T Lo Interviews The One and Only RuPaul
Oh, kittens. Of all the interviews we’ve done (not that we’re Barbara Walters or anything), our interview with Miss Ru was by far the most enjoyable, the easiest, and the one where we laughed the most. She’s as sweet as a cane-sugar Coke and funny and incisive and warm. Normally, when we publish an interview there’s some editing involved, either for space reasons, or because the answers weren’t that great, or a hundred other reasons. For once, we’re giving you the entire interview, exactly as it was conducted, not a word taken out. Why? Because we wouldn’t want you to miss any of it. We even included the portions when she laughed simply because she did it so much and her laugh is so infectious.
We conducted this interview this morning and even though we were barely caffeinated ourselves, we hung up the phone buzzing on a high that’s lasted all day. Everyone should get a call from RuPaul to start your day out. There’d be no need for anti-depressants ever again.
T Lo: (laughs) It is SUCH an honor to interview you, Ru. You are amazing.
Ru: (laughs) Thank you so much!
TLo: Are you in L.A. right now?
Ru: I’m in New York right now.
T Lo: Oh, okay. Because we were thinking “My god, this girl gets up early!”
Ru: When I am in LA, I get up early. I usually get up around 4:30, get on the computer, go for a bike ride, usually before the sun comes up.
T Lo: We’re impressed! Okay, let’s get started. We have to say, we weren’t sure if we were going to blog your show and we watched the first episode and were FLOORED. The minute Akashia said, “Bitch, I’m here. I took off work,” we fell in love with it.
Ru: (laughs) Well, thank you!
T Lo: This is quite a year for you. You’ve got both the show and a new album just released. Was there a conscious effort to get yourself out there this year?
Ru: Well, you know, I’ve always been out there. I think it’s just somehow people…their eyes just turned toward me again. I’ve always been doing things. There was a time, probably around 2000, where I decided to step back for a minute. And then, probably in ’04, I started making records again and started doing shows again and I think these latest two projects for whatever reason got people’s attention again.
T Lo: You said in a recent interview that in the last 8 years, drag has taken a back seat in American culture. Is that right?
Ru: It has taken a back seat as far as gay men are concerned. Straight men have taken over the genre, like Tyler Perry and Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. But for gay men, it was sort of underground.
T Lo: Why do you think that is?
Ru: I think in times of fear and hysteria in a culture, gender experimentation as it pertains to men has to go underground because it scares people too much and it’s too much for people to take on. Especially when a culture is held hostage by fear and hysteria and fundamentalism.
T Lo: Well the show is bringing it into America’s living rooms in a big way. We think for those who read our blog who are not, shall we say, members of our tribe, it’s been quite eye-opening, getting a glimpse behind the curtain of the world of drag. Specifically, how hard these girls work and how talented they really are.
Ru: I agree. Most women, when they ask me for beauty tips aren’t really prepared for my answer, which is, there is no magic beauty wand that can transform you and make you beautiful. It takes practice and what you see on Rupaul’s Drag Race is years and years of practice by these kids.
T Lo: You said that your mission is to see drag positioned in its rightful place within our culture. Do you think you’re achieving that with the show?
Ru: I think so, little by little. But it really has to do with our culture. You know you can lead a horse to water… but you know, our culture is one that is so easily in denial. We have such a strange dichotomy, so hypocritical. The truth can be blaring in neon letters but our culture will find a reason not to hear what the truth is.
T Lo: So true. Let’s talk a little about your album. We love “Cover Girl.” We walk around our house scaring our cats when one of us breaks out in “COVER GIRL! Put the bass in your walk!” Tell us a little about the album.
Ru: (laughing) I love it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I was paired with Lucian Piane to write the theme to RuPaul’s Drag Race and we got together and had such a great time that we continued on to make an album. Our collaboration is just the best I’ve ever done. He comes from a music theater background and I come from a pop background. And aside from my own music, I just love pop music. I have over 26,000 mp3s on my external hard drive. I just love it, so the two sensibilities, music theater and pop, the melodies are so strong, I’ve never been as strong vocally as I am on this album, it’s just the best thing ever. I’ve never listened to one of my albums more than I listened to this album.
T Lo: We love the remixes.
Ru: Thank you so much. I love the Machutchi mix. In fact in my nightclub act, which I just got back on the road last weekend, I’m performing the Machutchi mix.
T Lo: So you are touring?
Ru: Yeah, I did two nights in Tampa last weekend and I will be in Seattle next weekend.
T Lo: Now…I want to ask about last night’s show.
T Lo: Now, we understand why, in fact we agreed with the decision, but we were SO upset to see Ongina go home. And clearly you were too.
Ru: I tell ya, each elimination, I would be so upset and I had to tell myself, “Ru, this is a game, this is a television show”. All of these kids are winners because out of the hundreds who applied, these are the nine girls who got to do it. And Ongina will live in the consciousness of people for the rest of their lives because she is a star. And I had to have this little discussion with myself each time because I hated to see each of the kids go. I chose all of the kids. It’s like saying, “Which one of your children do you want to live?” And it’s a terrible thing but I had to remember, it’s just a TV show.
T Lo: It’s a little Sophie’s Choice. In fact you should rename it “RuPaul’s Choice.”
Ru: (laughing) I will be stealing that line.
