RuPaul was born RuPaul Andre Charles on November 17, 1960, in San Diego, California. RuPaul eventually took his cross-dressing persona to stages in Atlanta and New York with bands and as a dancer. In the early 1990s, he landed a record contract and released his first album, Supermodel of the World, while also starting a career in acting. On the strength of his TV shows, including RuPaul's Drag Race, and his oversized personality, RuPaul has become a beacon in gay, drag and transsexual communities.
Background and Early Years
Entertainer RuPaul was born RuPaul Andre Charles on November 17, 1960, in San Diego, California. His parents divorced when RuPaul was seven, and he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with his sister and her husband during his teens. RuPaul was the only boy of his parents’ four children, and eventually began wearing his sisters’ clothes and exploring cross-dressing, emulating stars like Diana Ross and Jane Fonda in his youth.
In Atlanta, RuPaul attended the Northside School of Performing Arts, and although he didn’t graduate, it was a big step toward getting his feet wet in the world of performance and, in the end, show business. In 1982, RuPaul took the next step and sent a photo of himself to a local TV program called The American Music Show, asking to appear on air. Before long, he was appearing on the series regularly, often with his newly formed band, RuPaul and the U-Hauls.
Wigstock and Debut Album
RuPaul and the U-Hauls broke up before too long, and Wee Wee Pole was formed in its place, performing around Atlanta. RuPaul also made his first move into acting during this period, appearing in uncredited roles in a series of low-budget movies. While these appearances didn’t help RuPaul climb the ladder of fame, he was never short on ideas to further his career. In one such push, RuPaul sold pictures of himself as postcards and created little booklets with self-penned witticisms and anecdotes.
In the mid-1980s, the quite statuesque RuPaul left the South and headed to New York City and became part of a new festival known as Wigstock. He, his Atlanta roommate Lady Bunny (who launched Wigstock) and others would perform in drag primarily in the East Village area, with the festival eventually growing. RuPaul's flamboyance and ease on stage made him a hit club dancer, and by the end of the decade he was dubbed the Queen of New York.
In 1991, RuPaul was signed to a recording contract by Tommy Boy Records, and two years later his debut album, Supermodel of the World, appeared. He found a hit with the single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which reached the Top 50 of the pop charts and No. 2 on the dance club charts. RuPaul would remain a club fixture over the years with other hits like "Snapshot" and "WorkOut." A 1993 duet with Elton John on a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” also drew attention, becoming a U.K. Top 10 hit.
Reality Show 'Drag Race'
In 1994, RuPaul made his feature film debut in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, and a new facet of his performing career was launched. A string of roles would follow, including on TV shows such as Sister Sister and In the House and in films such as The Brady Bunch Movie, Blue in the Face and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (all in 1995 alone). That same year, RuPaul saw his autobiography Lettin’ It All Hang Out published and signed on as a model with MAC cosmetics. RuPaul next landed his own TV talk show, aptly titled The RuPaul Show, which ran until 1998.
While acting continually on TV, RuPaul never stopped recording music, with albums like Ho Ho Ho (1997), Red Hot (2004) and Reworked (2006) keeping fans happy. Despite success in music and film, RuPaul really made his mark on the cultural landscape with the 2009 debut of his long-running reality TV competition RuPaul's Drag Race, along with its later variations, All Stars and Untucked! In 2016 he won an Emmy for his work on Drag Race.
RuPaul’s solo album Slay Belles was released in 2015, and his new game show, Gay for Play, is slated for 2016.
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