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Celebrating Black History Month: RuPaul

RuPaul is an American drag queen, singer and actor most known for TV shows as 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and 'RuPaul's Drag U.’ 

Born on November 17, 1960, in San Diego, California, RuPaul Andre Charles was the only boy of his parents’ four children and eventually began wearing his sisters’ clothes and exploring cross-dressing, emulating stars like Diana Ross and Jane Fonda in his youth. RuPaul attended the Northside School of Performing Arts, and in 1982 he started appearing on ‘The American Music Show’ series regularly, often with his newly formed band, RuPaul and the U-Hauls.

In the mid-1980s, RuPaul left the South and headed to New York City to become part of a new festival known as Wigstock. He, his Atlanta roommate Lady Bunny (who launched Wigstock) and others would perform in drag primarily in the East Village area, with the festival eventually growing. RuPaul's flamboyance and ease on stage made him a hit club dancer, and by the end of the decade, he was dubbed the Queen of New York.

In 1991, RuPaul was signed to a recording contract by Tommy Boy Records, and two years later his debut album, Supermodel of the World, appeared. He found a hit with the single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which reached the Top 50 of the pop charts and No. 2 on the dance club charts. A 1993 duet with Elton John on a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” also drew attention, becoming a U.K. Top 10 hit.

Despite success in music and film, RuPaul’s name rose to fame and he really made his mark on the cultural landscape with the 2009 debut of his long-running reality TV competition ‘RuPaul's Drag Race’, along with its later variations such as ‘All Stars’ and ‘Untucked!’ After RuPaul claimed his first Emmy for ‘Drag Race in 2016, the March 2017 season 9 premiere featured Lady Gaga and, with close to one million viewers tuning in, became the most viewed episode in the show's history.

The entertainer launched his ‘RuPaul: What's the Tee?’ podcast in 2014, and appeared as a judge on the body painting competition ‘Skin Wars’. He also hosted the trivia game show ‘Gay for Play’ for two seasons beginning in April 2016, while continuing to churn out albums like 2015's Slay Belles and 2017's Remember Me: Essential, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and American.

Late 2018 brought a holiday-themed album, Christmas Party, and RuPaul's third book, GuRu. His then returned to the daytime talk show circuit with 2019's RuPaul and his 2020 Netflix comedy-drama series, ‘AJ and the Queen. in January 2020, the drag icon unveiled his thirteenth studio album, You're a Winner Baby, and hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ for the first time the following month.

In 1999, he won the ‘GLAAD Media Award’ for working toward strengthening ‘LGBT’ rights. In 2010, he won another ‘GLAAD Media Award’ for ‘Outstanding Reality Program’ for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’

In March 2018, RuPaul became the first drag queen to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where he tearfully told the audience that this was “absolutely the most important moment in my professional career.”

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community credit RuPaul with bringing drag into the spotlight. RuPaul paved the way as the first openly gay national television host on ‘The RuPaul Show’ on VH1 in 1996. Currently, as the host of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, he has helped launch the careers of more than 120 drag queens.

RuPaul’s mantra for his entire career spanning more than 35 years has been to “love yourself.” During his sendoff at the end of each of episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he addresses fans and contestants alike with the advice, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?” 

He is an intense supporter of LGBT rights. He has also been named as one of the hundred most influential people of 2017 by ‘Time’ magazine.

On the strength of his TV shows and his oversized personality, RuPaul has become a beacon in gay, drag and transsexual communities.

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