Long to reign over us: all hail RuPaul’s Emmy win

After decades of hustle, the charm, uniqueness, nerve and talent of Americas best reality show host has been recognized by the mainstream

Everybody within the sound of my voice is in drag, right now, whether you know it or not, Emmy winner RuPaul Charles told reporters after his Sunday night win for best reality show host at the Creative Emmys.

The uninitiated probably didnt know that he was referring to one of his (many) aphorisms: in this case, the oft-spoken observation that Were all born naked but the rest is drag. Its also a line in entertainer RuPauls single Born Naked which, as he would say, is available on iTunes that served as the final challenge for the top three contestants on season seven of RuPauls Drag Race.

You cant, as RuPaul said in 1984, spread the RuPaul message to the world unless youre willing to create a few synergies.

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But it took a lot of nights working New Yorks club scene in the 80s before the breakthrough moment that gave him that ability to go worldwide. RuPaul who, contrary to many drag conventions, always used his birth name started out as an entertainer in the new wave band Wee Wee Pole in Atlanta. After moving to New York in 1984 and working and perfecting his act, including drag, in the citys infamous club scene, he burst into the mainstream in 1993 with the not-remotely-grunge dance track and music video Supermodel of the World. The single, and RuPauls unapologetic drag persona, catapulted him into the spotlight, even if a few uncomfortable moments (like being groped on stage and called a she-he by Milton Berle at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards) undoubtedly detracted from the experience.

From there and almost always in drag he went on to make more albums, write and release an autobiography, launch an eponymous talkshow on VH1, be the face of MAC cosmetics, get character roles in several movies, start his own record label and, in 2008, sign on to produce and host RuPauls Drag Race. (RuPaul Charles has since begun hosting the quiz show Gay for Play on Logo, which is not, despite the title, a look at self-declared straight men who work as performers in gay pornography. )

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You better work: RuPaul on, er, Des OConnor Tonight. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

It was in the role of host of Drag Race (and Drag U, and Drag Race All-Stars) that most people who had been following RuPaul finally got to get to know RuPaul Charles, who shares with his alter ego a biting wit and a love of dramatic ensembles (witness the pink-with-white-polka-dots suit in which he accepted his first-ever Emmy right under the nose of style guru and Project Runway mentor-host Tim Gunn). But like a lot of mothers, Mama Ru, as shes affectionately called by many Drag Race contestants, offers a bit more tough love on stage, while RuPaul Charles, carefully tucked away behind the scenes, offers sage advice and pointed questions backstage as contestants compete to show Mama Ru that they have the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to be Americas next drag superstar (as though any of them can surpass RuPaul herself).

And though he claimed to be surprised at his win on Sunday, on the show, hes both Gunn and Heidi Klum: mentor and host, style guru and fashion model, the person who tells contestants to make it work (a Gunn-ism adopted by some Drag Race queens) and the person who sometimes scolds them when it spectacularly doesnt work at all. How was RuPaul not the obvious choice for best reality show host?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/sep/12/rupaul-drag-race-emmy-win

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