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RuPaul on 'gaymers,' Tim Cook's coming out and why we need to lighten up

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RuPaul Charles is nothing if not brutally frank. And with a decades-spanning career that's taken him from former New York City club kid to one-time "Supermodel (of the World)," to current host of Logo TV's cult reality show competition RuPaul's Drag Race and all-around impresario of his brand, he's certainly earned the right to tell it like it is. That candor's what his drag persona would refer to as "No T, No Shade," and it's incredibly refreshing.

Sure, Ru's name may not be the first that springs to mind when you think tech, but with his recently released freemium mobile game Dragopolis 2.0 hitting iTunes and Google Play, he carved some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about being a "gaymer," the importance of Apple CEO Tim Cook's coming out and why Netflix is the key to his current media empire.

First off, let me apologize. I don't have a Tic Tac to offer you. I know that's very rude of me.

Your mother did not teach you very well.

I've read recent interviews where you said you're familiar with the fame cycle and you know that when you're on top, you have to hit it full speed. So I'm curious: Is this mobile app Dragopolis 2.0 an extension of your natural interest as a gamer, or is this RuPaul extending the brand and making the most of the current fame spike around Drag Race?

Oh, it's absolutely both. I love games. My favorite thing on this planet to do is to play games. And if you don't enjoy games, then you're really missing the point of what this life is. Honestly, it's important to not take this whole process of life on this planet too seriously. And you need games to remind you that every aspect of your experience on this planet is a game. And you have to be a good sport. You have to strategize and you have to have fun. So both of those reasons for doing this are true.

My favorite thing on this planet to do is to play games. And if you don't enjoy games, then you're really missing the point of what this life is.


So do you then identify as a "gaymer"? G-A-Y-M-E-R.

(Ru laughs heartily)
This answer is an extension of my first answer, which is: I don't identify as anything. It is all a game. And I think that people miss the point. People can identify as however you want to. Right on. Go for it. But my strategy in this bigger game of life is to not identify as anything.

Let's just back up ... Drag mocks identity and the ego is all about identity. So ego hates drag. Do you follow what that is? What that means? So I don't identify as anything. Why would you box yourself in? And especially ... why would you identify as anything less than "god"? Which is the word we use for that which cannot be described.

What led you to create Dragopolis?

Well, the opportunity presented itself. And again, like I said, I love games. I have game nights at my house. And anything to do with modern technology, I want to be a part of it. So, the situation presented itself, and I said, "Right on. Let's do it."


Did you seek out So Much Drama Studios or did they come to you and say, "Hey, are you interested in this?"

No, I wanted to do ... I was seeking out different companies to do something with because I wanted to do a game. But, I liked them and they liked me, so we said let's go together.

How much involvement do you have in the actual development of the game? Is it your concept? Or do you leave it up to So Much Drama Studios?

Well, we came to them with the concept of ... No, listen, creatively it's all them. But we knew that the concept of being a race, because it is "Drag Race," was important to our brand. So that was our involvement. And of course, I'm involved with the way it looks and my voice is used in there. And then developing the game so we could incorporate the other girls from our show into the game. All of those things come from us. But all the ... technical and most of the creative really comes from the company.

Have you ever thought about creating a RuPaul-branded game for the established mainstream gaming consoles?

You know ... maybe. I've never thought of it. Mainstream's never appealed to me really. I mean, I've become popular over the years in certain areas. But mainstream, you know, I would rather the mainstream come to me. They should come to me. I don't want to have to come to them. Plus, I don't want to have to answer ... I don't want to have to sort of fit in. Everybody wants to assimilate into mainstream culture. I say pooey on mainstream culture.

I don't want to have to sort of fit in. Everybody wants to assimilate into mainstream culture. I say pooey on mainstream culture.

How closely do you follow the tech industry? Do you consider yourself tech-savvy?

I pay attention to everything.

At the end of October of this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay in a letter that Bloomberg Businessweek had published. What was your reaction to that, if you had one at all?

My reaction was: right on. I'm all for it. My reaction was ... I don't know if I really had a reaction to it, honestly. You know, people are people. It may have been more of a shock to someone who is not ... I don't know. I don't know what other people's reaction was. Mine was that of, "Right on. Do your thing."

