It was a late night, in late winter 2009. I’ll never forget where I was. Sitting upright in bed, feeding my baby boy. I had been flipping through channels and discovered a new reality show called RuPaul’s Drag Race. I liked RuPaul. It was nice to see RuPaul on TV. Looked like good television.
The Queens sashayed down the runway and then received praise or critique (or both) from the judges. And then something happened that left my jaw hanging.
Two queens had to lip-synch for their life.
Just kidding–that’s not what made my jaw drop. What made my jaw drop…was watching two fabulous ladyboys lip-synch and dance to RuPaul’s song Supermodel (You Better Work)–just like I used to lip-synch and dance to that very same song, in my basement, back in 1993.
That was the moment I realized I was one penis short of being a drag queen.
The whole story begins earlier than 2009, though. RuPaul’s story begins on November 17, 1960. When he was born, his mother said, “His name is RuPaul Andre Charles and he’s gonna be a star! Cause ain’t another mother f**ker alive with a name like that!”
A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Indeed, RuPaul grew up to be a star. An actor. A recording artist. A supermodel. An author. A role model. An inspiration.
RuPaul was not part of my life story until 1993, when he released the hit “Supermodel (You Better Work)” to the world. MTV put the music video into rotation and it immediately became one of my favorite songs to lip-synch and dance along with, in the privacy of my basement. I can’t sing, but gosh, can I lip-sync! And dance! Put those two things together and I was bringing the house down…KILLING IT! At 13 years old, I could have gone head to head with some of today’s top Lip-Synch For Your Lifers: high energy DiDa Ritz, Coco Montrese, Yara Sofia!!!!
Not long after the song became popular, my older brother asked me, “You know that’s a man, right?”
And my little 13 year old self was like, “Coolness.”
I’m not sure if I was too young to be astonished? I don’t recall being surprised. He might as well had said, “You know he’s black, right?” My barely-a-teenager self didn’t see RuPaul as anything but RuPaul. Man or woman? Black or white? Tall or short? Thin or fat? All I saw was someone who was LOOKIN’ GOOD and FEELIN’ GORGEOUS. I saw confidence.
And makeup. I saw a lot of makeup. RuPaul’s song and video arrived at a time in my life where I was begging my mother and conservative Greek father to let me wear makeup. I devoured every page of my Teen, Seventeen, and YM magazines, gleaning as much beauty information as I could. And finally, having a sister who was 11 years older than me meant I spent my early childhood years watching her put on makeup.
Fast forward through several years: While I went through junior high and high school and into college, RuPaul became the First Face of MAC Cosmetics and the original Viva Glam model/spokesperson/endorser.** RuPaul hosted the WKTU Morning Show with Michelle Visage, hosted The RuPaul Show on VH1, produced music, performed in several night clubs, and was in the movie Starrbooty.
During these years, I graduated from college and started teaching. I was always a fan of RuPaul, but I wasn’t exactly into the LGBT scene, nor did I know there was a “drag scene” or “drag circuit.” During these years I also lost 120 pounds and discovered my true inner self–a confident young woman with Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and…well, not so much Talent. I guess that makes me almost a C.U.N.T. but I’m short a T.
So…while RuPaul was broadening his career and staying true to himself, embracing life and giving hope to the young queens around the world to be themselves, express themselves, and most importantly, love themselves…I, too, was growing and evolving into the woman I am now–unafraid to be myself, to express myself and most importantly, love myself.
I got married, had a baby, and…here we are, back to late winter 2009–and that fateful night I realized I spent a large part of my childhood and teenage years Lip-Synching For My Life, and that I…
…..was a Drag Queen trapped in a woman’s body. It all made sense, finally!
Through these last few years, I’ve eagerly anticipated the debut of each new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I know Ru’s girls–I know their stories, their hardships, and their battles. And I’ve seen them rise to challenges and embrace success. I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to feel rejected or made fun of because of my sexual orientation, and yet, on some level…I do relate. I was a fat kid, an obese teenager. I was made fun of. I felt rejected on many occasions. I felt ugly and invisible and worthless. I also felt this way as a new mother–especially as a stay at home mother. It happens to most of us–we get comfortable in elastic waisted pants and stained t-shirts because, hey, it’s not like anyone is going to see us unless we leave the house.
Because of RuPaul and because of RuPaul’s Drag Race, my horizons have broadened. Once upon a time, I had a “it’s cool, whatevs, doesn’t really have anything to do with me, live and let live” attitude towards the LGBT community… I no longer feel that way. Now, I am an active supporter of gay rights and marriage equality. I won’t debate hot topics like gun control or abortion but I will go head to head with anyone who is anti-LGBT rights/equality! RuPaul and all of the drag queens have also inspired me to be confident and to always strive to look and feel my best, which is SO important for women, especially mothers who easily slip into a no-makeup, tattered clothes rut.
This blog, this pre-memoir I am writing…the underlying, recurring themes that will reveal themselves over time are: pursue your dreams, love yourself, love others, be fierce and fabulous, be radiant, and WERK! RuPaul demonstrates all of these beautiful attributes which is why she is the Queen of Queens, Supermodel of the World, and one of my biggest, best, most influential role models.
Dear Ru—if, by chance, you are reading this…there was no question who would be my first featured Queen for my first Transformation Tuesday blog post. I absolutely love and adore you, and my life will not be complete until I can give you a hug!
P.S. I met your girl. She told me she liked my boobs. I told her I wore them out like that just for her! And Detox said we look like sisters. I died, Ru. Dead. Look how drunk and stupid and starstruck I was.