“You better work,” RuPaul famously said in her 1992 dance hit “Supermodel.” And now, after a 10-year break from the spotlight, thedrag superstar is heeding her own advice. She’s hosting the incredibly addictive RuPaul’s Drag Race (Mondays at 10 p.m. on LOGO), a campycompetition series that can best be described as America’s Next TopModel with bigger wigs, bigger boobs, and a lot more waxing. On the(high) heels of her new success, EW asked Ru to reveal her five rulesfor making a comeback.
1. Don’t call it a comeback.
Instead, tell people that “you’ve stepped away from the canvas, as mygood friend Valerie Cherish says,” suggests RuPaul, referencing LisaKudrow’s tragicomic character from HBO’s The Comeback. Ru says herdisappearance reflected the political climate: While the Bushadministration ruled, RuPaul hibernated, serving up just two poorlyreceived albums and an under-the-radar supermodel action flick calledStarrbooty. “It wasn’t a meltdown or anything,” she says. “It reallyhad more to do with understanding the temperature socially. Now” — in theBarack Obama era — “it’s the perfect time to reemerge.”
2. Give pop culture a drag makeover.
Yes, there are supposed to be glaring shades of Top Model and Project Runway reflected in Drag Race. Dressed as a man, RuPaul channels Runwaymentor Tim Gunn while advising contestants in their workroom. (Thecatchphrase: “Don’t f— it up.”) Later, she transforms into aheightened version of Tyra Banks for the elimination portion of thecompetition. “All drag is a sampling of pop culture,” RuPaul says. “Mywhole image is one part Dolly Parton, one part Cher, three parts Diana,and one part David Bowie. If you’ve seen pictures of Tyra, you’d thinkshe was sampling me.” So who’s the chicken and who’s the egg in thisscenario? Unfortunately, Banks declined to help clear things up for EW.
Ru’s rules 3 – 5, after the jump…
3. Keep looking fabulous.
With a slammin’ body and glowing skin, RuPaul looks better today than when she stormed the scene 20 years ago. What’s the trick: daily jogs? A supersecret Master Cleanse? Creative lighting? (After all, the judging-panel scenes look like they were shot with an iPhone camera smeared with Vaseline.) “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I eat good,” RuPaul says. “Sometimes I cheat on the diet — you know, I’m human.” (Her indulgence? “I love brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts.”) Still, there are definitely smoke and mirrors involved. “It’s all about the lighting!” she says. “I’m the friggin’ star of the show!”
4. Bring along your entourage.
Drag Race’s lineup of judges (both guest and permanent) reads like a gay fever dream: fashion journalist Merle Ginsberg, Project Runway villain Santino Rice, designer Bob Mackie, and homo-friendly actresses Tori Spelling and Lucy Lawless. “These are people I know, people I trust, and people who understand what I’ve done in my career,” explains Ru. And if they understand her career, they should easily be able to help her pick the next drag superstar, right? Which brings us to…
5. Crown an heir to the wig.
Now 48, RuPaul knows that she can’t drag forever, so she’ll anoint the queen with the most “charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent” in Drag Race’s March 23 finale. Finding a successor “would be interesting
for me and the world,” RuPaul says. “It would signal our cultural evolution. I think someone could surpass [my fame].” With the success of the show, it’s possible: LOGO isn’t rated by Nielsen, but Drag Race has gotten enough buzz to land a rerun spot on sister network VH1; Web traffic on logoonline.com has ignited since the premiere; and Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks (LOGO’s parent company), says, “This is the widest hit we’ve had to date.” Adds Ru: “I’ve earned my champion, I’ve earned the right. It’s the emancipation of RuRu.”