RuPaul Andre Charles is an entertainer, writer, singer, actor, model, revolutionary, gay icon, and drag queen. He is a visionary in the world of drag, popularizing it for a mainstream audience and then selling it back to us in the form of a reality-competition series, RuPaul’s Drag Race. He’s a brilliant, empire building powerhouse who spurns convention in the name of revolution—he also goes by both he and she pronouns. Please enjoy these glamorous facts about RuPaul Charles.
1. His Mother Named Him After Food
Charles has a special connection to the southern Louisiana dish “roux”; his mother named him after it. “Ru” comes from the French culinary base roux, which is a mix of butter and flour and used in many different Creole dishes. His mother was born in Louisiana, so the inspiration isn’t as disconnected as you would think.
2. He Was A Teen Anarchist
As an angsty teen, RuPaul used to channel the anger, frustration, and confusion he was feeling into a rather different form of art—punk music. That’s right, RuPaul was a bit of an anarchist back in the day. His punk band, Wee Wee Pole, even performed at clubs in Atlanta.
3. She Got Her Start In A Music Video
RuPaul got a helping hand from friends the B-52s in 1989. She was an extra, dressed up in drag, dancing and leading the conga line for their “Love Shack” video. The popularity of the video had RuPaul stepping into the mainstream spotlight to help launch her career in entertainment. I bet wherever RuPaul goes, it’s a party.
4. He Was A High School Dropout
Well, less dropout and more kicked out. Charles’ high school kicked him out when he was in Grade 11 for absenteeism. He would never return to graduate, but as is sometimes the case with brilliant, creative, talented people, he did not need a high school diploma to be successful. Nonetheless, stay in school children!
5. She’s BFFs With Jane Fonda
RuPaul has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His good Judy, Jane Fonda, even introduced him for it. What a momentous day, to be the only drag queen to ever have a star on the Walk of Fame and to be in the presence of Jane Fonda. Ru is living the dream.
6. He’s An Influential Person
RuPaul is inarguably a huge influence and icon in the LGBTQ community. He even snagged a spot on Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2017. For that honor, Naomi Campbell wrote an excerpt about RuPaul, saying that she knew immediately when she first met him that she wanted to be where he was.
7. She Loves Judge Judy
The lady RuPaul idolizes most is not Cher or Madonna, it’s none other than the baddest b in the entertainment court system: Judge Judy. The famous TV judge is known for her snappy, snarky attitude and quick quips, not unlike RuPaul himself in some respects. Judy was even given the Snatch Game treatment when drag queen Bianca Del Rio impersonated her.
8. He Has A Donkey Named Jimmy
RuPaul has a special friend named Jimmy who sleeps with him at night. He’s a bit mulish, though. Jimmy is a stuffed donkey who is something of a security blanket for RuPaul, and makes him feel safe at night. A wonderful comfort I’m sure to have a stuffed donkey as a pal.
9. Her Mother Knew She Would Be Famous
RuPaul and Harry Potter both have something in common—a psychic foretold a prophecy about their life. In the case of RuPaul, before he was born a psychic told his mother that he would grow up to be famous. After years of working the club circuit as a drag queen, however, even RuPaul himself began to have his doubts.
Luckily for us, he didn’t give up on himself and is now the most famous drag queen in herstory. Never stop believing in your Saturn returns.
10. She Is The Queen Of Manhattan
RuPaul is an official crowned Queen of Manhattan. When he won the famed drag queen pageant, Ru went on display as a full-on Glamazon. It was one of her first events completely shaved, tucked, and giving real woman beauty and elegance. Being crowned Queen of Manhattan represents the “pinnacle of downtown success,” so this was a huge honor to have bestowed upon her.
11. He Won An Emmy
In 2018, his show RuPaul’s Drag Race won Emmys in “Outstanding Reality Competition” and “Outstanding Reality Host,” the first to ever win in both categories in the same year. When RuPaul got on stage to accept, he dedicated his Emmy to “all the dreamers” out there. Condragulations mother darling, we promise not to let you down.
12. She’s Made Hundreds Of Drag Queens
RuPaul is responsible for kickstarting the careers of more than 100 drag queens. Thanks to her and her show RuPaul’s Drag Race, we can delight in the work of queens like Trixie Mattel, Peppermint—who is the first out transgender woman to originate a character in Broadway production—and Bianca Del Rio, who has starred in her own movies.
