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RuPaul by David Shankbone cropped.jpg
RuPaul at the DVD release party for Starrbooty in New York, October 2007
Background information
Birth name RuPaul Andre Charles
Born (1960-11-17) November 17, 1960 (age 55)
San Diego, California, U.S.[1]
Origin Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Years active 1985–present

RuPaul Andre Charles (born November 17, 1960), best known mononymously as RuPaul, is an American actor, drag queen, model, author, and recording artist. RuPaul was born and raised in San Diego and later moved to Atlanta to study performing arts. He settled in New York City where he became a popular fixture on the nightclub scene.

RuPaul achieved international fame as a drag queen with the hit song "Supermodel (You Better Work)" from her album Supermodel of the World (1993) and later dueted with Elton John on the song "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". In 1996, she became a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics, raising money for the Mac AIDS Fund and becoming the first drag queen supermodel. The same year, she landed her own talk show The RuPaul Show which ran for two years on VH1 before co-hosting the morning radio show on WKTU with Michelle Visage. She has since released the albums Foxy Lady (1996), Ho, Ho, Ho (1997), Red Hot (2004), Champion (2009), Glamazon (2011), Born Naked (2014) and Realness (2015) and made appearances in films including Crooklyn (1994), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) and But I'm a Cheerleader (1999). RuPaul has also published two books: Lettin' It All Hang Out (1995) and Workin' It (2010). His reality television series RuPaul's Drag Race, which follows RuPaul in his search for the next drag superstar, has produced seven series on LGBTQ network Logo TV. She is also a host on television shows Skin Wars and Good Work.

RuPaul is noted among drag queens for her indifference toward the gender-specific pronouns used to address him—both "he" and "she" have been deemed acceptable, as stated in her autobiography: "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me."[2] RuPaul has also played men in a number of roles, and makes public appearances both in and out of drag. In 1999, RuPaul was awarded the Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards in addition to being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Most Beautiful Transsexuals in the World Association in 2002.


1960–92: Early life and career[edit]

RuPaul was born in San Diego, California in 1960.[1] His name was given to him by his mother, a Louisiana native. The "Ru" came from roux, which is the term for the base of gumbo and other creole stews and soups.[3] When his parents divorced in 1967, he and his three sisters lived with their mother, Toni Charles.[4]

At the age of 15, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with his sister Renetta to study performing arts. In the ensuing years, RuPaul struggled as a musician and filmmaker during the 1980s. He participated in underground cinema, helping create the low-budget film Star Booty, and an album by the same name. In Atlanta, RuPaul often performed at the Celebrity Club (managed by Larry Tee) as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole.[5][6] RuPaul also performed as a backup singer to Glen Meadmore along with drag queen Vaginal Davis.[7] RuPaul's first prominent national exposure came in 1989 with an extra role dancing in the video for "Love Shack" by The B-52's.

In the early 1990s, RuPaul worked the Georgia club scene and was known by his full birth name. Initially participating in gender bender-style performances, RuPaul performed solo and in collaboration with other bands at several New York nightclubs, most notably the Pyramid Club. He played opposite New York City drag performer Mona Foote (Nashom Benjamin) in the one act Sci-Fi parody "My Pet Homo" written and directed by Jon Michael Johnson for Cooper Square Productions. He appeared for many years at the annual Wigstock drag festival and appeared in the documentary Wigstock: The Movie. In the 1990s, RuPaul was known in the UK for his appearances on the Channel 4 series Manhattan Cable, a weekly series produced by World of Wonder and presented by American Laurie Pike about New York's wild and wacky public-access television system.

1993–97: Supermodel of the World, Foxy Lady, and Ho, Ho, Ho[edit]

In 1993 RuPaul recorded the dance/house album Supermodel of the World. It was released through the rap label Tommy Boy, spawning the dance track hit "Supermodel (You Better Work)". The music video was an unexpected success on MTV channels, as grunge and gangsta rap were popular at the time. The song peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It further charted on the UK Singles Chart, peaking on the top 40 at #39. The song found the most success on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, where it peaked at #2. Radio airplay, heavy rotation of the music video on MTV and television appearances on popular programs like The Arsenio Hall Show popularized the song.

