It seems like we just met the fabulous queens of the ninth season of the reality television hit RuPaul’s Drag Race, but we’re already at the final four and America’s Next Drag Superstar will be crowned on June 23.
The show’s ageless creator, RuPaul (who, if we have to assign a number, is 56), recently took part in a Reality Roundtable discussion for The Hollywood Reporter. He joined other reality show producers, including Kris Jenner and Leah Remini, to discuss the current state of the ever-popular genre. The always outspoken Glamazon had a lot to say. Here are some of the highlights:
Drag Race strikes a chord with viewers: The subtext [for Drag Race] really is the tenacity of the human spirit. These are little boys who are ostracized from society and from their families a lot of times — boys playing with girls’ things, it’s an act of treason in a male-dominated culture — and here they are blooming and thriving, and it’s interesting to watch someone reveal their struggles.
On “Reality Show 101”: I wish there was a therapy group that is specifically for new-to-reality stars. I brought this up to the producers recently. We want to produce a video, like when you get on an airplane and they tell you about the emergency exits and the safety belts. We want to do that for the girls on our show because they need to be prepared for the trolls on social media and for family members. I always say, “Don’t have your boyfriend manage your career.” They see the fame, they see that their career is going to be propelled, but they don’t know about all the other stuff that, for a lot of us, took years of wrong turns to figure out.
On living life on his own terms: When I was a little boy, I wanted to fit in and I could never, but I thought, “You know what, I’m smart enough to figure this out. Let me see what my entry will be.” And I figured it out. I said, “Oh, this is all a joke, it’s all an illusion, it’s all made up.” I was surprised that other people weren’t going, “You know, this is all made up, right?” And I was looking for my tribe of people to do that. You know where I found that tribe? On PBS’ Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I thought, “They exist; my people are out there!” (Laughter.) Because it was so irreverent, they made fun of everything and, if I really thought about it, before that it was Bugs Bunny, who was just heckling everything. He’s like, “Don’t take life too seriously.” So I still feel that way, and I have to remind myself every day.
Ru’s advice for the “children in nature”: I would hope that these kids would learn how to navigate their lives. Everybody walks around this life, and it looks like they have the instruction book. Nobody does; everybody is faking it. And kids need to know that. It’s back to the Bugs Bunny philosophy, which is that this life is an incredible experience, so have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously and try everything. Use all the colors in the crayon box.
On what ends up on the cutting room floor: A lot of times, kids come on, and after the show they’ll say, “I was edited unfavorably.” The truth is, we used the best of them. We never want someone to look bad. They say a lot worse things, and we actually soften them.
Is that last answer some subtle shade directed squarely at Drag Race Season 4/All Stars Season 2 contestant Phi Phi O’Hara? Sure sounds like it, but I don’t mind. Ru does seem to genuinely care about the queen-testants on his show (when I interviewed him back in the day, he referred to them as his “kids,” and I think he has their best interests at heart). In fact, the feeling between Ru and most of the Drag Race contestants is mutual, as evidenced by the recent video series on Billboard, called “Spilling the Tea.” Check around the 4:50 mark to check out what Drag Race alums Manila Luzon, Derrick Barry, Mariah, Willam and my all-time favorite Pandora Boxx have to say about how Ru inspired them.
As for this season of Drag Race, Ru spoke with TIME and addressed the season’s most shocking elimination, that of fan favorite (and beret aficionado) Valentina, who tried to get away with “lip syncing for her life” while wearing a mask that obscured her mouth. When asked if he was disappointed with her, Ru admitted, “Valentina was someone who I really did think would go all the way. And then when I saw what she did in the challenge and ultimately in the lip-sync, I felt that she had given up. She’s smarter than what she did in the challenge, so that’s why I was disappointed.”
Who do you have as the winner for season 9? In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, reigning champion Bob the Drag Queen said, “Points-wise, I think Shea Couleé should win. But in terms of whom I want to win, I want it to be Trinity or Sasha.” He added, “My favorite queen is still Peppermint. I don’t even know if it makes sense, but I just love her. I don’t think she should win, but she’s still my favorite.” I know, Bob. I am #TeamPeppermint myself (in fact, come payday, I’ll knock a few bucks her way to help her complete her upcoming biographical documentary Project Peppermint). And for Drag Race fans the wait is almost over; two weeks from Friday, we’ll know for sure who America’s Next Drag Superstar will be.
Photos: The Hollywood Reporter, Getty Images, WENN.com