RuPaul Turns 52- Happy Birthday Supermodel !
RuPaul was born on November 17th in San Diego, California. His name was given to him by his mother, a Louisiana native. The Ru came from roux, an ingredient used ingumbo. RuPaul struggled as a musician and filmmaker in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1980s. He participated in underground cinema, helping create the low-budget film Starrbooty, and an album by the same name. In Atlanta, RuPaul often performed at the Celebrity Club (managed by Larry Tee) as a bar dancer or with his band, Wee Wee Pole, which included the late Todd Butler. This is where he met Darryl Ponech, his first true love
In the early 1990s, RuPaul worked the Georgia club scene and was known by his full birth name. Initially participating in “genderfuck”-style performances, RuPaul performed solo and in collaboration with other bands at several New York 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. In the ’90s, RuPaul was known in the UK for his appearances on the Channel 4 series Manhattan Cable, a weekly series produced by World of Wonder and presented by American Laurie Pikeabout New York’s wild and wacky public-access television system.
In 1993, RuPaul recorded dance/house albums which included Supermodel of the World. They were released through the rap label Tommy Boy, spawning the dance track hit “Supermodel (You Better Work)”, which was a hit. The music video was an unexpected success on MTV channels, as grunge-rock (Nirvana) and gangsta rap were popular at the time. The song peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It further charted on the UK Singles Chart, peaking on the top 40 at #39. The song found the most success peaking at number 2 on the US dance music charts (known as the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart). Airplay, heavy rotation of the music video on the MTV network and television appearances on popular programs like The Arsenio Hall Show popularized the song.
|“||What other people think of me is not my business. What I do is what I do. How people see me doesn’t change what I decide to do. I don’t choose projects so people don’t see me as one thing or another. I choose projects that excite me. I think the problem is that people refuse to understand what drag is outside of their own belief system.||”|
His next two songs/videos, “Back to My Roots” and “A Shade Shady (Now Prance)” both went #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts and furthered his campy persona. Between them, House of Love was released without a video. It failed to place on any US charts, despite rising to #68 on the UK Singles Chart.
RuPaul caused a controversy at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards when he presented an award with actor Milton Berle, who performed an altogether different type of drag early in his career. The two had conflicts back-stage, and when Berle inappropriately touched RuPaul’s breasts, RuPaul ad-libbed the line “So you used to wear gowns, but now you’re wearing diapers.” A surprised Berle replied, “Oh, we’re going to ad lib? I’ll check my brain and we’ll start even.” The press portrayed the exchange as a crack in the “love everyone” message RuPaul presented, and as a young newcomer treating a legend poorly. RuPaul would later describe the situation in his autobiography, describing Berle’s behavior backstage as sexually inappropriate and rude. He did regret the situation, saying: “Of course, what I should have done backstage is told him ‘Get your dirty hands off of me, you motherfucker!’, and then gone out there and been Miss Black America.” That same year would also mark his biggest hit on the UK Singles Chart, a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Elton John, which went to number seven. It was around this time that RuPaul co-hosted the BRIT Awards in London, also with Elton John.
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The next year he landed a talk show of his own on VH1, called The RuPaul Show, interviewing celebrity guests and musical acts. Nirvana (even though Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994), Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, Mary J. Blige, Bea Arthur, Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton-John, Beenie Man, Pete Burns,Bow Wow Wow, and the Backstreet Boys were notable guests. His co-host was Michelle Visage, with whom he also co-hosted on WKTU radio. On one episode, RuPaul featured guests Chi Chi LaRue and Tom Chase speaking about the gay porn industry.RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for MAC cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. Various billboards featured him in full drag, often with the text “I am the MAC girl.” He also released his autobiography, Lettin’ It All Hang Out. He promoted that book in part with a 1995 guest appearance onABC’s All My Children, in a storyline that put him on the set of Erica Kane’s talk show “The Cutting Edge.”
