RuPaul and O.J. Have Nothing in Common

Slam Simpson and Dennis Rodman, if you must, but a black man in drag is no disgrace to black history.

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“I'm not convinced this was an accident. Three white teachers pick Simpson, Rodman, and RuPaul ... arguably the three worst picks for black personalities, for their Black History showcase? Not buying it ... sounds like they're smearing the whole practice of the history month,” wrote one Los Angeles Times reader.

Seriously? RuPaul, one of the “worst picks for black personalities”? Someone who is a “smear” on Black History Month? We’re talking about someone who took his hardscrabble beginnings—emotionally abusive mother, high school dropout, tormented as a kid for being gay, homeless—and transcended it, creating a one-drag-queen industry of books (two), hit records, movie roles and a reality TV show where homage is paid to what RuPaul calls the “creative, courageous souls who do drag.”

 

"I'm not the greatest actor, singer or even drag queen," RuPaul once told me. "I knew my biggest asset was my personality, but people couldn't see me just as I am. The truth is that I'm a man; the illusion is that I'm a woman. But of the two, the illusion is truer.”

I interviewed RuPaul in Chicago back in the ‘90s, when he was making headlines as the world’s first superstar drag queen. I met up with him in his downtime, when he looked like your average, handsome, freckled, bald, 6’4” brother with a 5 o’clock shadow trolling Michigan Avenue in search of a cookie fix. He was, he told me, “working a male realness drag.” For him, his female, drag-queen persona is performance art, not a 24/7 thing. If you catch him at home, he told me, you’ll find him, not in high heels and pancake, but in his boxers, remote control in one hand, beer can in the other.

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