RuPaul on Moving to Mainstream Television and the ‘Political’ Nature of Drag Culture

The ninth season of Drag Race premieres tonight on VH1

In addition to the new season of Drag Race, RuPaul has a new studio album and an autobiography in the works. Viacom
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RuPaul is, in a word, busy.

Between tonight’s return of Drag Race, the release of his 11th studio album, an upcoming autobiography and the third annual DragCon in a few weeks, there’s plenty on his proverbial plate.

An Emmy win and ratings success for Drag Race and its All Stars series prompted Viacom to move the show from its longtime home on Logo to VH1.

“Viacom is realizing what this franchise means to them and what they really have to offer viewers,” RuPaul said. “It’s been an uphill battle for us to climb into the mainstream.”

RuPaul frequently says drag culture and the LGBTQ community are about finding your own family. He extends that same philosophy to working with brands.

“Advertisers like Unilever or Fiat know that partnering with us has a subtle, smart subtext to it,” he said. “It says that they’re conscious on a world level, and their consumer isn’t fooled by people who want to make America what it was.”

Born RuPaul Andre Charles, he burst onto the scene 25 years ago with the song and video “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1993.

“We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag,” he’s famous for saying (and singing.) He’s got more than a dozen other expressions like it or, as he calls them, “mission statements of why I’m even on this planet.” They emanate from the history of drag and his own personal journey.

“Drag has always been political in nature,” he said. “It challenges the concept of identity at its core. It’s the most political you can be by becoming the image of your imagination.”

RuPaul married his long-term partner, Georges LeBar, in January. He calls it one of his greatest accomplishments.

“I just want to love, be allowed to love and experience humanity,” he said. “The most important thing I ever did was allow this man to love me.”

Beyond the glamorous exterior of Drag Race, there is a message for anyone who might be watching: “Kids from small towns get to watch and know that they’re not alone. There are people out there waiting for them. … Drag is shorthand for understanding that the façade is not who you are.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres tonight on VH1 at 8 p.m. ET. Episodes will get a second run on Logo the following Monday. The premiere episode features Lady Gaga as a judge on the panel as well as a “contestant” who surprises the other Racers.

@samimain Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.