by Mackenna Cummings
You may recognize RuPaul Charles from his global phenomenon hit show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, or as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
RuPaul has been paving the runway and the world for tolerance and education of the LGBTQ+ community. He is a prominent figure and has supported LGBTQ+ rights and has fought for equality throughout his career.
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community credit RuPaul with bringing drag into the spotlight. In 2018, he was the first drag queen to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. RuPaul paved the way as the first openly gay national television host on The RuPaul Show on VH1 in 1996. Currently, as the host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he has helped launch the careers of more than 120 drag queens. He was also the first face of M.A.C. Cosmetics and, as its spokesperson, helped raise money for AIDs epidemic awareness. The fund has raised more than $400 million to date. While changing the world through tolerance and representation is one thing, it is all done while looking flawless and being true to himself, which makes RuPaul stand out even more.
RuPaul’s mantra for his entire career spanning more than 35 years has been to “love yourself.” During his sendoff at the end of each of episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he addresses fans and contestants alike with the advice, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?” He is an avid promoter of self-love. His fans are of all ages, races, genders, and sexualities, and these lessons and this encouragement to embrace and accept oneself are critical for the LGBTQ+ community that is often misunderstood and criticized.
Not only does RuPaul continue to empower the LGBTQ+ community through championing for rights on each of his platforms, but he has also created an environment of support and growth for those on his show. He recognizes the need for finding “your tribe”—as he calls it—a support group of others who share your passions and interests, which is why he has created other outlets for people to connect outside of his shows and podcast, RuPaul: What’s the Tee with Michelle Visage. Another outlet is RuPaul’s DragCon bringing people together in both Los Angeles and New York, where RuPaul says that many of his younger fans are able to attend, represent themselves, and find their community. At the Los Angeles 2018 event, RuPaul said, “All the queens here represent the American spirit of being an entrepreneur and following your dream—no matter what anyone else has to say about it.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race is helping both the contestants and the viewers understand how to love themselves more, which is why the show has become such a celebrated part of television. RuPaul coined the phrase, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag,” advocating that for all of us, our clothing is a means of expression, and everything else we put on our bodies is drag.
RuPaul’s Drag Race brings forward authenticity by showcasing what contestants create, and because of that, how drag is a part of themselves. “Drag can help you understand what you are, how amazing it is to have a human body, and what you can do with it,” he said in an interview with Oprah for the February 2018 issue of O Magazine. RuPaul highlights the beauty and art behind drag culture in his show, airing on VH1, which has drawn in millions of viewers.
RuPaul also says that drag is helping fight the patriarchy and the dangers of strict definitions of masculinity. Through drag, no one else has to adhere to one identity, which allows people of multiple races and orientations to fit in by standing out. By not being afraid to embrace who he is and share that with the world, RuPaul has given so many others a platform to also represent their non-conforming and beautiful selves. In addition to RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s DragCon, he will be starring in the new Netflix scripted comedy series AJ and the Queen, his book GuRu will be released in the fall on Dey Street Books, and he will be releasing a cosmetic line with Mally Beauty in 2019. An ever-positive figure, RuPaul shows no signs of slowing down his success and support for self-expression and love.