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RuPaul Sounds Off On New Season Of 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' Obama, The Word 'Tranny,' And More

First Posted: 01/14/2012 9:19 am Updated: 09/07/2012 11:51 am

The new season of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which begins on January 30 on Logo, is "Gaga-esque," with the competing queens displaying themselves as "crunchy or monstery or moist," explains the drag icon and entertainer RuPaul himself. "They speak reality TV so fluently. They don't even have to be produced. They're ready to roll."

In an interview with SiriusXM OutQ and HuffPost Gay Voices, RuPaul talked all about the popular reality show in which drag queens face off, kicking off its fourth season, and he weighed in on other matters, including the the latest queer controversies, offering comments which are bound to have people talking.

Of the ABC sitcom, "Work It," in which two straight men dress in drag in order to get jobs and which has been criticized by gay and transgender activists for mocking transgender women, RuPaul implores the activists: "Don't take life so seriously... We live in a culture where everyone is offended by everything."

On Lance Bass's apology for using the word "tranny," Rupaul says: "It's ridiculous! It's ridiculous!... I love the word "tranny"...And I hate the fact that he's apologized. I wish he would have said, 'F-you, you tranny jerk!'"

And RuPaul has some observations about presidential politics: "Politicians are really like show people, people in show business -- except that they have not as good costumes in politics. You have to appeal to the masses in show business. You appeal to Betty and Joe Beer Can. For someone like Obama to survive -- he's a very smart man -- he's had to do some dumb things because people don't want the truth. It's the same thing with drag."

Tell us about the new season.
This new season is interesting because it's so influenced by the Gaga-esque movement of today. And a lot of the kids are so not afraid to be sort of crunchy or monstery or moist -- or add other elements to their drag style. It's very interesting and also, they speak reality TV so fluently. They don't even have to be produced. They're ready to roll.

See the cast of the fourth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race" (interview continues below slideshow):

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They are already being interviewed all over the place. They're stars in their own right already, now coming together to be superstars.
Well that's the thing that most people don't understand. We're looking for people who are showgirls, not just anyone who owns a pussycat wig and a pair of high heels. We're looking for people who actually have a background in doing a show, producing a show in advertising, in promotion, in art, have an aesthetic. So, it's not just anybody who does drag.

What's this been like for you? How did you foresee your career? Did you think you'd be doing a show like this?
It's interesting. I come from a family of teachers. And I knew that I had it in me to be a mentor and to have this show be a portal to helping people find their audience. It's been great. You know, this month it's 30 years since I've been working in nightclubs.

I remember -- the Pyramid club.
Yes, yes, yes! And that was actually ten years into my show biz career! The thing is, to have this part of my career really be legacy-based and being a mentor -- it's just brilliant. I'm the most proud of the fact that these kids have work to do. Because, you know, during the whole Bush administration drag had really fallen into the gutter and nobody really cared about it so much. Especially not just in the gay community, but overall. So we've been able to sort of resuscitate the interest in drag through this show.

You, of course, write books, you had your fifth studio album released last year. Talk about all of your other work and how you really juggle all of these things.
People ask me about my career and how I've been able to do this, and honestly, the biggest challenge, and I'm sure this is true for everyone, is staying interested in what it is you're doing. I happen to love beauty, I love to laugh, I love to dance, I love music. Those are the thing things that propel me forward and get me out of bed in the morning. So whether people are receptive to what I'm doing or not I'm going to do it because I dig it. And there have been many years where people haven't been receptive, they don't care. But you know what, in the wise words of Lil' Kim, "Ashes in the urn is none my concern."

You were up in New Hampshire. The primary was on Tuesday, and you were up there a couple of days before to set the record straight, so to speak, that you are not Ron Paul.
Exactly, [laughter] and that I am not running for president.

And you got picked up on all the major news outlets.
I'm sure the people who cover these political things, they need a little something different. It's always the same. I've been around for many elections. And ultimately, you've been around a long time, you realize everyone says the same thing. I tweeted the other day that political policies are like hemlines and hairstyles: They change with the trends. So it's hard to take any of it seriously. So I thought I'll go to New Hampshire and I'll lighten the mood up a little bit. And I think that's what we did. Ultimately it also was not a bad thing to bring attention to our show, which starts up January 30th on Logo [laughter].

I'm curious about your thoughts on President Obama and how he's put forth his polices over the past four years.
The interesting thing about politics is that politicians are really like show people, people in show business -- except they have not as good costumes in politics. You have to appeal to the masses in show business. You appeal to Betty and Joe Beer Can. And unfortunately a lot of what you really feel sometimes gets compromised because you want to appeal to the masses. And unfortunately in our culture -- you know, I'm gonna say it -- Betty and Joe Beer Can have gotten dumber. They have gotten dumber. And they they don't want to be in fear -- actually, they do want to be in fear. Really, they, actually, they love fear. You have to say things that won't throw ‘em off your scent too much.

It's a really weird time to be alive. For someone like Obama to survive -- he's a very smart man -- he's had to do some dumb things because people, people don't want the truth. It's the same thing with drag. You know, drag breaks the fourth wall and people have been up against drag because drag queens are saying, "You're not who you think you are. You're not who you appear to be on your driver's license or your birth certificate. You are actually -- you're actually God in drag." But nobody wants to break that fourth wall. Nobody wants to hear the truth like that. You have to dumb it down. And it's unfortunate because we all suffer when we dumb it down.

