RuPaul (born RuPaul Andre Charles on November 17 1960) is an American drag performer, dance music singer, actor, and songwriter who gained fame in the 1990s; appearing in a wide variety of television programs, films, and musical albums. Though a catty attitude is often associated with drag queens, RuPaul intentionally displayed a "love one another" attitude to be set apart from them. Although primarily known for an extravagant drag queen persona, RuPaul has performed as a man in a number of roles, usually billed as RuPaul Charles.
Born in San Diego, California, RuPaul's youth was marked by the divorce of his parents at the age of seven. He struggled as a musician and filmmaker in Atlanta during the 1980s. It was there that he participated in underground cinema, helping create the low-budget Starbooty (and an album by the same name). In Atlanta, RuPaul often performed at the infamous Celebrity Club (managed by Larry Tee) as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole, which included the late Todd Butler. He was famously the only drag queen allowed to dine in the venerable Majestic diner -- probably because he regularly tipped the wait staff.
In the early 1990s, RuPaul became a fixture in the Georgia club scene, eventually voted "Queen of Manhattan" by area party promoters and DJs. He was often seen pushing a shopping cart outside of dance clubs, selling home-made postcards, and distributing flyers for upcoming events. It was during this time that he began performing under the name "RuPaul Charles". Initially participating in "genderfuck"-style performances, RuPaul performed solo and in collaboration with other bands at several New York nightclubs, most notably the Pyramid Club. He also appeared for many years at the annual Wigstock drag festival, and appears in the documentary Wigstock: The Movie. Also in the early 1990s, RuPaul became known in the UK through his appearances on the Channel 4 series Manhattan Cable, a weekly series presented by American Laurie Pike about New York's wild and wacky Public-access television system, in which RuPaul had become involved.
He began releasing dance/house albums with Supermodel of the World released in 1993 on the hardcore rap label Tommy Boy, spawning the dance track hit "Supermodel (You Better Work)", which was to be the advent of Rupaul. The music video became an unexpected success on MTV channels, as grunge-rock (Nirvana) and gangsta rap were popular at the time. RuPaul's friendly, drag queen image catapulted him to celebrity status through this first release. The song itself peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100, which was regarded as an unlikely accomplishment for a drag entertainer. It also charted on the UK Singles Chart, peaking within the top 40 at #39. The song found the most success on the US dance music charts (otherwise known as the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart), where it peaked at #2. It was through massive airplay and heavy rotation of the song's music video on the MTV network that the song became famous, as well as promotional TV appearances on programs like The Arsenio Hall Show.
Template:Rquote His next two songs/videos, "Back to My Roots" and "A Shade Shady (Now Prance)" both went #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts and further developed his campy persona. Between them, House of Love was released without a video. It failed to place on any US 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 an altogether different type of drag early in his career. The two had conflicts back-stage, and when Berle inappropriately touched RuPaul's 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 picked this up as a crack in the "love everyone" message RuPaul presented, and depicted the incident as a young newcomer treating a legend poorly. This year would also mark his biggest hit on The UK Singles Chart, a remake 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 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." As well at time he released his autobiography, Lettin' It All Hang Out.
He landed a talk show on VH1 1996, appropriately called The RuPaul Show, where he interviewed celebrity guests and musical acts. Nirvana (even though Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994), Duran Duran, Taylor Dayne, Mary J. Blige, Bea Arthur, Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton-John, Beenie Man, 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 notable episode, RuPaul brought gay porn culture to Middle America with featured guests Chi Chi LaRue and Tom Chase.
Later in the year he would release his second album, Foxy Lady, this time on the LA based Rhino Records label. Despite his growing celebrity, it 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 ninety-five on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was his second and only other Hot 100 entry). 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 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 in 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 2001 he recorded with Brigitte Nielsen, credited as Gitta, the Eurodance track You're no lady.
In 2004, RuPaul released his third album, Red Hot, on his own Ruco Inc. 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 leadoff 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 albumn "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. 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."
On June 13, 2006, RuPaul released ReWorked, his fifth album. It features reworked versions of songs from his back catalog, as well as new recordings. The only single realeased from the albumn is a re-recording of "Supermodel (You Better Work)", reaching number twenty-one on the U.S. dance chart. June 20, 2007 saw the release of "Starrbooty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on iTunes in the US. A CD version is available from RuPaul's official website. The single "Call Me Starrbooty" was released in 2007 and failed to chart on the US Dance charts. 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.
In mid 2008, RuPaul began work on RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality television game show to air on Logo. Top drag queens will compete to be selected as the number one drag performer in the country. At least one of the contestants will be chosen by fans through voting on RuPaulsDragRace.com.
- When guests enter the main room of Madame Tussaud's New York, they are greeted with the wax likeness RuPaul holding court as the center attraction high above the room as a life size center piece of a fountain.
- RuPaul is noted amongst famous drag queens for his indifference towards the gender-specific pronouns used to address him - both "he" and "she" have been deemed acceptable. "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."
- In 1997, the French-Canadian pop star Mitsou, who had primarily only had French-language hits, released an English-language single "Everybody Say Love" written by RuPaul (from the album Tempted).
- In August 2005 a series of three RuPaul dolls was released by Jason Wu dolls. Three more were released later.
