It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since RuPaul first dragged drag into America's living rooms via the "Supermodel (You Better Work)" video, an MTV staple back in 1993. As for the haters who regarded her success as a fluke or her debut album title, "Supermodel of the World," as hubristic, RuPaul has proven them wrong and then some.
Following the initial hoopla with a slew of hit dance tracks -- "Back to My Roots," "Snapshot," "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous," "Workout," "People Are People," and "Cover Girl" -- RuPaul has gone on to become the face of M.A.C. cosmetics, receive a wax replica in Madame Tussauds, and even have a RuPaul doll made in her likeness. Now starring on Logo's hit TV series "RuPaul's Drag Race" for five seasons and counting, she's managed to maintain a longevity that her supermodel contemporaries would kill for. Linda, Naomi, Christy, Cindy, Claudia, and Nikki -- eat your hearts out.
While promoting her sizzling single "Lick It Lollipop," featuring Lady Bunny, RuPaul gave Download the down-low on her Dragopolis and Dragulator apps, the homophobic tweets, the recent Facebook update about her late father, and whether she gets her gay news from the New York Times or Los Angeles Times apps.
Do you use the Dragopolis and Dragulator apps?
I use Dragopolis. I've played that game. The Dragulator game, not so much. I've been dragulating for the past 31 years.
Do you play Dragopolis on your iPad or iPhone?
I've played Dragopolis on my iPhone. But I'm from a different generation. The game world dropped me off at Ms. PAC-MAN, and I never got back on that bus. But it's cute. It's cute for her!
From "Supermodel" onwards, you have had several very successful dance tracks over the last 20 years. Are listeners still buying your music today or just streaming?
The biggest trend is that no one's purchasing and everyone listens to it on Spotify and Pandora, or they just illegally download it, so they don't have to buy it.
In fact, I'm making a record right now and I don't have any delusions that it's going to buy my summer home. It's really more to feed the hole, the brand, the machine. And it all plays a bigger role in the picture of marketing. It's not like I'm going to go no. 1 with my record. In fact, "Supermodel," it peaked at no. 42 on the pop charts that year -- and that was way back then.
For gay s**t, it's still a limited audience, and people are still close-minded about that s**t. We like to pretend that everything's great and that it's all fun, but there's still a stigma against being gay and being feminine, especially in the gay community.
In light of Amanda Byne's use of the word "faggot" on Twitter, a couple months back, and her calling you "ugly," do you get hateful words spewed at you, regularly?
Not really. I don't get a lot of that. I have gotten people who are clearly crazy. I must be some weird psychic, because I can tell -- even with e-mails -- I can read between the lines, with what this person is going through. There are people who will say: "You are a faggot," but those make me laugh because it's like [hahahaha], and after laughing my next thought is "Poor baby."
What you'll find, Josh, is if you incite the ego, then the ego in others will get incited and they feed on each other, and it has nothing to do with the issue at hand or the reason they're fighting. It has more to do with the ego needing someone to fight against. It's like barking dogs; they don't even know what they're barking at...they just like the act of it.
Your last two Facebook updates were: "Sometimes free comes at too high a cost" and the other, more poignant one about years of trying to figure out your father. Can you talk about what inspired those updates?
Sometimes free comes at too high a cost -- that's not deep, that's a fact of life. As a celebrity, people want to give you free stuff and it's hard to turn it down, but then you realize, "Oh, I see." The payoff is that they gain leverage with you, and if something isn't right, you lose the ability to say, "You better fix this s**t." You lose that right when it's given to you. It's much better to pay for your s**t and retain the ability to complain about it if it's wrong.
The father thing was something I contemplated for a long time as to whether I would tweet that, and the funny thing about it is: not a lot of responses to that one. I think that maybe it hits a little too close to home or that maybe people don't understand it. But it always amazes me how humans fill in the blanks. And let me explain that: If you meet someone, you naturally assume that they have all of your same values and morals and interests. Before you know about them, you say, "Oh, we're just alike." But it always amazes me -- humans' ability to do that.
Even with stars, we project ourselves onto stars like a film projector projects onto a screen. I said that about my dad, because I assumed that we were buddies and that him not being conscious of my feelings was something that was premeditated -- that he was well aware that he wasn't paying attention to my feelings. As I deconstructed him, I realized that he wasn't thinking about that at all; he was just oblivious. I had imagined that he behaved that way, because if I were going to do the same thing, that's what I would be doing. Because if I were to ignore someone's feelings, I'd be so conscious of it, so I'm assuming he'd be conscious of ignoring someone's feelings, too. And my dad has been dead for a while and this is an old issue. I got past this, probably 15 years ago, but it occurred to me again and I tweeted it.
In 1995, you released a successful autobiography called "Lettin It All Hang Out." Do you read books on your iPad?
Normally I read books on my iPad. Right now I'm reading David Sedaris' book "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls."
But last week I finished reading a real "book book," called "Splendora" about a tranny who returns to her small hometown in Texas and no one was clocking her, so she turns the town upside down. But no one knows that a) she's transgender and b) the little boy that left there years ago. I thought it was so hard, because I had to get my glasses out and make sure the lighting was right, and it was an old book and the spine was getting loose, so it was a trip.
You regularly post your exercise music playlists on social media. In light of your earlier comment, it's probably safe to assume that you're not using Spotify or Pandora playlists?
No, I do it on my iPod, because I have those files. They belong to me and are in my record collection. I make playlists, so I swear to you, there are 30 different playlists and they're all an hour and ten minutes long. It's dance music, BPMs of 128 and up. I'm doing the treadmill and elliptical, so I like to pick up the pace. But if you google "RuPaul's Cardio Jam of the Day" you'll find all my past playlists.
There has been a lot of historic gay news recently between gay marriage and Russia's treatment of gays. Out of curiosity, how do you get your news?
I get it from the "L.A. Times" and "Dlisted" and "The New York Times." I love how "L.A. Times" has made their Web site more modern. "The New York Times" is still thinking that their Web site is a newspaper. But that's not how people read. I want a bullet point list so I can read this stuff fast. People are reading this stuff at the stoplight before the light turns green. So "The New York Times" one is too small. Even though the content is great, the way it's situated is all wrong for the 21st century. The "LA. Times" is easy, breezy, and similar to a scroll -- and it makes everything so much better.