Earlier this year, RuPaul, the recording artist/actor/author and executive producer/host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, famously remarked in an interview with Vulture, “I’d rather have an enema than an Emmy.”
In September, he revisited the comment on stage as as he somewhat ironically accepted the Emmy for Outstanding Host of a Variety, Non-Fiction or Reality Program.
“Now I can have both,” he said. It was the most buzzed about speech of the night.
Anyone who has seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race should be familiar with the titular host’s usual parting shot, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” These words are the exclamation point to a recurrent theme of the show: RuPaul’s message to her girls and to her fans that to have self-respect, to be self-reliant, and to find strength from within (not through approval from others) are the keys to a life lived happily and successfully.
We recently spoke with RuPaul about the Emmy win, the legacy of drag, and what's next for the award-winning show.
Out: If someone told you, back in the '80s or '90s, while you were getting dressed to go onstage at the Pyramid Club in New York, that one day you’d win an Emmy, what would you have said?
RuPaul: I would have said, ‘OK, all right, that’s cool. But that’s not why I’m going to get up on stage tonight, because I’m trying to entertain myself and have fun and live out my creative impulses.’
I have always been a creative person. I’ve always been able to see different colors that other people were ignoring. (Laughs.) And, I always wanted to express that with members of my tribe. So I went out—I left San Diego and went out looking for my tribe. And, I found them. I found them at the Pyramid Club.
Why do you think this year was the year, not only to be recognized, but to win?
I don’t know. It’s great, but it’s not why we do the show. And, you know, if something comes out of winning, hopefully—hopefully it will create more revenue for me and the girls—the 100 girls [who’ve competed on the show].
There's something happening now in that drag queens, trans and gender-nonconforming people are being nominated and winning mainstream Hollywood awards—something, I think, that will continue to happen. Any thoughts on someone in the past who you feel may have deserved an award, but lived in a time when it just wasn't possible?
Well, I think the people who, like myself, who live outside the box understand early on that assimilating and getting awards based on a standard of status quo is really not that important. In fact, if that was the Holy Grail in my career, I would have given up years ago because people weren’t trying to understand, or hear, anything that I had to do with.
I think this was 12 years ago, Logo took a meeting with me. I think, out of obligation. And, they didn’t want to hear a fucking thing I had to say. I don’t know why they took the meeting. It was a different regime, a whole different group of people at Logo, that eventually greenlit our show.
My point is—humans are basic, very basic, in that humans want the same, same thing. The people who I would have given an award to from years ago, they didn’t care about awards. Because, you know, that system of getting an award from the status quo cannot factor into one’s plans. Because you’d be waiting a long time. And, that can’t be the motivation for you to get out of bed in the morning. It has to come from within. It has to come from deep in your soul to do what you do. And, if an award comes then, right on.
Honestly, I’d give everyone a fucking award. I think everyone who gets out of bed in the morning gets an award. You know, it’s just how you look at it. This whole life is a gift. So, let’s start there. But, a statue, whateva, it’s not that important.
Has drag changed since you started out?
Well, drag really—it really hasn’t changed. You know, there are nuances that have changed, but the irreverence is really what drag is all about. Drag is there to remind our culture to not take itself too seriously. Drag queens have always mocked identity. Now the biggest change I’ve seen, you know, is that a lot of girls will come and try to look exactly like their favorite pop star. Which sort misses—it kind of misses the irony of it. But, even if it misses the irony in their look, they still keep the irony in their attitude. And, that’s what’s important.
What is it about watching drag performers that brings such joy to people?
I think it is an aspect of the human spirit. People get to see their own dreams come to life through the spirit of these gracious queens. Everyone on this planet has a dream. And, a lot of times they are secret dreams they don’t tell anybody about. Well, to watch a drag queen, is toying with the last taboo in a patriarchal, male-dominated culture: to be a sissy boy and to prance around and…wink, wink…is the most outrageous thing you could do. It’s the most punk rock thing you could do.
Is there any one Drag Race moment that stands out to you above all others?
Well, honestly, when we wrapped this week on season 9, the last day, I thought fuck, we fucking did it again. Here we are. We’ve just wrapped our 11th cycle of the show. I think that moment there is the most brilliant. Who knew? It’s like first of all, in show business, the luxury of being able to go back to the same job more than once, twice. You get used to it in this business that most things fail. Now here we are, 11 cycles in. I thought the moment they said, "that’s a wrap," that’s the most amazing moment of this show so far. (Laughs.)
And now All Stars 2 is on.
Yes, and honey, this muthafucka gets just—it gets crazy. I mean, we have just outdone ourselves with this All Stars. It’s such a thrill ride. I watch it and I’m so excited and then I’m really sad and then I’m excited. And, I was there—I was there—I was there! As a viewer watching it, it just blows my mind. So many ups and downs and twists and turns.
What will you conquer next?
I’m going to try to get through today. It’s one day at a time. As I said, we just finished filming, and I have to remember where we left off before filming, even the months leading up to it, it’s all-encompassing. Getting back to my music and different other side projects that I do, like Skin Wars and Fresh Paint, that I host.
But Drag Race, you know, that really is my legacy.
Speaking of legacy, and looking back on all the amazing things you’ve done so far, any thing you’ve learned or words of advice you think we should know?
Never wear high heels in soggy grass.
RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2 airs Thursdays on Logo 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central. Go to Logotv.com for additional air times and details.