13. She’s A Wellness Guru
RuPaul tries to live his life in a very free and loving way, and he’s constantly searching for meaning and simplicity in everyday life. When he was in his 30s, he took up yoga and has been doing it ever since. He also does a minute of meditation every morning, just to align himself for the rest of his day.
14. She Has Her Own Convention
Charles has built a real empire for himself, and she even has her own convention. RuPaul’s Dragcon takes place in Los Angeles and New York every year and is basically a drag version of Comic Con. The drag queens featured are often stars from the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as some perennial favorites from past seasons. It also includes panels, tons of merch, makeup, fashion, vendors, and other fabulous programming.
15. She’s Sober
RuPaul was infamous in the 90s for his hard partying ways, but at some point things got a little too wild and he knew he had to get sober. This choice would set him on a path of self discovery and self love. Ru has lived and he has lost, but more importantly he knows the value of taking care of yourself first. Live for you and no one else.
16. His Husband Is A Rancher
RuPaul met his lifelong partner Georges LeBar on a New York City dance floor in 1994. It’s perfect, I know. LeBar is originally from Australia and owns a ranch in Wyoming, where he now lives full-time. He and Ru married in 2017 and enjoy an open relationship, which RuPaul believes is the reason for its success.
17. She Was A Trailblazer
RuPaul was the first drag queen to ever be declared the spokesmodel for a major cosmetics company. In 1994, Mac Cosmetics named Ru as their spokesperson, and she was also the first headliner for their Viva Glam lipstick line. Ru really is the full package.
18. She Got Ripped Off
RuPaul has a bone to pick with Jimmy Fallon and his segment-turned-TV-show Lip Sync Battle. The concept of two people battling each other in a lip sync-off is a familiar one, first conceived of course by RuPaul as a final elimination challenge in his reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul called Lip Sync Battle a “poor rip-off” of his version.
19. He Wanted To Be A Teacher
If RuPaul hadn’t found success as a drag queen, his backup plan was to become a teacher. He would want to be “teaching young people how to navigate life.” Though I think his fans would agree with me when I say he’s doing that already, just by being himself. You don’t need to stand in front of a classroom to be a teacher or role model.
20. She Got Kicked Off Set
Before RuPaul got sober, his substance use got him into a lot of trouble. In fact, he was once fired from the set of a Robert Palmer music video for “quaalude intensified drunkenness.” Ru has lived, and he has lived hard. He cleaned himself up after that experience, focusing more on his career and less on intoxicants. Good idea, Ru.
21. It Takes Six Hours To Become Her Drag Persona
It takes Charles’ special team of makeup and hair experts six hours to turn him into the flawless queen you see on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
22. He Would Give Up Drag
For RuPaul, it’s never really been about the act of doing drag, “If I never do drag again after today. I don’t care. It’s not that important to me. It never was,” he has said. Instead, for Ru drag is just a vehicle for expression and a way to flip the script on gender conformity and masculinity. It’s a form of therapy for him, and a way of reestablishing power.
23. She Has A Hit Song
Charles’ perhaps most well known song, and the song that really jolted her into the spotlight, was “Supermodel (You Better Work).” The music video was total drag on a dime, and was completely financed by Ru and her team. It was complete with scenes of Ru putting on makeup, shooting some hoops in full drag, and, of course, making love to the camera.
24. She’s An Author
RuPaul is comfortable putting everything out there, and he did just that in his first book Lettin’ It All Hang Out: An Autobiography, his second book Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Style, and his third book GuRu.
25. He Worked On Wall Street
In early 2014, RuPaul brought his suited self down to Wall Street. No he wasn’t on the floor selling, though I would love to see him yelling unintelligible nonsense at white men. He was there representing Viacom on behalf of Logo TV, and he had the responsibility of ringing the closing bell for NASDAQ.
26. He Has A Podcast
RuPaul not only has his own TV show, but he also has his own podcast with Michelle Visage. The two have been pals since the 90s and often reminisce about their wild partying ways. Their podcast What’s the Tee? features the two of them chatting about pop culture and giving advice on beauty, relationships, and just life in general. It’s very much a couple good Judys hanging out and spilling the tea.
27. She Has Spin-Offs
RuPaul’s Drag Race is so successful that it’s earned its own spin-off shows. Early success of the show brought us RuPaul’s Drag U, which featured some of the stars of Drag Race in the position of drag teachers, taking ordinary women under their wings and trying to get them to unleash the diva within. There’s also the behind-the-scenes Untucked and, of course, All-Stars.
