RuPaul Believes 'Drag Race' can Change the World

"I think 'Drag Race' and DragCon are really changing the world on a bigger political landscape than what I could do in Washington."

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04 April 2017, 4:00am

Photo courtesy of VH1

This article was originally published on VICE US.

What will it take to Make America Fierce Again? If RuPaul was in charge, it would be time for Donald Trump to sashay away. And while Trump will be with us for eight years, tops, RuPaul's Drag Race is here to stay. The show just started its ninth season, and this year it comes equipped with a Trump-era tagline: "Drastic times call for dragtastic measures."

Ru's culture war doesn't stop there, however; later this month Ru will call on her army of queens for the third annual RuPaul's DragCon, the convention devoted entirely to the art of drag. This year, for the first time, the event will have an area called the Kid Zone—a space designed specifically for children and their families.

I spoke to Ru about DragCon and the new series of Drag Race. The drag superstar was outspoken as ever, as she read Trump for filth, championed drag queens as role models for kids, and decided against a 2020 presidential run.

VICE: You've been doing RuPaul's Drag Race for nine seasons. How do you think the show has impacted the evolution of drag?
RuPaul: I think the biggest storyline there is [that] all these young people—I'm talking nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen years old—get to see that there is a tribe of people out there who are living life on their own terms and who are able to sustain themselves without having to sign up to The Matrix. These young kids—who are the future—they offer so much hope, especially now. They're getting to see the revolution start all over again with this administration. And I think because of that, drag is now more important than ever.

You really drive that point home with Drag Race's season nine tagline: "Drastic times call for Dragtastic measures." Why is drag a middle finger to the Trump-era?
Because drag says, "Life is not to be taken too fucking seriously." It's there to make you look deeper. We're saying, "Hey, I'm a shapeshifter. I have obviously put on this facade to look a certain way. So look closer at everything." But this current administration says, "Don't trust the news. What we say is absolutely the truth." Drag says you can be fooled by the façade, so look deeper. Follow the money, follow the motivation, understand what a person's intention is. That is the key. And drag is about the real, it's about the heart. Because it acknowledges the superficial, that automatically makes it really real.

Drag Race has developed a huge pop culture following since it started, and, with the move to VH1, it seems poised to skyrocket to even greater popularity now. Do you think it's possible for drag to finally become mainstream?
I would love it, but I don't think so. Because it would mean our whole culture would have to be able to deconstruct their whole belief system. And they'd have to be able to look at themselves in a way most people aren't willing to look at themselves. Because drag deconstructs identity and identity is of the ego. And I think this administration is the proliferation of our ego culture, where it's just, me me me. But we're actually not separate from one another. And if you go on thinking "I'm exempt from the rules" and it's all about you, you, you—that is the demise of our culture. And you see it from the top up, where the President—oh god, I think that's the first time I said the word "President" in relation to him—he doesn't show his taxes, he doesn't follow the rules. He is the figurehead of our egocentric culture and that's why he's there. And it will be the death of us if we don't change it.

One of our most notorious egocentric monsters —Milo Yiannopoulos—recently attacked frequent Drag Race judge Ross Matthews. Ross took the high road and pulled off a truly skillful response, but what do you think motivates these hateful online mega-trolls? And how do we stop them?
When you look at someone's intentions and you really break it down, you have to consider what motivates a person to behave the way they do. It's like in the show Westworld, when they take the [android] host into the laboratory and conduct an "analysis." And suddenly all the personality traits that were introduced to the robot melt away, and they can be analytical about their experience. Each of us has the ability to do that, and this is where therapy is so beautiful. Here's a question everybody needs to honestly ask themselves: "Why did you do what you did?" A lot of times people go out to actively hurt other people because they are hurt themselves. And if they're able to face that hurt and heal it in themselves they no longer need to go and hurt other people. It is that inner-child inside of a person that makes them act out. It says, "You know what? If I'm gonna be in pain, every-god-damn-body is gonna be in pain." It's as simple as that. We have to address that child that lives in all of us—that bad boy or bad girl who's motivated to do things out of fear.

Speaking of children, this year at DragCon, you're going to introduce the Kid Zone—an area within the convention devoted to children. Why did you want to create this family friendly space?
We were paying attention to who comes to DragCon and we've noticed more kids attending. It's nine, ten, eleven-year-old children who are finding their tribe. There are adults who want to introduce their children to a worldview that includes color and beauty and joy and laughter and all the shades—not this Make America The Way It Was In The 50's Again storyline. Parents bringing their kids to DragCon is a reaction to that old way of thinking. It's an insistence that we will not go backwards, we will move forward.

John Oliver recently joked that you should run for President in 2020. What would President Ru's platform be?
That's an interesting question because I believe that the real politics of this life has nothing to do with what's inside the Beltway in DC. The real politics of this life has to do with images and experiences that we live in our daily lives. And I think Drag Race and DragCon are really changing the world on a bigger political landscape than what I could do in Washington. [Drag Race] is reaching kids on Netflix around the world and it's really changing how they can place themselves in the world. They know that their tribe is out there and they're not alone. So I wouldn't have a political platform. My political platform is a TV show called Drag Race.

So we shouldn't expect you to sashay down the campaign trail anytime soon?
No. All the stuff they do in Washington is such a bore. Politicians have to compromise themselves so much and honey, I get enough of that in Hollywood!

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