His next two singles/videos, "Back to My Roots" and "A Shade Shady (Now Prance)" both went #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and furthered his campy persona. Between them, "House of Love" was released without a video. It failed to place on any U.S. charts, despite rising to #68 on the UK Singles Chart.

RuPaul caused a controversy at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards when he presented an award with actor Milton Berle, who performed a different type of drag early in his career. The two had conflicts back-stage, and when Berle touched RuPaul's false breasts, RuPaul ad-libbed the line "So you used to wear gowns, but now you're wearing diapers." A surprised Berle replied, "Oh, we're going to ad lib? I'll check my brain and we'll start even." The press portrayed the exchange as being contrary to the "love everyone" message RuPaul presented, and as a young newcomer treating a legend poorly. RuPaul would later describe the situation in his autobiography, describing Berle's behavior backstage as sexually inappropriate and rude. He did regret the situation, saying: "Of course, what I should have done backstage is told him 'Get your dirty hands off of me, you motherfucker!', and then gone out there and been Miss Black America." That same year would also mark his biggest hit on the UK Singles Chart, a cover of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Elton John, which went to number seven. It was around this time that RuPaul co-hosted the BRIT Awards in London, also with Elton John.

RuPaul (left) seen out of drag in March 2009.

RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for MAC Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. Various billboards featured him in full drag, often with the text "I am the MAC girl". He also released his autobiography, Lettin' It All Hang Out. He promoted that book in part with a 1995 guest appearance on ABC's All My Children, in a storyline that put it on the set of Erica Kane's talk show "The Cutting Edge".

The next year he landed a talk show of his own on VH1, called The RuPaul Show, interviewing celebrity guests and musical acts. Diana Ross, Nirvana, Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Mary J. Blige, Bea Arthur, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Olivia Newton-John, Beenie Man, Pete Burns, Bow Wow Wow, and the Backstreet Boys were notable guests. His co-host was Michelle Visage, with whom he also co-hosted on WKTU radio. On one episode, RuPaul featured guests Chi Chi LaRue and Tom Chase speaking about the gay porn industry.

Later in the year he released his second album, Foxy Lady, this time on the L.A.-based Rhino Records label. Despite his growing celebrity, he failed to chart within the Billboard 200. However, the first single "Snapshot" found success in the dance market and went to number four on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. It also enjoyed limited mainstream success, charting at number 95 on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was his second and only other Hot 100 entry to date). The second single "Little Bit of Love" only charted at number 28 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The album featured covers of a 1981 Diana Ross song "Work That Body", co-written by Paul Jabara and "If You Were a Woman and I Was a Man", originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler. Because of his strong fan base within the gay community, RuPaul has performed at gay pride events and numerous gay clubs. During this time RuPaul helped launch the return of WKTU radio in New York City and would serve as host (with Michelle Visage) of the morning show until 1998.

In 1997 he released his third album, a Christmas album entitled Ho, Ho, Ho. He has had guest appearances in many films, including both Brady Bunch movies, in which he played Jan's female guidance counselor. In 1997 RuPaul teamed with Martha Wash to remake the classic disco anthem, "It's Raining Men". The song was included on the 1998 compilation CD RuPaul's Go Go Box Classics, which was a collection of some of his favorite dance songs by other artists; this would be his third and final release through Rhino Records and a major record label. It was during this time that he appeared in Webex TV commercials and magazine ads. In 2002 he recorded with Brigitte Nielsen, credited as Gitta, the Eurodance track "You're No Lady".

2004–07: Red Hot, ReWorked, and Starrbooty[edit]

In 2004, RuPaul released his fourth album, Red Hot on his own RuCo Inc. Music label. It received some dance radio and club play, but very little press coverage. On his blog, RuPaul discussed how he felt betrayed by the entertainment industry, particularly the gay press. In one incident, it was noted that the magazine Entertainment Weekly refused to review the album, instead asking him to make a comedic contribution to a fashion article. He likened the experience to "a black person being invited to a party, but only if they'll serve." Despite his apparent dissatisfaction with the release, Red Hot showed RuPaul returning to the top of the dance charts in the US with the lead off single "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" hitting number two on the dance chart. The second, "WorkOut", peaked at number five. The third and final single from the album "People Are People" a duet with Tom Trujillo peaked at number 10. The album itself only charted on the Top Electronic Albums chart, where it hit number nine.[9] When asked about this in an interview, RuPaul said, "Well, betrayed might be the wrong word. 'Betrayed' alludes to an idea that there was some kind of a promise made to me, and there never was. More so, I was disappointed. I don't feel like it was a betrayal. Nobody promises anything in show business and you understand that from day one. But, I don't know what happened. It seemed I couldn't get press on my album unless I was willing to play into the role that the mainstream press has assigned to gay people, which is as servants of straight ideals."[8]

