RuPaul’s Drag Race is speeding into its sixth season with bigger budgets, hair and bulges (really, the pit-crew boys have increased their volume this year). With more eyes on the show and its queens than ever before, Xtra chatted with the original Glamazon and found out what RuPaul and her panel of judges have in store for the show’s loyal fans, got all the skinny on her new fragrance and album, and learned what finally made her screw her wig on straight and become a superstar.
Xtra: RuPaul’s Drag Race has turned into a full-blown sporting event. It’s the gay NFL, and the season finale is our version of the Super Bowl. Are you surprised at how big the show has become?
RuPaul: No, no it’s so fascinating. It’s so amazing. You know, I’m just surprised it hasn’t always been this way. I’ve always been fascinated with drag, so it doesn’t surprise me that other people feel that way about it too.
What can you tell us about Season 6? What can Drag Race fans expect?
I can’t tell you anything about this season! I don't know how to answer that question. I mean, you know, you put a bunch of queens in a room and dangle $100,000 in front of their faces, and the hilarity ensues! You know what’s going to happen.
Of course . . .
Little boys who are super, super creative and super, super sensitive are very exciting to watch. They’re going to be serving lots of hope and spirit and laughter and tears. It’s all of the things that have made this show so special and so unique.
I know that you watch all the audition tapes for RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are you looking for when casting for the show?
I’m looking for charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. And it’s more rare than people think. People think that because you have a pussycat wig and a pair of cha-cha heels that you deserve to be on the show. And this is not a democracy. There is a specific criteria to do this. We’re looking for showgirls. We want to throw these challenges at you and see how you handle them. If you don’t have experience, you won’t know what to do with them, and that makes for a boring show. It amazes me that more people don’t really get that.
What tips do you have for the queens applying for Season 7?
Be yourself. Don’t try to be what other people want you to be or what you think I want you to be. I’m looking for people who are really themselves. And I can see through people who are putting on an act just to try to get in. I wanna see who you are. Ultimately, when you’re in the competition, who you are will eventually come out.
Do you have a favourite “lip-sync for your life?” performance?
There have been so many great ones, because these are real performers. I probably have a good 10 that stick out in my mind. Like on Season 3 with Raja and Carmen Carrera and that lesbian lip-sync. And on All-Stars when Raven and Jujubee had to lip-sync against each other. That was another one that was just amazing. And this last season [Season 5] with Roxxxy Andrews and Alyssa Edwards, when they did “Whip My Hair.” Oh my gawwwd!
Oh, for people who have never seen the show before I always show them that clip right off the bat, and they literally do not know what to say. That’s how good it is. And the success that a lot of these girls experience post-Drag Race is pretty incredible.
Was that your hope when you started the show?
Yeah, well, you know I’ve been doing this a long time. The big news with all of this is that they continue on with my legacy. And I was the only bitch in the game for 20 years. Really. There were others, but I mean . . . c’mon, get real. So to create these stars and send them out into the wild, all around the world — Australia, Africa, you name it — has been the most rewarding part of the experience. To allow them to come through this experience and become these stars, I absolutely love it.
It’s wonderful. Now, I know scheduling and timing plays a big part in who is brought on as a celebrity guest judge on the show, but who are you dying to have on, who hasn’t done it yet? Who is your dream celebrity guest judge?
Well, of course, the queen of all queens. The biggest drag queen ever.
It’s Cher. That would be the holy grail of guest judges.
What Cher song would you have the girls lip-sync to if you got her on the show?
Easy. “Save Up All Your Tears.”
It’s my favourite. I think it’s my favourite Cher song, actually.
It’s in my top three for sure. It’s great. And speaking of pop divas: you recently performed with Lady Gaga for her holiday special. What was that experience like?
You know, I’m always surprised at the new crop of superstars and how young they are. She’s so young! She’s got gorgeous skin . . . and she’s really just a kid, ya know? And lovely. She’s really a kind-hearted person. And that’s not always the case with superstars. The ego thing gets the best of them, but she is just really a lovely, kind-hearted person and so talented.
Your new album, Born Naked, comes out on Monday, Feb 24. What can you tell us about it?
Oh my god, it is so fun. It really represents all the music that I love to listen to. Dance, booty-shaking music, ballads . . . There’s lots of fun duets on this record, which is really different for me.
Can you tell us who’s on the album?
Yeah! Martha Wash. I got one with Michelle Visage. This is the first time we’ve done anything together since my Christmas record [Ho Ho Ho] many years ago. Clairy Browne, who’s an Australian artist who is just fabulous. Lucian Piane, who is my longtime music partner. And Big Freedia, who I did “Peanut Butter” with.
From music to movies: will we ever see you on the big screen again?
Yes. We’re actually planning a Drag Race movie.
Are you serious?
Yeah. We’re in the writing stages of it right now. So we’ll see what happens.
You recently released a new fragrance, called Glamazon. What took so long?
That’s a good question. Up until about two years ago, I didn’t wear fragrances because I was allergic to them for about 10 years and they would make me sneeze and stuff. But somehow my chemistry changed and I could wear them again! And actually, I’m wearing Glamazon right now and I absolutely love it. I wear it every day. I love it so much.
I hear it smells fantastic, and the queens are trying to mop it every chance they get. What does it smell like?
It’s more on the woodsy side. It’s got a tinge of cinnamon and sort of a natural woodsy feeling.
Where can people get it?
So many people consider you to be their role model and their hero. Who do you look up to? Who inspires you?
I look up to Judge Judy. She’s my number-one role model.
What is it about her you love?
She keeps it 100. In such a world where entitlement and ego allows people to take on behaviour that just makes absolutely no sense, she sets it all straight. I love that.
Would you ever have her on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
I would love it, but she’d never do it because she plays a judge on her own show.
RuPaul, what is the key to being successful?
I think it’s “Know thyself.” That is really the key to any venture. It took me many years to know thyself. I had to bump my head around a lot to figure this out. Even with music. It wasn’t until I met Lucian Piane that I really hit my mark and understood what my voice was; not just physically, but on an emotional level. We are this instant culture where we want everything right away. It doesn’t work that way. It just takes time.