RuPaul On Doing Things His Way And The Subversive Power Of His New Game Show ‘Gay For Play’

john russell

rupaul promo shot drag race season 8 blue dress

It’s shaping up to be a spring to remember for RuPaul. The eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race came roaring back last month and has already shocked fans and contestants alike (#NayshaLopez) and his 10th studio album Butch Queen earned Ru his highest position ever on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Meanwhile, Ru himself made headlines last week when he dismissed critics of his use of the word “tranny” and “she-mail” on the show as “dumb as fuck” and read Jimmy Fallon’s Lip Sync Battle for filth, calling it a “poor rip-off” of Drag Race in an interview with New York Magazine’s Now the unapologetic icon is poised to expand his empire — and his relationship with Logo — even further with the premiere of his new game show, Gay for Play (which  airs immediately after RDR at 10 p.m. ET/PT).

Ru called us up last week to chat about the subversive undercurrent of game shows and why he just doesn’t give a fuck about what people expect from him.

Queerty: You’ve riffed on Match Game with “Snatch Game” on Drag Race, and now you’re hosting your own game show. Have you always been into game shows?
RuPaul: I love ’em! I love the ones in the ’70s especially because they were so cheeky and irreverent and so much fun. They were also encoded — encrypted with a secret gay language that was so important to me growing up. There was always a wink-wink to gay aesthetic, which has so much to do with irreverence and making fun of how hypocritical and mediocre the world is.

They definitely had that campy quality that speaks to a gay audience.
Yeah, on the initial first layer it looks like camp. But actually it’s very important, especially for young people who feel disenfranchised, and feel like, Is anyone else recognizing that this is all bullshit? That’s how I was as a kid. I was thinking, Why is nobody talking about how this is all so mediocre and so bullshit? So these game shows, or anything that alluded to the ridiculousness of the world, I gravitated toward.

The pilot features Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell competing for at-home viewers. Will every episode feature celebrity proxies?
No, we have some celebrities, but mostly everyday people. You know, because we have our celebrities on the panel who are so fabulous and irreverent.


Obviously you’d destroy the competition if you were competing on Drag Race, but how do you think you’d do if you actually had to play Gay for Play?
Oh, I’m really good with pop trivia! I’ve always had the ability to see everything—much to my own dismay! I pick up on everything. If I’m in a restaurant, I’m not only having a conversation with you, but I’m actually listening to everyone else’s conversations. I can’t help it. It’s a blessing and a curse. So in terms of pop culture, everything that you see, I see it too and then some.

Why is that dismaying to you? I feel like that would put you a step ahead over everyone else in general.
It has, but just like on Drag Race, sensitive souls who pick up on too much information end up blowing their circuitry. That’s the danger when you’re super sensitive to this world. You’ve got to learn a way to navigate and equalize your emotions. You’ve got to learn a practice to center and balance yourself when you’re picking up too much.

Drag Race is such a phenomenon, it’s inspired so many memes—Have you seen “Drag Queens Trying to Use Straws”?
I’ve seen memes and gif of queens doing that from our show. I don’t think I’ve seen other queens doing that.

So, can you predict what’s going to be meme-worthy on Gay for Play.
I think so. It’s completely bonkers, the show. First of all, we’ve to the Solid Gold Dancers on the show. Solid Gold was a show from the early ’80s that was not unlike Top of the Pops. But we’ve also got so many elements that are familiar to everyone just intuitively. The key to the show is that we’re all having so much fun. So much fun. It’s beyond!


Yeah, that energy is definitely evident in the first episode. But is it also stressful doing two show at once?
No, I love to work. I do a lot of different jobs at the same time. In face, even before I was famous I did lots of different things, because I knew from an early age that you have to be several different things in this lifetime. We all live longer than humans ever did before, you have several different careers in you. And also, listen: I get bored easily! So, I’ve actually been doing four and five shows at the same time in addition to, last year I made three albums. I have a new album out, I do a podcast, there was the Christmas special, I did a talk show on E! last year. You know, I like to stay busy.

You gotta keep up that hustle!
Absolutely, but not just for financial gain or more adoration, but just to keep from being so bored!

So, are you already looking ahead to the next phase of your career?
Well, honestly I feel like it’s always been the same act for me. I love to be creative. I love creativity, I love colors, music and dancing and laughing. Those are the things that get me up out of bed in the morning. So as long as I can do that I will continue to move forward.

Is it refreshing to just host and kiki on Gay for Play instead of having to judge contestants?
I think fun is the biggest teacher. As with drag, laughing and having fun are really the most important things to do, because it reminds you to not take life too fucking seriously! Which is the biggest lesson you could ever learn. A lot of people will never understand what that really means. Drag speaks to that. Drag is there throughout the history of mankind to remind us that we are not the clothes we wear, we are not the religion or the politics or even the gender or the race we are. We are shape shifters. We are god in drag. Laughing is there to remind us to do that, to not take life too seriously. So a game show, doing drag, dancing, losing yourself in the rhythm and beat — all those things are the most important things you can do. You’ve seen those depictions of Buddha with a wink and a smile? That’s what that means.

You’ve made no secret of the fact that doing drag is not that important to you anymore, but obviously drag is a something that your fans really want from you. Is that ever a conflict for you?
No! Because my priorities…[Laughs] are number one! Is it a conflict? Hell no! I’ve always done what the fuck I wanna do, and I don’t give a shit what other people think of me or what they want from me. I do my own shit!

Enjoy an exclusive clip from the show below.


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