On June 13, 2006, RuPaul released ReWorked, his first remix album and fifth album overall. It features reworked versions of songs from his back catalog, as well as new recordings. The only single released from the album is a re-recording of "Supermodel (You Better Work)", reaching number 21 on the U.S. dance chart. June 20, 2007, saw the release of Starrbooty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) in the United States. The single "Call Me Starrbooty" was digitally released in 2007. The album contains new tracks from the singer as well as interludes with dialogue from the movie. The film was released on DVD in October 2007.

2008–10: RuPaul's Drag Race and Champion[edit]

In mid-2008, RuPaul began producing RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality television game show which aired on Logo in February 2009. The premise of the program has several drag queens compete to be selected by RuPaul and a panel of judges as "America's next drag superstar". The first season's winner was BeBe Zahara Benet, and first runner-up Nina Flowers was chosen by fans as "Miss Congeniality" through voting via the show's official website. In publicity preparation for the new show, RuPaul made appearances as a guest on several other shows in 2008 including as a guest judge on episode 6 of season 5 of Project Runway[10] and as a guest "chef" on Paula's Party.[11]

In March 2009, RuPaul released the album Champion. The album peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums as well as number 26 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart. It features the dance singles "Cover Girl" and "Jealous of My Boogie", both anthems from the reality show RuPaul's Drag Race. Logo's second annual NewNowNext Awards in 2009 were hosted by RuPaul. There he performed "Jealous of My Boogie (Gomi & RasJek Edit)". In March 2010, RuPaul released his second remix album, Drag Race. The album features remixes of songs from the 2009 album Champion.

2011–13: Glamazon, make-up and perfume line[edit]

In April 2011, coinciding with the finale of season 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race, RuPaul released his fifth studio album Glamazon, produced by Revolucian, who previously worked with RuPaul on his album Champion. The album charted on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart and the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart at #11 and #8 respectively. In July 2011, RuPaul released another remix EP entitled SuperGlam DQ, which features remixes of tracks from Glamazon, remixes of the "Drag U Theme Song", and a new song, "Sexy Drag Queen". Starting in June 2011, the second season of RuPaul's Drag U aired. In late 2011, promotions for season 4 of Drag Race began. RuPaul made appearances on The Rosie Show and The Chew, and also attended a Drag Race NY Premiere party at Patricia Field's store in New York. Season 4 of RuPaul's Drag Race premiered on Logo on January 30, 2012, with RuPaul returning as the main host and judge. After season 4 ended, declared that it was the best reality TV show on television.

In the fall of 2012, the spin-off RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race premiered after a large fan demand. The show featured past contestants of the previous four seasons to compete. Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race premiered on January 28, 2013, with a 90-minute special and RuPaul returning as the main host and judge. On April 30, 2013, RuPaul released a single "Lick It Lollipop" featuring Lady Bunny, who RuPaul previously collaborated with on Champion. On October 25, 2013 RuPaul reported via Twitter that the new album will be released in January 2014.

