On a whim a few weeks ago, I decided to e-mail the fantastic Ms. RuPaul Andre Charles on the off chance that she would deign to grant me an interview. Only a short time later I, Bradley Bailey, would talk with America’s premiere drag queen. Yes, Warhol fans, these are my fifteen minutes. Brace thyself:
Bradley: Well, first of all I’d just like to thank you for letting me —
RuPaul: Oh blah, blah, blah, I know you think you have to say all that to appear intelligent, you precious, little thing, but — how old are you?
Bradley: I just turned 22 on Saturday.
RuPaul: 22? Well, once you get to my age you throw all that shit out the window!
B: Okay, so you have a new album that just came out. Have you reached a new age of introspection?
R: Well, in contrast to “Supermodel,” I think it’s time for some new optimism. This really is a dark time, even though we are all distracted with our cell phones and iPods these past four years, but we are living in the dark ages!
B: So, with this shift to the conservative right happening in America, what did you, as a statuesque, black, glamazon drag queen do?
R: Oh, I went underground! Four years ago I went underground and started working on my personal life and it was wonderful, but now I just felt like I had to come back out and help out.
B: Yeah, I guess a lot of people didn’t go underground, they just kinda sold out and started performing at the Republican National Convention, like Amy Grant, who’s now all Christian or something, but you never thought about doing anything like that?
R: Oh no, I can’t believe that either. That is amazing to me. You know, I had my own version of that and now I don’t party the way I used to and I’m just enjoying the gift of life. That’s what I learned from the musical “Hair.” Just be free!
B: Well, even Gloria Gaynor re-wrote “I Will Survive” to be about Jesus.
R: That’s not so shocking, I mean, Gloria Gaynor has always been highly religious. During the ’70s, she was Zen Buddhist or, maybe Orthodox Jew, or some other heavy duty religion for a while, and now she’s just straight up Christian again.
B: Okay, so now let me ask you a question about your hair. You just recently went brunette for the cover of “RuPaul Red Hot,” is this part of the new Ru?
R: I’ve always had several different wigs and my look has always changed. I even dressed as an echo once. I mean, what do you think an echo looks like?
R: Exactly. It’s an abstract concept, like an echo or silence, how do you dress like an abstract concept? Look, my point is I’m an artist. The blonde just pays the mortgage on the house!
B: Was this change to brunette pre- or post-Ashlee Simpson’s?
R: Oh please, honey! I was brunette when I gave birth to Ashlee Simpson! It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and– there’s not a lot goin’ on there! You know?
B: Well, she does have a TV show, and so does Jessica.
R: Oh! And the sister! Less, even less, is going on with her!
B: Speaking of TV shows, do you want a show again? I think your being on TV was important. For a while there, the only other black person on VH1 was Roshumba!
R: I’ve really been focusing on the album, but I still do Morning Drive radio here in New York. And I have been offered some reality shows but most of them are stupid and damaging to my brand. I’ve been doing show business for 22 years — as long as you’ve been alive — and I need to nurture what’s underneath the makeup.
B: Well, a month ago you did a show for Cornell. Would you ever consider doing one at Yale?
R: What? Are you asking me on a date?
B: Um, well, yes, I guess so.
R: Look, I’ll be honest with you. All these shows and performances, I just go where the money is.
B: Oh, I don’t have any money. I’m just a boy from the Midwest with a dream.
R: The Midwest! Aaaah– Where?
R: Oh, I know Kansas!
B: You do?
R: I’ve been everywhere! Some guy even interviewed me for a newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas and then he moved to New York so I told him to call me for some coffee.
B: Did he?
R: Yeah, he called, but he kept talking about his fiancZ
B: Well, to a lot of people, you are a leader. I mean, weren’t you the first, even before Lil’ Kim and BeyoncZ
R: I don’t know if I was the first, I think that — actually, yeah, I think I was the first. I was doing it for a while and then Mary J. started too, but really, gay people have always been on the forefront of fashion, so I have always been right there.
B: It’s an election year. What do you think about that?
R: This election is really a pivotal point in our culture, even the jaded people are starting to rise up and coming out of the dark. It’s like my song, “Coming Out of Hiding.” And you young kids have only seen retrogression, not the fight for freedom. Conservatism is not a good thing.
B: I agree. How much time do we have left, just out of curiosity?
R: Why? Do you want the rest of my minutes on a gift certificate of something?
B: Really? You can do that?
R: No, I’m just twistin’ your tits, love, but if you want, you can give me a call some time.
B: Well, before you go, do you have any advice for me?
R: Yes. Just keep being proactive. You e-mailed me and look, now you’re talking to RuPaul. Just remember that and it will serve you well. Just keep standing up to say “Excuse me! I’m here!”
B: Thanks so much for the interview.
R: You’re welcome. Come to New York some time and I’ll treat you to coffee. You can even bring your fiancZ
Bradley Bailey really did talk to RuPaul. RuPaul really is a man.