28. He Had A TV Hit Before Drag Race
Charles’ first show wasn’t actually RuPaul’s Drag Race. In fact, Ru had his very own talk show back in the 90s. The RuPaul Show aired on VH1 in 1996 and featured Ru chatting with famous guests. The RuPaul Show was groundbreaking, as it was the first big TV show with an openly gay host. Ru just never slows down, does she?
29. He Has A Famous Best Friend
Everyone knows RuPaul and Michelle Visage are close, but it’s hard to overstate how close. As Michelle once put it, “In life, there’s chemistry that cannot be forced and it cannot be bought and it cannot be created. Some things are just meant to be.”
30. She Never Came Out Of The Closet
Though it’s a crucial part of many queer people’s journeys, RuPaul never had a “coming out” moment. He thinks of himself as never having been in the closet and therefore he never had to come out of it. Even as a child, other kids would often bully Ru and call him gay. This never bothered him, as such statements were “fine by me,” because he knew them to be true.
31. She Got Into A Feud
During the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards, RuPaul had a tiff with his co-presenter Milton Berle. Ru had been nominated for “Supermodel (You Better Work)” and was also presenting the People’s Choice Award with Berle. According to Ru, Berle had been “disrespectful” behind the scenes, and in response, Ru sniped on stage that Berle would rather be “wearing diapers rather than gowns.” This…did not go over well, and the pair had tension on stage.
32. She Caused A Controversy
Although RuPaul’s Drag Race has now had openly transgender women on as drag queens, Ru hasn’t always been so welcoming of the trans community. Besides making comments about not believing trans women could be drag queens, on early seasons of his reality show there was a taped announcement which would play “You’ve got she-mail,” a pun on a derogatory term for transgender women, though Logo TV ultimately chose to eliminate this.
33. He Uses Two Pronouns
For RuPaul, gender holds very little meaning, and he holds no preference for either he or she pronouns. After all, his purpose has always been to flip the script on gender norms and try not to take any of it too seriously.
34. She Gave An Apology
It is rather unusual for RuPaul to apologize for something he’s said, but after offending the transgender community, he issued an apology. RuPaul wrote, “I understand and regret the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.”
35. He’s A Hard Worker
When RuPaul was out trying to become a star, he wasn’t just sitting around. He put in the work and the hours, hustling to get his name out there. “I would paste my poster all over midtown to let people know who I was and keep my name in their consciousness. It’s showbiz 101,” he said. Ru wasn’t afraid of hitting the pavement.
36. He Was A Go-Go Dancer
Charles’ introduction to entertaining crowds began when he found success in Atlanta as a go-go dancer and emcee on public-access television. When he arrived in New York in 1987, his career as a go-go dancer would find legs at the legendary Pyramid Club. It was there he made friends with some Club Kids and started to become famous, eventually working parties.
37. She Liked To Dress Punk
RuPaul has always been able to adapt to changing times, and in his early drag years in Atlanta he had a very punk attitude to drag. “Drag was a tool because it was the most punk rock antiestablishment thing we could do,” he has said. “It had nothing to do with being gay, nothing to do with wanting to be a woman. It was about challenging the status quo, challenging ideals of identity.” To that end, she often wore “smeared lipstick and combat boots and ratty wigs.”
It’s hard to think of Ru wearing anything that isn’t a gorgeous designer gown complete with perfect hair and makeup.
38. She Befriended Kurt Cobain
It may come as a surprise to many that RuPaul and Kurt Cobain were friends. When they met at the 1993 Video Music Awards, Cobain and the rest of his Nirvana bandmates liked Ru so much they even went so far as to send Ru a Christmas message requesting his autograph.
39. He Became An Icon
When RuPaul performed at the LGBT march on Washington in 1993, he knew it was going to change his world. “In the club world, it was so much fun. We would terrorize the neighborhoods and have a great time doing lots of naughty, naughty things. But I knew that those days were over as soon as I got the news, because it was clear I had to represent a faction of society that had gone unnoticed and didn’t have a voice.”
40. He Didn’t Like Reality TV
RuPaul never set out to do a reality-based competition show, because he didn’t like the mean-spiritedness that is typical of the genre. So when the opportunity arose to put something together that was reality-show adjacent, he knew it would have to be something special. In the first season of Drag Race, all the competitions were based off things Ru actually did when he was coming up.