In fall of 2013, RuPaul joined forces with cosmetic manufacturers Colorevolution to launch his debut make-up line featuring ultra-rich pigment cosmetics and a beauty collection. Released alongside the line was a unisex perfume entitled "Glamazon". Talking to World of Wonder, RuPaul said: "Glamazon is for women and men of all ages and preferences who share one thing in common: They are not afraid to be fierce. For me, glamour should be accessible to all, and I am committed to helping the world look and smell more beautiful." The line was exclusively sold on the Colorevolution website in various gift sets.[12][13]

2014: Born Naked, What's The Tee?, and Skin Wars[edit]

RuPaul and Revolucian both confirmed through their Twitter and Instagram accounts that they had been working on an upcoming sixth studio album. Born Naked was released on February 24, 2014 to coincide with the premiere of the 6th season of RuPaul's Drag Race. Prior to the premiere, an album of RuPaul cover songs performed by the Season 6 cast was released on January 28, 2014. The covers album is titled RuPaul Presents The CoverGurlz and contains RuPaul songs from 2009–2013. To further promote the Drag Race season premiere, RuPaul, representing Logo TV (and parent company Viacom) was chosen to ring the NASDAQ closing bell on February 24, 2014. The week of its release, Born Naked reached number one on the iTunes dance album chart. The following week it placed at number 4 on the US Billboard dance chart and number 85 on the Billboard 200 chart. In a profile by The New York Times it was revealed that RuPaul is currently working on a porcelain statuette of his likeness.[14] On April 9, 2014 RuPaul and Michelle Visage released the first episode of their podcast, RuPaul: What's the Tee? with Michelle Visage. In August, he joined the reality competition show Skin Wars acting as a judge.

2015: Realness, Good Work and Slay Belles[edit]

On March 2, 2015, RuPaul released his seventh studio album entitled Realness. The release coincided with the premiere of the seventh season of RuPaul's Drag Race. In April, he launched and began hosting a new show, Good Work, a plastic surgery-themed talk show for E!. In October he released his second Christmas album (and eighth studio album) Slay Belles. The album contains 10 original Christmas-themed songs and features collaborations with Michelle Visage, Siedah Garrett, Todrick Hall and Big Freedia. The album charted at number 21 on the US Billboard Dance chart.[15]


Main article: RuPaul discography



Year Title Role Notes
1994 Sister, Sister Marje
1995 In the House Kevin
1996–98 The RuPaul Show Himself (in drag) Host, 100 episodes
Nash Bridges Simone Dubois 2 episodes
1998 Hercules Rock Guardian episode "Hercules and the Girdle of Hyppolyte"
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Member of the Witches Council/Hair Dresser
Walker, Texas Ranger Bob
2001 Popular Sweet Honey Child
Port Charles Madame Alicia
2002 Son of the Beach Heinous Anus credited as RuPaul Charles
2008 Project Runway Himself (in drag) Guest judge, Season 5, Episode 6
2009 Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World Tyler
2009–present RuPaul's Drag Race Himself (in and out of drag) Host/Judge, producer
2010 Ugly Betty Rudolph, Emcee of the Cabaret
2010–12 RuPaul's Drag U Himself (out of drag) Host, producer
2012, 2016 RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race Himself (in and out of drag) Host/Judge, producer
2013 Happy Endings Krisjahn
Life With La Toya Himself (out of drag)
Lady Gaga and the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular Himself (in drag) Guest performer: "Fashion!" alongside Lady Gaga
2014 The Face Himself (out of drag) Guest Judge[16]
Skin Wars Judge
Mystery Girls Emillo Guest star, Episode: "Bag Ladies"
The Comeback Himself (out of drag) Guest star, Episode: "Valerie Films A Pilot"
2015 Harvey Beaks Jackie Slitherstein Guest star, Episode: "Harvey's Favorite Book"
Good Work Host
Bubble Guppies Drag Snail/Costume Boxing Judge Guest star, Episode: "Costume Boxing"
2016 Gay for Play Host


Year Title Role
1987 RuPaul Is: Starbooty! Starbooty
1994 Crooklyn Connie, the Bodega Woman
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Mrs. Cummings
Wigstock: The Movie Himself
Blue in the Face Dancer
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Rachel Tensions
Red Ribbon Blues Duke
A Mother's Prayer Deacon "Dede"
1996 Fled Himself
A Very Brady Sequel Mrs. Cummings
1998 An Unexpected Life Charles
1999 EDtv RuPaul
But I'm a Cheerleader Mike
2000 The Eyes of Tammy Faye Narrator
The Truth About Jane Jimmy
For the Love of May Jimbo
2001 Who is Cletis Tout? Ginger Markum
2005 Michael Lucas' Dangerous Liaisons Cameo
2006 Work it Girl: The Music videos
Zombie Prom: The Movie Delilah Strict
2007 Starrbooty Starrbooty/Cupcake
2008 Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild Tyrell Tyrelle
2015 Hurricane Bianca Cameo[17]

