For six seasons, RuPaul and the ladies of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” have been bringing varying types of drag into your TVs. Whether it was the spooky glamour of Sharon Needles or the razor sharp wit of Bianca Del Rio, RuPaul has made drag part of the daily conversation and given it a voice that it arguably has never had before. Ru sat down with contributing writer Michael Cook to chat about the new season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” his thoughts on drag and life and what makes RuPaul love life so much!
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is back for Season 7. It definitely looks like things have been shaken up a bit compared to previous seasons. What can you tell me about the upcoming season?
The difference really is the girls; they definitely make the difference every season. We have a group of ladies that, because it’s an ensemble cast, every single season the flavor and their energy is completely different. It’s such a great cast this season this year! They definitely have a wide variety this season
This season you ushered in two new permanent judges, fashion expert Carson Kressley and red carpet maven Ross Matthews. Full-time judge from seasons 1-6, fashion designer Santino Rice is out, and the Pit Crew boys are always changing. Do you think that constantly changing things up is essential to the success of “Drag Race”?
I definitely think that it’s a necessity for us to stay interested, that’s for sure. Myself and the production team, we like to stay intrigued, and we know that the audience likes to stay intrigued as well. In fact, we are the audience. We love drag. I love drag. I love tricking the eye, and I always want to switch things up.
How are the new blood on the judges’ panel working out with you and returning regular judge and New Jersey native Michelle Visage?
Oh, you know how they are! They are so fabulous; they’re so into the art of drag, and they are completely hilarious. We have had so much fun with both of them, and they are so smart!
Many of your girls, past and present, look to you as somewhat of a “den mother,” both during and after their time on “Drag Race.” On your “What’s the Tea” podcast you mention that you use the anagram H.A.L.T. as somewhat of a life barometer. It means “Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?” Are there any of your favorite words of wisdom that you find that you offer to your girls consistently?
Oh, absolutely. You know, it’s not really just for my girls; it’s really for anyone on this planet. I didn’t come up with it, but it’s what our forefathers and our ancestors have come up with and said forever: know thyself. I’m not even sure if you can ever really fully know yourself, but the idea of being conscious of your own consciousness is the key. Knowing that you are like a machine, and you can never stop learning or stop learning about your machine. Your mind, what you do, your proclivities, it’s so important to be on that quest, to be conscious of your own consciousness.
There’s so much of what you say, both on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and on your “What’s the Tea” podcast, that is so profound and introspective. It’s a side to you that many could be surprised to see.
Thank you so much. Listen, I didn’t come up with this stuff, I’ve just been collecting them. I’m just another regular Joe on this planet. I have always been a seeker, someone who wanted to get as much out of this experience in this human body as possible. I collected these tools along the way.
If you could go back and talk to the younger RuPaul now, the RuPaul from New York City, pre “Supermodel of the World,” what would you tell him?
Oh, I would definitely say, “Don’t care so much about what other people think.” Not that I did a lot of that, but it did have an effect on me. The biggest thing that I would go back and say would be that it’s OK that certain people may not like you or get you, and it’s also OK that you don’t have to like everyone else. That’s something I learned when I turned 30, and it was huge for me! There are all these YouTube videos of me starting in 1982 and 1983 of me traipsing around Atlanta and New York City, and the sound woman at work the other day asked me about them. I don’t watch them, but I do appreciate them. I see this young kid who wants so much validation, who wants people to like him so much. It’s kind of heartbreaking, because I realize now, honey, you are perfect as you are. You don’t really need that. The people that you are trying to get their approval from, you really don’t need it. They are not worth it. You don’t know that now, but they are so not worth it!
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” has spawned all of the amazing contestants, but also several highly successful spin-offs, such as “RuPaul’s Drag U” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.” Do you think you would want to bring any of them back?
Well, you know, it’s not my decision. It’s ultimately up to the network and what they choose to do. People always talk about the entertainment business and say, “Why aren’t there things that represent our people, or this cause?” The truth is, the entertainment business does not have a moral obligation; they have a monetary obligation. The public who pays the money, they decide what they want to see based on what they pay money to see. You know, people always want to point the finger at some entity for not representing something, but truthfully, it’s you. If you’re willing to spend money on it, trust me, they will keep making more and more of it.
When people think of drag, they definitely think of you. You are truly at the forefront of something that has changed the face of not just drag, but entertainment. Do you feel any kind of responsibility that comes along with it?
No, I’m too fucking punk rock for that! I do my thing. Part of becoming me was that I couldn’t focus on what other people thought. I have always said, if someone is getting something beneficial out of what I’m doing and my experience, right on! That is not the reason that I do it though, not so other people can feel good about themselves. I love to laugh. I love music. I love the colors. I want to live life on this planet and experience it. Part of my doing that on this planet is creating. It’s using my creativity to do projects and do things. My own selfish love of life, color and laughter is why I do everything. It’s definitely not to have people look up to me.
If you had to sum up your life and everything going on in the world of RuPaul right now with one word, what would it be?
Amazed. My friend [legendary makeup artist and hairstylist] Mathu Andersen said something to me recently that I never realized. He said, “Ru, the beauty of you is how you get when something excites you.” When I talk about something that excites me, he said that my eyes light up in a way that is so appealing. It never even occurred to me. I am an excitable boy, and the things that I love, I love them to death. I’m amazed by the world and what possibilities are out there.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” airs Mondays on Logo starting March 2.