You work in the entertainment industry, specifically the drag world where sexuality is part and parcel... the fluidity of sexuality. But in the tech industry, that's not so much the case. You're not really dealing with gender identity and sexuality. And it seemed as though Cook was being forced out of the glass closet. Did you find his "coming out" necessary? Why are we still doing that to people? And does it have an impact, him doing this?

Okay, you just asked about five different questions. I think that gender and sexuality are huge in every aspect. Not just in the specific entertainment portion that I'm in. It's in everything. And whether people know it or not, it dictates so much of how we behave in our culture. We take certain activities for granted. You know, how people present themselves. We see two people in the newspaper and they're kissing and they just happen to be straight. We just take it for granted that that's just the norm. You know, people talk about equality in our culture, and it's based on a kindergarten primary idea of what fairness and equality is. But it doesn't get updated as we get older.

Gender plays a huge role in how we see people, how we interpret what they say, whether we know it or not. Most people don't know it.

I've always looked at the world as an alien. And I've always thought it was all so strange. You know, [if] somebody who's straight behaves a certain way, nobody bats an eyelash. But if a gay person does the exact same thing, people are like, "Oh my god. It's revolutionary!" [But] it's the exact same thing! And the same is true in any business. Gender plays a huge role in how we see people, how we interpret what they say, whether we know it or not. Most people don't know it. So I applaud him. I think, "Right on!"

Viacom Inc And Logo TV's


Given the recent controversy surrounding Facebook's algorithm deleting drag queen profiles, and the fact that social media, like Facebook and Google+, now allow users to define a wide range of genders, do you think we're taking our social media profiles/personas too far?

I really don't understand what people do. People do all kinds of things. And, I don't even try to make heads or tails of it. You can't make heads or tails of it. Our culture is really insane. Our culture is insane. And if I try to sit here and try to think about why people do the things they do, I would spend the rest of my life doing that.

I do know this: People are fucking crazy! And nothing matters.

I've always focused on my own experience. And I'm old enough to have seen trends come and go; and political policies come and go. And if I try to make a statement based on what I think is the truth, it'll change a week from now. I do know this: People are fucking crazy! And nothing matters. The only thing that matters is that you try to have as much fun in this life that you can. Play well with other people and do your own thing. And do whatever the hell you want just as long as you don't hurt anybody else.

I will say this, though: We live in a culture that's so over-analyzed ... self-analyzed, that we're offended by everything. Everything in the world offends us. And we as a culture believe that if other people change their behavior, then my life will be so much better. When the truth is, why would you give that power to someone else outside of yourself? It's up to you to do what you need to do to make yourself happy. But don't depend on other people changing what they do or how they present themselves to you, or how they address you to dictate how happy you're going to be. That's ridiculous.

To your point, there's a "culture of outrage" dominating social media right now and, in a sense, it can be misconstrued as bullying. So I'm curious what your general attitude is toward social media given that culture of outrage and the fact that it's an essential tool for celebrity, for your work.

It's an element. It's a way to communicate. Part of taking on social media is that I have learned to not pay too much attention. I've always gone against the grain. I've always had people saying, "You can't do that." So I'm very used to it. Now, for some people, they're not used to having a bunch of people say, "You're not right. You are not right." I, on the other hand, I'm used to it. It's been my whole career.

We live in a culture that's so over-analyzed, that we're offended by everything. Everything in the world offends us.

The other part of that is that: Who said that life was going to be fucking easy? It's not. Who said it's gonna be fair? It's never been fair. This fairy tale idea that there's fairness in the world is very naive. There is fairness, but the fairness that there is, is not the fairness that we were taught. There is a balance. The real fairness has to do with balance. But it doesn't have anything to do with the fairy tale we were sold at kindergarten.

Have you ever considered taking the Drag Race series straight to streaming? Are you exploring streaming-only spin-offs for Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu?

Well, you know, [Drag Race] almost is specifically for those streaming networks because not everybody has Logo. Around the world, Netflix is our big provider. They're the ones who ... most people around the world see the show on Netflix.

Would you say the bulk of the audience and the success behind Drag Race has come from streaming and promotion on social media?

I would say it's because of all of those elements. Our show has been around for a long time. But it's not like ... it's still a cult show. It's not like this huge show. It's not like The Voice or American Idol, or anything like that. It's still seen by a very small audience, really.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

[Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images (lede image); So Much Drama Studios/RuCo (RuPaul's Drag Race Dragopolis 2.0); Getty Images (RuPaul rings NASDAQ closing bell)]

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