"New" interview with RuPaul
RuPaul is one of the most-recognized and famous people in the country right now. But back when I interview Mama Ru, he had just returned from a self-imposed sabbatical. Our chat was previewing a beauty benefit for abused women and children called Hairball, at The Pageant in St. Louis.
We were lucky enough to get to watch RuPaul sing live in drag, because almost all personal appearances these days are sans drag. I dubbed this a “new” interview because it’s new for you, as it’s never been published in full until now!
Corey: You’re coming to town for the Hairball? Ever done a Hairball before.
RuPaul: I’ve coughed a few up.
Corey: What is your performance going to entail?
RuPaul: I love that question. You know, I interview people for a living, too, for morning radio. It is so interesting. Jewel just asked me a question. I’m going to D.C. as well. The Post wanted me for a part of their paper, for Sunday, name my favorite thing to do in D.C. Of course, I’m gonna have to lie, because the truth is, I don’t live in D.C. I’ve been there a million times, but I don’t know what my favorite thing to do in D.C. is. I know what they’re trying to do — I know how the game works, but basically to be in show business, you have to be a professional liar.
Corey: You can use mine. Once in D.C. we went to a great gay sushi karaoke bar Downtown.
RuPaul: Where is that?
Corey: I’m not sure.
RuPaul: That’s the thing. She wants it to be as detailed as possible. Oh, my God. You’re asking me what my show entails. Usually, when I’m asking a guest, when I don’t know anything about them, I’ll say, ‘Hey, you’ve got this new movie out. Tell us about it.’ Oh my goodness. My show is my show. I sing. I dance. I entertain. I’m pretty. (laughs) What else do you need to know?
Corey: I didn’t know if they were looking for you to do anything specific. It’s been a different show every year.
RuPaul: It’s gonna be what I’ve been doing for the past 23 years.
Corey: How did you get involved with this?
RuPaul: They just called. (laughs) You want something extra. They just called me. It didn’t take much.
Corey: It wasn’t like this cause called out to you or anything?
RuPaul: It is a great cause. All the causes are great. They’re helping out homeless women and their children, and I think it’s a great cause. I always want to do that.
Corey: Me and a roommate happened to be watching that reality show “The Biggest Loser” and I was surprised to hear your song playing.
RuPaul: Yeah, they used that for the theme of their show and that’s really great. It’s great for me, too, because my music has never gotten a lot of radio play. What I do and am famous for is even less popular in 2005 than it was in 1992, when I started out doing my show above ground. In this day and age, it’s such a coup to have that show or any show use your music for stuff and actually pay you for it. How old are you?
RuPaul: The world has changed so much. I took about four years away from show business. I barbecued, and was a good uncle and showed up for myself and my family. And now, in the time I’ve been away, the world has changed and it’s like we’re living in the ‘50s. I’ve got my work cut out for me getting heard, and being seen and all that. It’s always been difficult. It’s just more difficult now because our culture is more conservative.
So, something called the Hairball is a welcome change to what’s going on out there. The fact that it’s happening in St. Louis, right?
Corey: I’m definitely not going to ask you what your favorite thing to do in St. Louis is.
RuPaul: I’ve been to St. Louis several times. I’m 44 friggin’ years old; I’ve been a lot of places several times. I’m very excited to go. I know there are some rough parts of St. Louis, aren’t there.
Corey: There are and actually the venue you’re going to be performing in is probably the best venue to see a show in St. Louis. They’ve been open for a few years now and it’s in an area that was kind of run down and has been rejuvenated.
RuPaul: Are you from St. Louis? When is the date?
Corey: May 1.
RuPaul: May 1, you think it will be a little warm there?
RuPaul: Unfortunately, about D.C., I don’t know where the used CD places are. When I got travel, that’s what I do. I pick out the ...
Corey: The venue you’re going to be at, you’re about six blocks from the best independent music store in St. Louis, called Vintage Vinyl.
RuPaul: Vintage Vinyl. Do me a favor, put it on a Post It, that you will e-mail me
some information on Vintage Vinyl. They have used CDs also? I have got to go there. I’m going to do some research with a friend of mine on D.C. It feels like I’m an archaeologist when I do that. You really get a sense of who the people are in the area, what they’ve discarded, what their music tastes are, and I get to take a little something back with me from the city.
Corey: I’ve read that you have a very large CD collection. Are there any finds you are looking for?
