I went to see RuPaul Charles - RuPaul, "the most famous drag queen in the world," the host of "RuPaul’s Drag Show." the star of "Star Booty," etc. - at Claremont McKenna College the other night, and it was no joke.
C.M.C used to be a men’s college and is still known as a school for jocks majoring in econ and poli-sci and with a conservative bent, and its Atheneum is the kind of place that usually features dignitaries and scholars at its dinners (and sometimes at lunch), so I thought it was interesting, to say the least, that RuPaul had been invited to speak there.
Wearing a black and orange checkered suit and raised platform shoes and with his black head shaved and shiny, he did literally strut into the room upon being introduced, having no doubt requested to do so, and he was clearly tickled by the whole scene and laughed when he showed slides of himself in a variety of outrageous get-ups. But what RuPaul had to say was serious. Or it was something I needed to hear, seriously.
Entitling his remarks "Observations from the Inside," he spoke of always knowing that he was different, from the time he grew up with three sisters and a feisty, ultimately divorced mother in San Diego, and his he used this knowledge instead of being a victim of it. He showed a school picture from when he was a small child and said that that small child is still in him, just as there is a small child in all of us, and that he always tries to take care of that little child, and he talked about realizing that life is about more than what we do and what happens to us, that we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
According to RuPaul, who said he grew up with a sense, encouraged by his mother, that he would be a star, a key to his development came when he was in trouble at a performing arts high school, where he went after getting in trouble at another school, and a teacher told him not to take life so seriously. Later, he came to see that such notions as one not being able to be a mainstream pop star while wearing drag were ridiculous and holding him back.
RuPaul insisted several times that he is a man and that he does not see himself as or want to be a woman, even when he is in drag. He explained that he’s not taking life so seriously, that he is enjoying his human experience as a spiritual being, having fun with his body and "playing with all the colors in the box." Nothing more, nothing less.
Sounds like what I do with all my overalls and my mismatched high-tops and rainbow laces, with my shaved head and with my long dreads flying. Is this all my drag? Mmmmm.
The best part of the evening for me, and probably for RuPaul, was during the Q & A, was when a young man, no doubt a student, in a dark suit and tie, stood up and shared his drag name. (RuPaul congratulated him and said that he had a way to make a lot of money if school doesn’t work out.) Super sweet!