You don't become the most famous drag queen in the world without amassing a substantial collection of gowns, wigs, and accessories, a fact that's quickly proved upon entering RuPaul's ''Drag Race'' (Mondays at 9 p.m. on Logo) dressing room. ''I'm not some 17-year-old ingenue who needs a little mascara and some lip gloss,'' says the 51-year-old diva, who gave EW a rare tour of the sacred space. ''I'm not messing around in here; I'm like the MacGyver of drag.''

By Tanner Stransky
October 26, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Moved By Music

What sets the tone for Ru’s daily transformation? An iPod loaded with some 12,000 songs, ranging from classics by the likes of David Bowie and Donna Summer to club jams by Rihanna. ”Dance music is more important to me today than ever because I find myself needing to drown out this noisy-ass world more and more.”

In the Details

Styling is all about options. ”I have to be able to see everything,” says RuPaul, who uses every inch of counter space to display all of his fashion and beauty essentials. ”There’s the jewelry, the flowers, the neckties, and all that stuff.” Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

”For the last 30 years, [when traveling] I bring my own lighting and mirrors,” explains the 6’4” performer, who had the room’s closet doors repurposed as oversize makeup and finishing mirrors and banned the use of fluorescent lightbulbs. ”There’s a lot going on — there’s big hair, big everything — and I want to see it all.”

Designer Duds

Since 1992, all of Ru’s gowns have been the handiwork of a single designer: Zaldy, who has created stagewear for everyone from Michael Jackson to Mick Jagger and even helped Gwen Stefani launch her L.A.M.B. clothing line. In addition to clothes, ”I have to have photos, things from home,” the Drag Race host says of the creature comforts that surround him.

Wigging Out

Each of Ru’s coifs comes with more than a few stories. ”I wore that wig in the first promos for Drag Race, and it’s on the cover of my [2009] album Champion,” he says, pointing to the third weave from the left. ”That is the wig that made me famous. You can’t find that color anymore. We just call her ‘butterscotch.”’

Makeup By … Cher?

”I am a big, big Cher fan, and she inspires me, especially in the makeup area. Nobody has done more drag than Cher,” Ru declares. Cher a drag queen? ”That’s not a reach. She would tell you the same thing. I don’t differentiate between male drag or female drag — we’re all doing it.”

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