RuPaul Charles was born today, November 17, in 1960. He is an actor/host, drag queen, television personality, and singer/songwriter. Since 2009, he has produced and hosted the reality competition series RuPaul's Drag Race.
RuPaul was born and raised in San Diego and later moved to Atlanta to study performing arts. He settled in New York City where he became a popular fixture on the nightclub scene. RuPaul achieved international fame as a drag queen with the release of his debut single, "Supermodel (You Better Work)," which was included on his debut studio album Supermodel of the World (1993).
In 1996, he became a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics, raising money for the Mac AIDS Fund and becoming the first drag queen to land a major cosmetics campaign. That year, he received his own talk show on VH1, The RuPaul Show, which garnered 100 episodes while co-hosting the morning radio show on WKTU with Michelle Visage. He has had continued success as a recording artist, releasing 14 studio albums to date.
As an actor, RuPaul has made appearances in films including Crooklyn (1994), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), But I'm a Cheerleader (1999), Hurricane Bianca (2016) and the Netflix original series Girlboss (2017).
He has also published two books: Lettin It All Hang Out (1995) and Workin' It!: RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (2010). Additionally, RuPaul's Drag Race has produced 11 seasons to date and has inspired several spin-off series. He is also featured as a host on series such as Skin Wars, Good Work, and Gay for Play Game Show Starring RuPaul.
At the age of 15, RuPaul moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with his sister Renetta to study performing arts. In the ensuing years, RuPaul struggled as a musician and filmmaker during the 1980s. He participated in underground cinema, helping create the low-budget film Star Booty, and an album by the same name.
In Atlanta, RuPaul often performed at the Celebrity Club as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole. RuPaul also performed as a backup singer to Glen Meadmore along with drag queen Vaginal Davis. RuPaul's first prominent United States national exposure came in 1989 with an extra role dancing in the video for "Love Shack" by The B-52's.
In the early 1990s, RuPaul worked the Georgia club scene and was known by his full birth name. Initially participating in gender bender-style performances, RuPaul performed solo and in collaboration with other bands at several New York City nightclubs, most notably the Pyramid Club. He appeared for many years at the annual Wigstock drag festival and appeared in the documentary Wigstock: The Movie.
RuPaul is widely considered to be the most commercially successful drag queen of all time. He has been accredited with creating wider exposure for drag queens from LGBT culture in to mainstream society, thanks to his early-career chart success, and later, the successive climb in viewership of RuPaul's Drag Race.
His talk show The RuPaul Show was the first ever national talk show to have a drag queen as a host. Along with his partner Michelle Visage, he welcomed an array of high-profile guests such as Cher, Lil Kim, and Diana Ross over the show's 100-episode span. As well as having a variety of comedy skits, the show was noted for discussing topics such as black empowerment, female empowerment, misogyny, and liberal politics which were otherwise unheard of in 90's television at the time.
In 1999, RuPaul was awarded the Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards for work in promoting equality in the LGBT community.
By pioneering queer representation on television, many believe RuPaul to have essentially revolutionized the portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. He first won an Emmy for his work on the show in 2016, and one year later the show garnered 8 nominations, including Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for the first time in its 11-season run, and a second consecutive win for RuPaul in the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program.
In 2017, he was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.
RuPaul has been with his Australian partner, Georges LeBar, since 1994, when they met at the Limelight nightclub in New York City. They married in January 2017. LeBar is a painter and runs a 50,000-acre ranch in Wyoming.
RuPaul is noted among drag queens for his indifference toward the gender-specific pronouns used to address him—both "he" and "she" have been deemed acceptable, as stated in his autobiography: "You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me." RuPaul has also played men in a number of roles, and makes public appearances both in and out of drag.