It was bound to happen: a TV show in search of America's top drag queen.
And who better to lead it than the king of queens himself, RuPaul?
The drag queen superstar serves as host, mentor and judge on his new show, RuPaul's Drag Race, which airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Logo. (It re-airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on VH1.)
The show centers on nine contestants vying for the title — and $20,000 — through a series of challenges and makeover. At the end of each episode, RuPaul orders one of the queens home.
The daring diva comes to L'Olivier Restaurant & Cabaret in Ybor City this weekend to promote his show, along with the release of his new album, Champion.
Tbt* spoke with RuPaul, 48, from Los Angeles about his latest ventures, the Obamas and his fondness for Tampa.
What's the deal with the sinister laugh right before the show's commercial breaks?
That was the producer's idea. (Laughs) That is so my laugh. Every time I hear it, I have to laugh myself. (Laughs) That's a real laugh that they snatched from some area of the show. If you really deconstruct it, that laugh captures what drag is about. It's about don't take life so seriously. You have to laugh about it.
The show makes a lot of references to car racing? What's the connection?
It's the race to be the best you can be. The race to not play small and to own your own power. That's an ongoing struggle, especially in a consumer culture that tells us we're not really all we can be unless we buy something.
Any background in cars?
I have always loved cars, and don't get me started. Those car companies have me so upset. It's their own fault. Had they made cars we'd all want to buy, we'd still be buying them.
I saw that you posed as both Michelle and Barack Obama in a promo photo for your show. What was that like?
It was a Christmas card here from World of Wonder that got leaked to the press and went all over the world. It was a great way to reintroduce people not only to me, but to the spirit and hope of our television show, which really helps people understand that we all are in drag. We are born naked and the rest is drag.
A few bloggers said you were prettier than Michelle. How do you react to that?
(Laughs.) Well, whatever people think of me, that's none of my business. But that's very sweet. I think she's absolutely incredibly beautiful and smart.
Why come to Tampa?
Tampa has such an incredible drag history. I just love it. It's one of the last places in the United States to have a community like that. Drag really had to go underground during our romance with fear-based fundamentalism and the whole terrorist threat. Even though there's an economic crisis happening, we are shifting in terms of the pendulum ... swinging left. This is showing up in Tampa because Tampa has always been ahead of the curve.
I had heard that your mother named you RuPaul because she knew you were going to be famous.
Right after she gave birth, they said to her, What are you going to name the boy? She said his name is going to be RuPaul Andre Charles and he's going to be a m-----f----- ' star, because nobody on earth has a name like that. And the truth is, she told me from day one that I would be famous. Some psychic told her that.