Short films[edit]

Year Title Role
1983 The Blue Boy Terror
Wild Thing
Terror II
1984 Terror 3D
1986 Mahogany II
Psycho Bitch
American Porn Star
1987 Voyeur
Police Lady
1989 Cupcake
Vampire Hustlers
1997 Shantay Shantay
1999 Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World
2004 Skin Walker
2006 Zombie Prom Mrs. Strict
2008 How We Got Over

Other ventures[edit]


'RuPaul: What's The Tee? With Michelle Visage' debuted on April 9, 2014. Ru-Paul co-hosts the ‘What’s The Tee?’ podcast with longtime friend and fellow ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ judge Michelle Visage. The bi-weekly show features RuPaul and Michelle’s thoughts on the behind the scenes of RuPaul's Drag Race, life advice, beauty tips, and conversations with featured guests from all corners of the entertainment world among other topics.[18] The show is available on the What's the Tee website, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and iTunes.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Category Association Result
1993 Best Dance Video – "Supermodel (You Better Work)" 1993 MTV Video Music Awards Nominated
1999 GLAAD Vito Russo Award GLAAD Media Awards Won
2010 Outstanding Reality Program – RuPaul's Drag Race 21st GLAAD Media Awards Won
Best New Indulgence – RuPaul's Drag Race NewNowNext Awards Won
2012 Best Reality Show Host - RuPaul's Drag Race Critics' Choice Television Award Nominated
2012 Best Reality Show Judge/Host - RuPaul's Drag Race's Best of 2012 Awards Won
2013 Best Reality Show Host - RuPaul's Drag Race Critics' Choice Television Award Nominated
2013 Best Dressed Reality TV judge - RuPaul's Drag Race Entertainment Weekly Won
2013 Best Reality Show Judge/Host - RuPaul's Drag Race's best of 2013 Awards Won


  • Lettin' It All Hang Out
  • Workin' It! RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style is the second book written by drag queen and self-professed "supermodel of the world" RuPaul. This book provides tips on fashion, beauty, style and confidence for girls and boys, straight and gay. With photos by Mathu Andersen from the second season of RuPaul's Drag Race, Workin' It! contains insights into makeup, clothing choices and the illusion of drag. It also shares RuPaul's philosophy on style and attitude.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "RuPaul (RuPaul Andre Charles)". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. glbtq, Inc. August 16, 2005. Retrieved March 24, 2009. 
  2. ^ RuPaul (June 1995). Lettin' It All Hang Out: An Autobiography. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-6156-8. 
  3. ^ The Bonnie Hunt Show March 12, 2010
  4. ^
  5. ^ "RuPaul Facts, information, pictures | articles about RuPaul". Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ Warren, Robert Burke (October 2013). "Southern Belles, Latchkey Kids and Thrift-Store Crossdressers". The Bitter Southerner. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ Kot, Greg (September 1, 1995). "What a Drag". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Interview with RuPaul, David Shankbone, Wikinews, October 6, 2007.
  9. ^ "Dance/Electronic Albums : Oct 16, 2004 | Billboard Chart Archive". Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Project Runway Season 5 Good Queen Fun | Bravo TV Official Site". Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Diva Party : Paula's Party". Food Network. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  12. ^ "RuPaul's "Glamazon" Limited Edition Makeup and Fragrance Available Now!". World of Wonder. November 12, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Colorevolution Mineral Makeup - Ru Paul". Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  14. ^ SCHULMAN, MICHAEL (February 21, 2014). "In Drag, It Turns Out, There Are Second Acts". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "RUPAUL TO APPEAR ON NEXT WEDNESDAY'S EPISODE OF 'THE FACE'". April 2, 2014. Retrieved April 6, 2014. 
  17. ^ LeRoy, Jason (September 12, 2015). "Peaches & Bianca: The Ultimate Old Lady Drag Smackdown". Left Magazine. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  18. ^ Jase Peeples. "LISTEN: RuPaul Debuts Official Podcast 'What’s the Tee?'". 

External links[edit]