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From Supermodel to Global Icon: The Evolution of RuPaul

As RuPaul turns 63, his life's narrative continues to resonate as a testament to resilience, authenticity and the enduring power of self-love.

Naomi Chadderton
Naomi Chadderton
An experienced editor and journalist specialising in news and lifestyle.

Whether in or out of drag, there’s no denying RuPaul Andre Charles, simply known as RuPaul, is one of the most recognisable faces on television. The popular “supermodel and supermogul” host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he is a cultural icon whose impact transcends the boundaries of the entertainment industry, and today is one of the most recognisable drag queens in the business.

As he turns 63 this month, the incredible entertainer still continues to wow the crowds, all while empowering the LGBTQ+ community at the same time.

RuPaul: The Early Years

Born on November 17, 1960, in San Diego California, RuPaul's early life was marked by a passion for the arts and a determination to escape the constraints of his conservative upbringing. Fun fact: the first part of his name, ‘Ru’, is in recognition of his Louisiana heritage (both his parents were born there) and references the roux in many creole soups and stews.

It was clear RuPaul had passion from a young age, and at just 15 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a performing arts school. In his early career he recorded popular albums, and his first foray into the spotlight came with the release of his debut album Supermodel of the World in 1993, which featured the hit single Supermodel (You Better Work). The song went on to become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community.

RuPaul: A TV Icon

Not content with just forging a successful music career, RuPaul's breakthrough moment arrived with the launch of RuPaul's Drag Race in 2009, a reality competition that celebrates drag queens and their artistry, and is arguably his biggest claim to fame.

In 2012 he launched RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars featuring previous contestants, before releasing Drag Race UK in 2019 and taking his presence to the international stage.

The show not only became a cultural phenomenon and international success, but also earned RuPaul several Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. In fact, he has won 12 Emmys in total, the most for any black artist in history.

RuPaul's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, awarded in 2018, is another testament to his enduring impact

Ru Paul in drag and in suit
Ru Paul Emmy

A Pioneer for LGBTQ+ Rights and Relationships

Through Drag Race, RuPaul has given a platform to countless drag performers, amplifying their voices and providing a mainstream platform for the LGBTQ+ community. His marriage to Georges LeBar, who he wed in 2017 after meeting on the dancefloor of a club called Limelight in 1994, is also an inspiration to many. Though he is relatively private about the details, the couple made great strides for LGBTQ+ representation in the media by simply living their true, authentic life and not hiding their love for each other.

Additionally he has been adamant in using his voice to speak out for important causes in the gay community — most notably in 1995, when he became the first face of the MAC Viva Glam campaign that raised funds for AIDS research, and through his activist work for US voter registration. Research has found that many LGBTQ+ people do not participate in national elections, so RuPaul encouraged voter registration through a public service announcement in support of National Voter Registration Day.

Author Extraordinaire: A Tale of the Times

Just last month, in the run up to his 63rd birthday, RuPaul announced that he has written a book, The House of Hidden Meanings, which presents the global drag superstar "stripped bare" as he gets raw and real about his experiences during the first 40 years of his life.

"From his early years growing up as a queer Black kid in San Diego navigating complex relationships with his absent father and temperamental mother, to forging an identity in the punk and drag scenes of Atlanta and New York, to finding enduring love with his husband Georges LeBar and self-acceptance in sobriety, RuPaul excavates his life-story, uncovering new truths and insights in his personal history," say his team.

A Fascinating Life – But Not Without its Challenges

Despite his success, RuPaul faced significant challenges throughout his career. Drag, during his early years, wasn't as widely accepted as it is today, and he has spent much of his life having to navigate societal prejudices and stereotypes.

Additionally, being an openly gay African-American man in the public eye presented its own set of challenges. However, RuPaul's unyielding self-confidence and belief in his talent allowed him to overcome these obstacles and emerge as a beacon of empowerment.

RuPaul: Getting Older in Style

As RuPaul gracefully ages, he continues to defy societal norms surrounding beauty and ageing, particularly in an industry that often prioritises youth. You’ll often hear him emphasising the importance of self-love and authenticity in interviews, encouraging people to be true to themselves regardless of age.

As he continues to break down barriers and redefine societal norms, RuPaul's legacy serves as a beacon of hope for generations to come.

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We are big believers that you should be able to design a life you love and not stick to a linear path, especially when it comes to your career choices. In fact, we'd go as far to say that the concept of retirement in its current form needs to be retired. Yes, that's right, there's no rulebook here!