RuPaul: I’m looking for that group, Champaign, from Champaign, Ill. They had that hit, “How Bout Us.” They also had another hit called I think called “Try Again.” I’m looking for their album on CD.
Corey: Do you look for local artists, too?
RuPaul: I’m looking for everything. Unless I’ve heard of it, I’m not that interested. I’m looking for everything that peaks my interest. I know a lot about music over the past 300 years. If it’s something I slightly remember or it peaks my interest, because it’s a good album, the artwork is good or maybe the group is covering a song I know, it depends. Depends on what I see.
Corey: I might put a couple artists on the e-mail for you to check out. The Hot House Sessions, a weird mix of Chicago house and other stuff. I’m reading about this doll. How did that come to be?
RuPaul: Again, they asked me to do it. Years ago, a few companies came to me with doll ideas. The companies that came to me before, their product wasn’t on par with what I envisioned my doll to be. When Integrity approached me with the idea, after I took a look at their product, I thought, “This is perfect, this is exactly the company I need to do this with.”
Corey: One of the few places that carries that line is in St. Louis.
RuPaul: It’s beautiful. The doll is gorgeous. It’s everything I would ever want in a doll.
Corey: A lot of these action figures and dolls come with different functions. Does yours do any tricks?
RuPaul: I know she can kick Barbie’s ass.
Corey: She’s taller than Barbie.
RuPaul: She is taller than Barbie. She’s been around the world — I’m sure Barbie has, too. My doll has been to places that Barbie doesn’t even know about.
Corey: Would probably scare the hell out of Barbie.
Corey: Is your doll more likely to hang out with the Bratz dolls than Barbie?
RuPaul: My doll can hang out everywhere. Good girls go to heaven; bad girls go everywhere.
Corey: I’ve got a friend who’s really interested in action figures and toys and they make these life-size dolls. Would you ever consider that?
RuPaul: There is a replica of me at Madame Toussad’s Wax Museum and she is an absolute replica. It’s the weirdest thing being able to see yourself from all these angles. She’s a real replica. They measured every inch of my body for that thing, so it’s weird. A life-size doll, that really alludes to one thing: sex. I don’t know. We’d have to see what company was doing it.
Corey: Did you go to wax musuems when you were younger and did they creep you out?
RuPaul: I did actually. My father, we would go. It was the one in Knoxberry Farm, in Buena Park, CA. There’s actually a picture of me and my sister, Rozzie, and I’m 13 years old and we’re sitting next to a wax figure of Frankenstein. That stuff doesn’t freak me out. The only thing that freaks me out or scares me are ignorant people.
Corey: Going back, you’ve been away for a while. What do you think about the country?
RuPaul: Our only hope is the young people. And really it’s educating them; knowledge is power. I want to be there as an option for them to hear from me, or see me or see the fact that there’s more than one way to skin a chicken. Just the fact that I’m out there and visible is very powerful stuff. I’ve always said the most political thing you can do is follow your heart. That’s my contribution, to be available to them. I really believe they’re our only hope.
People older than me, even a little younger than me, they remember what the ideals of the ’60s were. They know that there’s a better way of doing things, and to not live in fear and that fear is the biggest enemy of mankind. I’m surprised how people revert back so quickly. Someone like Prince, he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. How do you go from opening things up and experimenting to the outer limits of artistry and revert to something that’s very closed, and a closed doctrine and closed-mindedness? How do people do that? I’ve seen people do that a lot. It’s the fear.
Corey: That would be like you going away and becoming a Southern Baptist.
RuPaul: Exactly. Why would I do that? And if I ever do that, know that I’m fucking out of my mind. Time for an intervention.
Corey: Being out of the public eye for a few years, you had to have some interesting adventures. Anything you can share?
RuPaul: The most interesting adventures I had were internal, emotional journeys. It’s the final frontier. I am so much a better person because of it. [I] got to really experience and invest in the me that I left behind all those years ago. I’m from Southern California, and I moved back to Southern California to be with my family, and be with myself and be in a quiet place to recharge my battery. I tell ya’, every human being really needs to do that. It’s like my own personal resurrection. That was exciting, and interesting and gives me the energy I need to go on from here.
Corey: I’m sure you have exciting things planned for the future.
RuPaul: I’m going to be touring a lot this summer. We have a new single from the album, “RuPaul Red Hot,” called “Work Out.” We’re planning a video right now. We have a few treatments. I want to incorporate the doll into the video. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that, and some other things on the boards. I’m going to be a lot more visible in the future.