- The song "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" from the album Red Hot was used as the theme song for the first season of the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser.
- "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous" was also used in scenes of an episode of Las Vegas titled "Whatever Happened to Seymour Magoon?" in 2006.
- RuPaul once made an appearance on Walker, Texas Ranger.
(See also www.rupauldiscography.com)
- Sex Freak (1985) (6 Song E.P.)
- RuPaul Is: Starbooty! (8 Song Soundtrack) (1986)
- Supermodel of the World (1993) #109 Billboard Hot 200
- Foxy Lady (1996)
- Ho, Ho, Ho (1997)
- RuPaul's Go Go Box Classics (1998) (Compilation of other artists picked by RuPaul)
- Red Hot (2004)
- ReWorked (2006)
- Starrbooty: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007)
- Sex Freak (1984)
- In My Neighborhood (1985)
- Ping Ting Ting (as "RuPaul Andre Charles") (1987)
- I Got That Feeling (1991)
- Supermodel (You Better Work) (1992) [#2 US Dance, #45 US, #39 UK]
- Little Drummer Boy (1993) [#61 UK]
- Back to My Roots (1993) [#1 US Dance, #40 UK]
- A Shade Shady (Now Prance) (1993) [#1 US Dance]
- House of Love (1993) [#40 UK]
- Everybody Dance (1993)
- The Extravaganza Megamix (1994)
- Free to Be (1995)
- Snapshot (1996) [#4 US Dance, #95 US]
- A Little Bit of Love (1997) [#28 US Dance]
- Celebrate (1997) [#34 US Dance]
- Funky Christmas (1997)
- Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous (2004) [#2 US Dance]
- Workout (2005) [#5 US Dance]
- People Are People (featuring Tom Trujillo) (2006) [#10 US Dance]
- Supermodel 2006 (2006) (Remake) [#21 US Dance
- Call Me Starrbooty (2007)
- Don't Go Breaking My Heart (1993) (#7 UK) [Remake, duet w/Elton John, from Elton John's album "Duets"]
- Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (1994) [from "Music From The Motion Picture Addams Family Values"]
- I Will Survive (1995) (UK Top 20) [featured on the video to the Diana Ross remake]
- Free To Be (1995) (from "Wigstock: The Movie, Music From The Original Motion Picture)
- It's Raining Men...The Sequel (1995) (#21 UK, #22 US Dance) (Remake, duet w/Martha Wash, from Martha Wash's album "The Collection" and "RuPaul's Go Go Box Classics" compilation album)
- Come (1997) [Writer, sung by Martha Wash, from Martha Wash's album "The Collection"]
- Everybody Say Love (1993) [Writer, sung by Mitsou, from Mitsou's album "Tempted"]
- Do The Right Thing (Don't Do Me Wrong) (1999) [Writer & Backing Vocalist, sung by Ev-Va]
- Queer Duck (1999) [Theme Song vocalist, voice for Lucky Duck]
- Bad Girl (2000) [Unreleased, Recorded for Lil Kim's album "Notorious Kim"]
- Say My Name (2001) [w/The Disco Brothers]
- You're No Lady (2002) [duet w/Gitta aka Brigitte Nielsen]
- It's Only Rock'n Roll (But I Like It) (2003) [Backing Vocalist, sung by Siedah Garrett]
- Electric Ecstacy (2004) [Eklektica feauring RuPaul, available from iTunes]
- Come 2 Me (2006) Lucy Lawless featuring RuPaul, available from lucylawlessfanclub.com]
- Computer Love (2007) [NSA featuring RuPaul, available from iTunes]
During 2006, a series of "demos" were available to download to fans through the official RuPaul MySpace page.
- StarrBooty '91 (Rare Demo)
- Free to Be (Steve Silk Hurley '94)
- Love Your Funky Self (Steve Silk Hurley '94)
- Don't Walk Away (Steve Silk Hurley '94)
- You're No Lady (Spanish Radio Edit) performed by RuPaul vs. Gitta
- Say My Name performed by DiscoBros. featuring RuPaul
- You're No Lady (Radio Edit) performed by RuPaul vs. Gitta
- Dog Done Bit'cha
- Electric Ecstasy (Club Remix) performed by Eklektica featuring RuPaul
- RuPaul Is: Starbooty! (1987)
- Crooklyn (1994) as Bodega Woman
- The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) as Mrs. Cummings
- Wigstock: The Movie (1995) as Himself
- Blue in the Face (1995) as Dancer
- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) as Rachel Tensions
- Red Ribbon Blues (1995) as Duke
- A Mother’s Prayer (1995) as Deacon "Dede"
- Fled (1996) as Himself
- A Very Brady Sequel (1996) as Mrs. Cummings
- An Unexpected Life (1998) as Charles
- Edtv (1999) as RuPaul
- But I'm a Cheerleader (1999) as Mike
- Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in the World (2000) as Daryl.com
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) as Himself (Narrator)
- The Truth About Jane (2000) as Jimmy
- For the Love of May (2000) as Jimbo
- Popular (2001) as Sweet Honey Child
- Who is Cletis Tout? (2001) as Ginger Markum
- Skin Walker (2004)
- Work it Girl: The Music Videos (2006)
- Zombie Prom (2006) as Ms. Strict
- Starrbooty (2007) as Starrbooty/Cupcake
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart