RuPaul’s Drag Race is sprinting to the end of Season 15 in 8-inch Louboutin platform heels, as Mother herself prepares to crown “America’s next drag superstar.” The big finish airs on April 15 on MTV. Prepare for sequins.
As part of the show’s new network launch — after years with LOGO and then VH-1 — MTV unearthed and shared a 1990’s New York time capsule featuring the then-newly anointed Queen of Drag interviewed by MTV News reporter Alison Stewart.
The pair go shopping.
RuPaul towers over Stewart as the two roll into an unidentified Tri-State area mall, with the diminutive journalist bundled up in a hot pink wool jacket and skirt against below-freezing temps outside, while Ru is all legs in red hot pants and cinched tight up top in a low-cut white silk bodice.
“You better shop!” she announces at their arrival.
The year is 1993, just after RuPaul broke out with her dance club anthem Supermodel (You Better Work). She couldn’t have been hotter.
And neither could drag.
By the end of the Reagan/Bush era, years of protest demanding government accountability over the AIDS crisis inspired the LGBTQ+ community to greater visibility, and drag went public like never before.
Wigstock exploded every summer on New York’s Lower East Side, featuring drag legends like Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat, and Lypsinka. Deee-Lite, the B-52’s, Madonna’s Erotica, and house music were the soundtrack at clubs, along with RuPaul’s hymn to work, looks, more work and models (“Linda! Naomi! Christy! Cindy!”).
In Harlem, Paris was burning.
Like a 6’5″ and Black Horatio Alger, the Queen of Drag shares the same “up from your bootstraps” message in Supermodel that she’s hawking today. “You better work!” she advises her soon-to-be subjects, “‘Cause everything looks good on you!”
In the back of a white stretch limo, Stewart asks Ru about her pre-shopping look.
“It’s Uptown,” says the drag star, draped in a faux-fur leopard coat, with a bottle-blonde up-do. In fact, Ru was working the signature hairstyle of then recently-divorced Ivana Trump, found on so many New York tabloid covers in the early ’90s after her split with the future president.
“Sort of Uptown call girl,” she says laughing.
A hypnotizing pair of white earrings add a stylish nod to Wigstock, where Ru would perform the next summer and be immortalized in Wigstock: The Movie.
“More than just what I’m wearing, it’s actually more of an attitude,” RuPaul opines. “It’s like, ‘You’re all welcome to party, come on in.'”
She adds: “Everybody is a drag queen. I mean you’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
“In fact, every pop star is. Madonna, Garth Brooks, Flavor Flav. Everybody is in drag.”
Stewart asks Ru if Middle America is ready for her.
“You know what? America is ready for me, and they kind of have to be ready for me. I mean, what I am is, I’m a result of a change that’s happening. If they don’t get me, the change is still gonna happen, with or without me.”
“I have one thing to say!” she teases a crowd of teens at a Sam Goody record store, as she buys a cassette tape of her hit single.
At the food court, the Mother of all drag queens imparts a message familiar to her future drag children.
“Learn how to love yourself, no matter what. And once you do love yourself, you don’t have to be putting nobody else down.”
“Everybody say love!”
Stewart asks the future Drag Race creator and star, “What’s your next big challenge?”
“My next big challenge,” shouts a wild-eyed Ru, like a drag oracle, “is world domination!“
The Drag Race Grand Finale tapes live at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Get tickets if you can.