Speaking of drag, I'm curious about your thoughts about a controversy over this television show "Work It" that a lot of transgender activists feel mocks them. It's about two men, who dress in drag -- they're straight men -- it's kind of like "Bosom Buddies," back to that. They're trying to get jobs, and all the comedic schtick that goes with that. Do you feel that mocks transgender people?
You know, I gotta tell you, my 10th grade teacher, Mr. Penell, told me, he said, "Ru" -- my real name -- "Don't take life so seriously." I didn’t get it then at 15 years old, but trust me, as the years went on I got it. We live in a culture where everyone is offended by everything. Everybody's like, "Oh my god, I'm offended!" It's an ego-based culture we live in. The ego has everything to do with identity. So, you know, drag actually mocks identity. So it doesn't really make any sense. I think, in my world, in my circle of friends, we mock everything! [laughter]. Everything is up to be mocked. Don't take anything seriously.

And listen, if you're offended by a name that somebody calls you, or something, whatever, you gotta take that up with your therapist, kiddo, cause you know what, you're not going to be able -- now you got me riled up! You know, I live in the West Village, and everybody wants to make the world baby-safe, soften the corners, so that nobody gets hurt. It's like, kiddo, this world, there will be blood -- there will be blood -- so you better toughen up now or you’re going to suffer the consequences later.

It seems like -- or you tell me -- that there is a tension between some transgender activists and drag queens, that they don't really feel that drag has a place or see it as mocking and believe that it offends them. And I'm curious about your thoughts about that.
It's the same. Everybody's offended by something. And it really goes back to the ego -- egoic mind and the ego-based world that we live in, where everybody is, their identify is everything. And this is what drag is about -- you are not who you think are, you're born naked, and the rest is drag. It's all a facade -- you're much more than what you think you are. So this idea of people feeling they're not being represented -- I remember on [the '70s sitcom] "Good Times," when black activists got upset with the fact that J.J., the lead character, didn't represent what young black men in our culture -- in fact the two leads of the TV show quit the show because they felt J.J., the Jimmy Walker character, didn't represent. Well, the truth is, kids, this is a sitcom, this is a comedy -- sitcom. If you want representation, you do it yourself. It starts on a personal level. If you want to change the world, change your mind. Your mind. Not anyone else's mind. Your mind.

You are somebody who, speaking of representation, you're a black gay man, you're also a drag queen --
What?!

People look up to you, right? Do you feel you're role model for those groups?
I don't know -- that's up to them. What other people think of me is none of my business.

I do this because I'm on this planet trying to have as much fun, and do what interests me. And if I really thought about what other people thought of me I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. People think all kinds of things and they're gonna think all kinds of things. But I don't do it to be a role model. That's between -- that's people's, that's their business. I like to have fun, I love to laugh, I love to dance. And if somebody get's something out of it, I say "Right on, sister." But that's not what I'm here to do.

On this idea of how people identify, what they call themselves, a lot of controversy too, lately, over the word "tranny"--
Yes.

Lance Bass just apologized for using the word "tranny." What do you think of all that?
[Laughter] It's ridiculous! It's ridiculous! Words -- it goes back to grade school: Sticks and stones, you know the rest. The thing is you have to look at the ego, you have to follow the money, and the payoff. And the payoff is that the ego wants attention no matter what. It will try to get it wherever the hell it can, whether it's positive or negative. So you have to ignore it basically -- you have to starve it out. And unfortunately in our culture one person can write a letter to the network and they shut something down. It's unfortunate. But I love the word "tranny."

And no one has ever said the word "tranny" in a derogatory sense. In fact, you have to go to the intent of the person saying it. Of course Lance Bass, his intent would never be to be derogatory. Never. So, you know, that's really ridiculous. And I hate the fact that he's apologized. I wish he would have said, "F-you, you tranny jerk!"

It's something that a lot of activists feel though is used against them in a negative way. But, I mean, lesbians, a lot of them call themselves dyke too, right? So, you can call yourself these words.
Right, because they've earned the right to do it. And in the ACT UP age we called ourselves queers because we earned the right, we took the word back. But in reality, once you go even deeper, you know, you have to come from intent. And black folks call themselves the n-word all the time. It's because the intent is coming from a place of love. If the intent is coming from a place of hatred, that's different. But you can't legislate intent. You can't -- there's no way to do it. So, the truth is, you have to fix that individually on a one by one basis. If somebody calls you a green martian, would you be offended by it? No, you wouldn't be. Why? Because you know you're not a green martian. But if you're offended by someone calling you a "tranny," it was only because you believe you are a "tranny!" [laughter.] So then, the solution is: Change your mind about yourself being a "tranny."

You have, obviously, your hands full, Season 4 of "RuPaul's Drag Race." What else are you working on? What else can we look forward to?
Well, I'm still writing, I'm working on another book. And more music even though music doesn’t make any money -- I do it because I love doing it [laughter] And I'm also going to go out on tour for the first time in two years. I've been a nightclub performer for 30 years and because of the TV show I haven't had the opportunity to go out on the road. I'll be hitting discos and nightclubs around the world in this year.

Wow, so people can look forward to that, google it and look for you in a town or city near them.
Yes.

RuPaul this has been great, certainly, talking to you about the show but also your life. Congratulations and good luck with everything.
Don't you mean Condragulations?

Ah, there you go! "RuPaul's Drag Race," January 30. RuPaul, thank you so much.
Thank you baby.

Listen to the interview here:

For more from RuPaul, visit his official website and follow him on Twitter.

For more on "RuPaul's Drag Race: Season Four," which premieres on Logo on January 30 at 9pm ET, visit the show's official website.

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