The World’s Most Famous Drag Queen Turns 59 Today
RuPaul has been working it since 1960
RuPaul was born RuPaul Andre Charles on November 17, 1960, in San Diego, California. His parents divorced when RuPaul was seven, and he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with his sister and her husband during his teens. In Atlanta, RuPaul attended the Northside School of Performing Arts, and although he didn’t graduate, it was a big step toward getting his feet wet in the world of performance and, in the end, show business. In 1982, RuPaul took the next step and sent a photo of himself to a local TV program called “The American Music Show”, asking to appear on air. Before long, he was appearing in the series regularly, often with his newly formed band, RuPaul, and the U-Hauls. RuPaul and the U-Hauls broke up before too long, and Wee Wee Pole was formed in its place, performing around Atlanta. In the mid-1980’s, the quite statuesque RuPaul left the South and headed to New York City and became part of a new festival known as Wigstock. He and his Atlanta roommate Lady Bunny (who launched Wigstock) with others would perform in drag primarily in the East Village area, with the festival eventually growing. RuPaul’s flamboyance and ease on stage made him a hit club dancer, and by the end of the decade, he was dubbed the Queen of New York. In 1991, RuPaul was signed to a recording contract by Tommy Boy Records, and two years later his debut album, “Supermodel of the World”, appeared. He found a hit with the single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which reached the Top 50 of the pop charts and No. 2 on the dance club charts. In 1994, RuPaul made his feature film debut in Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn”, and a new facet of his performing career was launched. A string of roles would follow, including on TV shows such as “Sister Sister” and “In the House” and in films such as “The Brady Bunch Movie”, “Blue in the Face” and “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” all in 1995 alone. While acting continually on TV, RuPaul never stopped recording music, with albums like Ho Ho Ho (1997), Red Hot (2004) and Reworked (2006) keeping fans happy. Despite success in music and film, RuPaul really made his mark on the cultural landscape with the 2009 debut of his long-running reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race, along with its later variations such as All Stars and Untucked! In 2016 and 2017 he won Emmys for his work on Drag Race. The season 9 premiere featured Lady Gaga and with close to one million viewers tuning in, became the most viewed episode in the show’s history. RuPaul married his longtime partner, Australian painter Georges LeBar, in January 2017.
Look back at the 1992 music video for “Supermodel (You Better Work)” by RuPaul
By Ken Warren, 2018
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