC and the company’s first Viva Glam star.
He then did everything from hosting his very own VH1 talk show to singing a duet with Elton John, which would ascend to the number three slot on the UK charts. These were the ingredients chosen to make the perfect Drag Superstar. And now, after all these years and the apparent RuPaul stands as an intimidating figure, less we forget that…uncomfortable moment with Pearl.
There seems to be only one true moral to RuPaul’s life, one single message which pervades every single biography and interview, every talk show cast in dim public access lighting: Life is fleeting, so get paid. It’s there when he criticizes his girls for not trying their damn best. It’s in his eyes when, as a twenty something year old, him and and his friends find themselves ducking homophobes in a friend’s art exhibit. It’s certainly there when, as a guest on the Oprah Show in 2013, he reveals that he doesn’t even really enjoy drag. “The only time you will ever see me in drag is when I am – what? Getting paid. It is my job.” All of it, everything that he is, is about being is best self…and making you eat it in the most calculated way..
So when Rupaul tells her girls not the fuck it up…
…It’s coming from a place of experience. This moment is a gift; don’t fuck it up.
That is why today, November 17th, 2015, I will be busy being my best self and getting paid. If you want to join me, respond to this email so we can meet up and sashay our troubles away. It’s been rough couple of days, and I think we both need it.
Thank you, and have a blessed Ru’sGiving.
Photos via Youtube, Tumblr, MAC Cosmetics, Facebook, and INB.