T Lo: It’s yours, honey, you can keep it. Speaking of lines, we’re always cracking up at your one-liners: “Do not accept an apple from this woman,” “Akashia, part of a wholesome breakfast.” How do you come up with those lines?
Ru: (laughing) I’m a QUEEN! As gay people, we always think outside of the box. The irreverent is always important to a drag queen and anyone else who lives outside the box. And this is why drag’s important: remember to not take life seriously. It’s always important to see the laughter in the illusion that we pretend is real.
T Lo: That reminds me, I wasn’t going to ask this, but I’m curious: When the girls are doing their runway and the judges are cracking all these jokes, can they hear you?
Ru: (laughing) Yeah, they can hear us.
T Lo: I have to admit, those girls deserve an Academy Award, because they never break character or laugh or even smile. How do they walk with all these jokes flying at them?
Ru: Well this is something that every queen learns from Day One: Lipstick application is one and taking jabs from passersby is two. You have to understand that you are fierce no matter what because the day you decide to do drag, there are going to be people up in your grill saying “You’re not right.” So they’re used to it. They’re very used to it.
T Lo: We love seeing Santino on the show. Is he a friend of yours?
Ru: I saw him on Project Runway and I thought, “There’s someone I can be friends with,” I was living in New York at the time, and then when I got a place out in L.A., I sought him out and we went on a few hikes and went rollerskating and did some stuff together and when the show came around, I thought “Who better?” that’s how that happened.
T Lo: He actually makes a great judge. Merle Ginsberg is a fantastic judge too.
Ru: Yeah! Y’know, all the judges, the regular judges and the guest judges, are all experts in the field of pop culture, and presentation, and starmaking. They really make the show.
T Lo: We were touched when we saw Michelle Williams CRYING at a queen lipsynching her song. That just made us love her.
Ru: I love Michelle and in fact, I understood the tears because when I see a drag queen do a song that maybe I didn’t really get the lyrics or something, and then this drag queen can just turn those lyrics into what they were really meant to say, and it’s like “Oh my goodness!” My guess is that she heard things in the lyrics that Akashia interpreted that she didn’t even know existed before.
T Lo: Since you brought up Akashia, we wanted to ask you about a couple of the girls that went home. What do you think went wrong with, well…let’s start with Akashia.
Ru: I think with Akashia, there was a certain– a bad energy that surrounded her and everyone picked up on it and I don’t think that helped her in the judging of the show. But her real demise was that she wasn’t able to complete the challenges — she was in the bottom 2, I think, in the first 3 shows. And then in the Oprah challenge, I mean…(laughs) Y’know. She was just so arrogant! It definitely cemented her position in the bottom two.
T Lo: It was kind of a shame, because we thought she really had a lot of potential. She could be quite beautiful with a little work.
Ru: Yes, absolutely. But you know, these challenges are based on everything that I’ve done in my career and I’ve had to eat crow, I’ve had to hold my tongue at times when the ghetto could’ve very easily come out. But I had to compose myself and realize that I am representing. And there are times when you have to hold ‘em and times when you have to fold ‘em, and she didn’t have that discretion.
T Lo: Now what about Tammie Brown?
Ru: LOVE HER! All the girls really represent different facets of the drag world and Akashia is the badass black girl who can do the booty-clapping stuff and Tammie Brown represents the quirky, comedic drag queen that we all grew up with and love. She, again, as a competitor wasn’t able to come up to the challenge and change enough to suit what the challenge called for. And, again, her camaraderie with the other girls, they felt a little spooked out about her. It’s something that Rebecca Glasscock could learn from because I don’t think the girls love her very much. But, the judges like her.
T Lo: We felt that with Victoria too. Ironically, the one with the most experience was the first one to go home.
Ru: I love Pork Chop and it was hard to see Pork Chop get … chopped.
T Lo: To get her pork chopped.
Ru: (laughs) But y’know, somebody had to go and unfortunately it had to be Pork Chop. But people still remember her and people will always remember her. Look at Santino. He did not win that season of Project Runway and I don’t even remember who did win, but he’s still around.
T Lo: What about Jade?
Ru: Jade is such a gorgeous girl. So gorgeous. I think that her inexperience with the world was her undoing. I think that she was just a little inexperienced with communicating. And the next drag queen superstar must be able to do that.
T Lo: Let’s drop the girls and talk about the guys. Tell us about the Pit Crew.
Ru: (laughs) Well, when planning the show, we knew it was going to be on LOGO and I thought, “Well, what do we want to see?” And we wanted to see some…y’know…
T Lo: Half-naked men.
Ru: Exactly. Exactly. I saw their pictures and thought “Bring me two of those. Have them washed and brought to my dressing room.” (laughs) They’re really gorgeous guys and we wanted some eye candy. We wanted television that’s been missing for a long time. Something that’s very self-aware, that’s very well-executed and that has a little sex appeal and that’s what we did.
T Lo: Well, we think you did a fantastic job and we’re looking forward to Season 2 already. Is there going to be a Season 2?
RU: Y’know, we have not been greenlit for Season 2, but we are planning on doing a reunion show for finale night. We’re actually going to shoot that a week from tomorrow in Los Angeles. We’ve not been greenlit for a second season, but we’re on LOGO, on VH1 and we’re on LOGO online.
T Lo: Well, we’re gonna start the internet petition for Season 2, don’t you worry about that.
Ru: (laughs) Y’all are so wonderful and thank you so much for supporting me. It’s become such a cult hit and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.