I don't remember how I learned initially about RuPaul, but I know I recognized her in the film "To Wong Foo..." starring three actors successfully portraying drag queens. Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo played three beautiful drag queens, with different styles and different personalities. They were on their way across the country to compete in the annual national competition, won previously by RuPaul, who played herself in the film. She was lowered to the stage perched on a swing, wearing a red sequin form fitting dress, adorned with the stars and bars of the Confederate flag. I remember laughing uproariously at the audacity it took to wear that gown.
Three years ago, after a cross-country move of my own, and a new cable provider, I was channel surfing one night and found an ad for "RuPaul's Drag Race" on the LOGO network. I watched the show and have watched each season since.
I have known a few drag queens in my life. I met most of them working in the theater. A lot of drag queens start out as actors. Some of us used to go to their drag shows years ago. I've always been impressed with most of them and their innate sense of style. Most biological women I know dress very casually these days. Living in Florida, I live in jeans and sweaters in cold weather and crop pants with fancy t-shirts in warm weather. I wear sandals everywhere except when I grudgingly have to cover my feet in the cold. (Don't worry I get regular pedicures.) Still, I am envious of the glamorous among us. I love the look of classic haute couture and the glamour of classic movie stars.
RuPaul's Drag Race is a competition which pits fourteen drag queens handpicked each season against each other in a series of challenges and runway looks each week. The two queens who score the lowest in the eyes of RuPaul and her guest judges have to lip-synch "for your life!!!" The winner of the lip-synch competition gets to stay in the contest. The loser is told to "sashay away."
Each week RuPaul Charles appears as himself - a biological male at the beginning of the show and as his alter ego RuPaul, the grande dame of drag queens in glorious gowns, elaborate wigs and make-up when it comes time for the contestants to hit the runway.
Make no mistake, this reality show is a serious competition with the winner receiving, among other prizes, $100,000. Yep, six figures...For that kind of money the drag queen contestants, who have to pass a series of auditions to make the show, are serious contenders indeed.
Look, I know it's not for everyone, but it's a great and entertaining show. I hate to see many of the contestants "sashay away." But it's inevitable. After all, there can only be one winner.
During the season, the viewers come to know a lot about the contestants, about their lives. Most of them share traumatic experiences from their lives, struggling to be who they are. It reminds me how resilient we humans can be, how we can survive terrible experiences and still be able to laugh and love.
RuPaul also has a summer show, "RuPaul's Drag U" in which biological women who have had problems in their lives and need to find their spark again, are schooled by some of the drag queens. The results are often amazing as the women are each given a drag queen persona, taught make-up, hairstyle tips, and a dance routine which they perform at the "draguation" ceremonies before an invited audience of their friends and families. The change in the confidence level of these women is marked and miraculous in some cases. During the show, each contestant has a private chat with RuPaul, where they talk about the contestant's issues and how to overcome them. RuPaul displays a compassion and understanding with each of these contestants and also his "girls" on Drag Race. He is a champion at boosting self-esteem.
I know there are people out there who won't watch the LOGO network, much less "RuPaul's Drag Race." That's okay, different strokes for different folks. It is probably "R" rated for subject matter, though certain words are always bleeped out.
But if you want to have a bit of fun, such as the telenovelas the contestants performed in the most recent episode, which made me guffaw, check it out.
No T, no shade - it's highly entertaining and at times uproarious. In fact, I'm working on a novel which has a trio of beautiful drag queens as the best friends of the heroine. They also act as her matchmakers. And it's all because of a beautiful, classy drag queen, named RuPaul.
Until next time, Hunties...take care and enjoy our pop culture in whatever form takes your fancy.