Later in the year he released his second album, Foxy Lady, this time on the LA based Rhino Records label. Despite his growing celebrity, it failed to chart within the Billboard 200. However, the first single “Snapshot” found success in the dance market and went to number four on the Hot Dance Music/Club Playchart. It also enjoyed limited mainstream success, charting at number ninety-five on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was his second and only other Hot 100 entry). The second single “Little Bit of Love” only charted at number 28 on the hot dance music/club play chart. The album featured covers of a 1981 Diana Ross song Work That Body co-written by Paul Jabara and “If You Were a Woman and I was a Man” originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler. Because of his strong fan base within the gay community, RuPaul has performed at gay pride events and numerous gay clubs. During this time RuPaul helped launch the return of WKTU radio in New York City and would serve as host (with Michelle Visage) of the morning show until 1998.
In 1997, he released his third album, a Christmas album entitled Ho, Ho, Ho. He has had guest appearances in many films, including both Brady Bunch movies, in which he played Jan’s female guidance counselor. In 1997, RuPaul teamed with Martha Wash to remake the classic disco anthem, “It’s Raining Men”. The song was included in the 1998 compilation CD RuPaul’s Go Go Box Classics, which was a collection of some of his favorite dance songs by other artists; this would be his third and final release through Rhino Records and a major record label. It was during this time that he appeared in Webex TV commercials and magazine ads. In 2001 he recorded with Brigitte Nielsen, credited as Gitta, the Eurodance track You’re no lady.
In 2004, RuPaul released his fourth album, Red Hot, on his own RuCo Inc. label. It received some dance radio and club play, but very little press coverage. On his blog, RuPaul discussed how he felt betrayed by the entertainment industry, particularly the gay press. In one incident, it was noted that the magazine Entertainment Weekly refused to review the album, instead asking him to make a comedic contribution to a fashion article. He likened the experience to “a black person being invited to a party, but only if they’ll serve.” Despite his apparent dissatisfaction with the release, “Red Hot” showed RuPaul returning to the top of the dance charts in the US with the lead off single “Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous” hitting number two on the dance chart. The second, “Workout”, peaked at number five. The third and final single from the album “People are People” a duet with Tom Trujillo peaked at number 10. The album itself only charted on the Top Electronic Albums chart, where it hit number nine. When asked about this in an interview, RuPaul said, “Well, betrayed might be the wrong word. ‘Betrayed’ alludes to an idea that there was some kind of a promise made to me, and there never was. More so, I was disappointed. I don’t feel like it was a betrayal. Nobody promises anything in show business and you understand that from day one. But, I don’t know what happened. It seemed I couldn’t get press on my album unless I was willing to play into the role that the mainstream press has assigned to gay people, which is as servants of straight ideals.”
In mid 2008, RuPaul began producing RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality television game show which aired on Logo in February 2009. The premise of the program has several drag queens compete to be selected by RuPaul and a panel of judges as “America’s next drag superstar” . The first season’s winner was BeBe Zahara Benet, and first runner-up Nina Flowers was chosen by fans as “Miss Congeniality” through voting via the show’s official website. In publicity preparation for the new show, RuPaul made appearances as a guest on several other shows in 2008 including as a guest judge on Season 5, Episode 6 of Project Runway and as a guest “chef” on Paula’s Party.On June 13, 2006, RuPaul released ReWorked, his first remix album and fifth album overall. It features reworked versions of songs from his back catalog, as well as new recordings. The only single released from the album is a re-recording of “Supermodel (You Better Work)”, reaching number twenty-one on the U.S. dance chart. June 20, 2007 saw the release of Starrbooty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on iTunes in the US. The single “Call Me Starrbooty” was digitally released in 2007. The album contains new tracks from the singer as well as interludes with dialogue from the movie. The film was released on DVD in October 2007.
In March 2009, RuPaul released the album “Champion” to iTunes and Amazon. The album topped the iTunes dance album chart at #1 and features the dance singles “Cover Girl” and “Jealous Of My Boogie”, both anthems from the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Logo’s Second Annual “NewNowNext Awards” 2009 were hosted by RuPaul. There he performed “Jealous Of My Boogie (Gomi & RasJek Edit)”. In March 2010, RuPaul released his second remix album, “Drag Race” to iTunes. The album features remixes of songs from the 2009 album Champion and the brand new song “Hit The Floor”.