"We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag."
Such is the philosophy of entertainer RuPaul and his empire that stretches from reality television (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) to music (he released “Realness” in March) to his line of high heels and chocolate candy.
Saturday he will broaden his reach at the Los Angeles Convention Center with RuPaul’s DragCon, the first ever convention celebrating “the art of drag, queer culture and self-expression for all.” The two-day event will feature a host of panel discussions moderated by memorable drag queens from the television show.
Some of the panels include: makeup tutorials in “How to Beat That Mug to Perfection;” "tucking" how-tos in “Everything You Wanted to Know About Tucking but Were Afraid to Ask;” and the lives of drag queens who are dads in “The Secrets of Fierce Fatherhood.”
RuPaul will take the stage Sunday for a closing keynote address. He spoke with The Times about the convention, his career and why drag is important.
Everyone knows the name RuPaul. Did you ever think you would rise to this level of recognition and become a household name?
Yeah, I thought I would. If I didn’t think it would happen, I wouldn’t have done it. Everything I approach, I do it will all the gusto and with everything that I have. I’ve learned to understand when it doesn’t happen, but I always approach everything as though it will blow the lid off of pop culture as we know it.
What has been the best, most enjoyable aspect of your career to date?
The television show ["RuPaul’s Drag Race"] has been the most fulfilling because over my 30-plus-year career, we’ve launched the careers of almost 100 girls. They are right now in airports and in clubs and somewhere traveling the world carrying on the legacy and tradition of our show from South Africa to Brazil to Europe.
One of the cornerstones of the show is the celebrity guest judges every week. Is there anyone, after seven seasons, you’re still hoping for?
We would love to have all of the women that our girls have emulated. The truth is, there really isn't a lot of difference between the big female stars like Beyonce and Britney and Cher and Diana than our own girls. So, who better to judge drag queens than other female drag queens. Literally, it’s the exact same. The only thing that is different is that these are biological men, but those women go through the exact same thing that we go through.
You’re known for countless signature one-liners. Which is your favorite?
“Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.”
Why did you decide to do a convention about the drag experience?
We have fans of the show from all over the world. The social media experience is great, but to have a place or a town hall where all of these people - who are not just drag queens, but people who dance to the beat of a different drummer - can get together and meet their brothers and sisters and create a universal community is really important to me and our show. It’s important for them to know there are people who think like them and feel like them. It’s important for them to find their tribe, which is one of the greatest journeys anyone can take.
What do you hope people will take away from the event?
As gay people we get to choose our family, but its even broader than being gay. It has to do with a certain aesthetic and that’s why drag is important. Drag is important because it reminds our culture to not take life too seriously. That is a huge philosophy shift and the people who think that way and look beyond, break the fourth wall, are the people who can really navigate this life with ease and finesse and with verve and color and with real expertise. When you take it all too seriously, when you think that everything it says you are on your driver’s license or birth certificate is all that you are, then you’ve really lost the plot.
This convention is for people who see beyond all of that. It’s not just drag. It’s a certain philosophy. It’s a certain spirit. This will ignite a movement that will be felt around the world.
RuPaul's DragCon takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online.
Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.