Q&A: RuPaul

Drag supermodel, '90s dance-pop star, actress and actor, cult favorite RuPaul has just released his first new album in seven years. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Devon Thomas.

NEWSWEEK: Where have you been the last few years?

RuPaul:Just being a regular human being, spending time with myself, being a good friend to my friends, and a good uncle--getting to know myself again.

Why did you call your album "RuPaul Red Hot"?

Well, many years ago--I'm not gonna say how many--I became famous in Atlanta from doing self-promotion. One campaign I came up with was "RuPaul Is Red Hot." People would drive by my apartment and scream, "RuPaul is red hot!" [Laughs] So I figured, since I'm starting over, I'd start from the beginning. Plus, it sort of signifies the Phoenix rising from the ashes, from the flames.

Your song "Love Is Love" speaks for gay marriage.

Yes. How can somebody tell me who I can or cannot love, or how much I want to make my commitment to another person? Since I'm paying taxes, I better get the same rights as everybody else gets. [Laughs]

How do you respond to people who find your drag performances offensive?

It's no different from Denzel Washington portraying a soldier. He's not really a soldier--it's all entertainment. When people get offended, it's definitely a place they need to look at in themselves to figure out "What's that about? Why does that rub me the wrong way?" I think there not being health care is really offensive. And people's love, which is so hard to come by, not being recognized by the president... anyway, you know where I'm going with this.

You called this album your "gift to the world."

Yeah, obviously, I don't have to do this work anymore. But there's a lot of kids who need this message now, and the message is "Love yourself"--no matter what people in Washington or religious right-wing people say. I'm a living example, really, of the true American dream--that you can create your life.

So are you still "Supermodel of the World"?

[Laughs] In more ways than one!

A New Reagan Battle

Over objections from Nancy Reagan, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans a publicity campaign this week featuring Ronald Reagan's picture and the unsubstantiated claim that eating meat "doubles your risk of Alzheimer's." (UCLA Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Gary Small says diet may play a role, but there's no proof animal fats double your risk.) "I thought Mrs. Reagan would be a natural ally on this," says PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. But the Reagan camp fired back a cease- and-desist letter. "It would seem to me out of common courtesy to Mrs. Reagan that they would not use the image," says Joanne Drake, chief of staff at Reagan's office. PETA says the photo was bought legitimately; besides, Reagan was a public figure. Likely winner? The lawyers.

And Your Little Dog, Too, My Pretty!

The Department of Homeland Celebrity can stand down from Orange alert: Paris Hilton got her dog back. Tinkerbell, a recent cover pooch for a canine magazine, costarred in Hilton's reality series, dolled up in outfits like pink coats and matching sneakers that gave new meaning to the term doggie style. When Tink went missing from Hilton's Hollywood Hills home, the high- maintenance Hilton reportedly offered $5,000 for the return of her equally pampered companion. (For most of us, this would be equivalent to buying a dognapper a Happy Meal. In fact, sources in the dog hunt had suspected Tinkerbell might have become a Happy Meal--for a coyote.) But last Wednesday the dog turned up safe and sound; just how, Hilton's people won't say. Cynics speculate that the inveterate inkhound Hilton--beset by rumors of a breakup with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and reports of bruises on her face and arms a couple of weeks ago--was looking for sympathetic publicity. But does she really expect the media to roll over when she speaks?

Games You Won't See In Athens

Hasbro just announced its updated version of the 1999 Donald Trump board game. So we thought we'd run some other ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. Toymakers, it's your move.

MARTHOPOLY: Build an empire, push little pawns around, go eventually to jail, do not pass buck.

CHENEYLAND: Move along Beltway from one secret location to the next. Take Bypass, avoid Quagmire.

G.I. JOHN: Reporting for duty! Dress him up, dress him down: uniform or jeans, buzz cut or hippie hair.

CARBI: Have Anna Nicole Smith at your next tea party. (Weight and dimensions may vary wildly.)

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