The 2016 Emmy race is underway, and Vulture will take a close look at the contenders until the awards on September 18.
For the first time in his career, RuPaul is getting some mainstream recognition: an Emmy nomination. The host of RuPaul’s Drag Race received his first nod this year for Outstanding Host for a Reality Program. For some, there was a sweet irony that RuPaul’s nomination came soon after saying that he didn’t pay such accolades any mind. His exact words to Vulture: “In fact, I’d rather have an enema than have an Emmy.” Vulture got Ru on the phone to parse the significance of the nomination, which naturally led to a conversation about politics, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton.
Congratulations on your Emmy nomination.
Don’t you mean condragulations?
Yes, that is what I meant. What was going through your mind when you heard the news?
Well, my agents called me up and told us that we had been nominated, and my first thought was I was happy for Logo getting that kind of recognition. Logo is a corporation. The industry, which is a corporation, recognizing another corporation is good for business. It’s great. But, like I said before, I’ve lived my life and worked my career outside of the system, off the grid, so for me to start being inspired by what other people think of me is not what I’m about. Certain recognition, you know, recognition from a mother, from people who really know you, but from an industry is a different thing.
During a previous conversation, I expressed surprise that you had never been nominated, and you had a very thoughtful response, which was that drag was not about conformity, and so in that sense the Emmys couldn’t recognize it.
You know, in ninth grade, I won best dancer and best Afro. And I indeed had the best Afro and was the best dancer, but that’s not what got me the award. What got me the award was I was hanging out with all the right people, and life doesn’t change much when you leave junior high school. It’s the same. So, you know, when I vote, I vote for my friends. I vote for people I like. A lot of people don’t see all these shows. We get stupid screeners to sit and watch all this shit. I don’t have frickin’ time to watch all this shit! I will vote for my friends. So, does the best person win? Probably not. Sometimes it works out that way. My guess is that probably not.
So does that mean that you’ve made a lot of friends in the industry then?
I don’t know. What ends up happening is you work a lot. Sometimes you work for big corporations who have a lot of friends and a lot of pull. Even when I won best Afro, I wasn’t literally friends with that in-crowd. I was in favor with them; I wasn’t really friends with them. And when I won those awards, I knew immediately the political ramifications of that.
Do you think there are political ramifications for this nomination?
Oh, sure! The Oscars had so many white faces, and then all of a sudden they did an about-face and they’re changing things up because it makes them look bad. It makes it look like the new boss is the same as the old boss. So they had to quickly do things that made them appear that they’re up with the times. They don’t want to appear that they’re behind. And the truth is, Hollywood doesn’t have a moral responsibility, they have a monetary responsibility. So they do things that make sense to them financially. Because it’s not a person we’re talking about — we’re talking about a corporation. A corporation’s bottom line is to make more money.
And you make them money.
Well, I know that probably having me on the ballot reflects what’s happening with the times. You see certain actors who have been bachelors their whole lives — real fuck machines. By the time they’re 50, they have to settle down, marry someone, and have a child because, if they don’t, they’ll be portrayed in the press as being an old lech, or a creepy old guy who’s preying on young poon. So it’s an image thing. It’s like politics. There’s a certain way you can play the public to where they don’t catch on to your ways. So I guess what I’m saying is, we’re in a place where people are behaving like they are conscious of diversity and all that, and it’s great. Ultimately, it’s a great thing. But the truth is, you look at the election, you see what people are doing, and you see, Okay, the subconscious mind, it’s still going for the lowest common denominator. Yes, Trump is this weirdo and he’s creepy, but the saddest, most worrisome part of this is that there are millions and millions of people who are devotees! What I’m trying to say is that people put on this face because it makes them look good, but underneath lurking in the subconscious is this other face that you’re thinking, Ooh, that’s fucking gross! And most people act from that subconscious, gross place.
So then I assume you wouldn’t see this nomination as something that would make you mainstream?
No. It would make Logo mainstream. Logo plays in that world. When you break it down, they’re a subsidiary of Viacom, and I’m sure that Viacom looks at Logo as a more viable, more substantial player, because it’s now Emmy-nominated. And that works in a business sense.
Will you attend?
Yeah, sure, I’ll attend! I have to attend for Logo and for the producers I work with. [Laughs.] Everything is fucking political. Will I attend? Yes, because I have to.
What do you think about what’s going on with Donald Trump and the Republican Party?
When you break it down, this is about mankind moving forward and the people who are resisting that forward movement. When a butterfly makes a metamorphosis from being a caterpillar, there’s a violent exchange between caterpillar and butterfly. And what we’re witnessing is this violent exchange and a rejection of the movement forward. It’s so uncanny, and it’s so clear that that’s what’s happening, even as it relates to what’s happening around the world, with these horrible tragedies. There are people who are rejecting the forward motion of mankind. And they don’t want to be present for what’s happening because they don’t want to change, because change would mean they’d actually have to look at themselves and go, “Who am I? What am I? And how do I relate to this world?”
I think of Trump as a camp character.
Right, but unfortunately most people don’t get irony. We would laugh at it, but most people would probably take it seriously.
Well, I think they are right now.
What do you think about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats?
[Laughs.] I fucking love them. I have always loved them. And let me just say this: If you’re a politician — not just in Washington but in business and industry, you have to be a politician — there are a lot of things that you have to do that you’re not proud of. There are a lot of compromises you have to make because it means that you can get this other thing over here. And if you think that you can go to fucking Washington and be rainbows and butterflies the whole time, you’re living in a fucking fantasy world. So now, having said that, think about what a female has to do with that: All of those compromises, all of that shit, double it by ten. And you get to understand who this woman is and how powerful, persuasive, brilliant, and resilient she is. Any female executive, anybody who has been put to the side — women, blacks, gays — for them to succeed in a white-male-dominated culture is an act of brilliance. Of resilience, of grit, of everything you can imagine. So, what do I think of Hillary? I think she’s fucking awesome. Is she in bed with Wall Street? Goddammit, I should hope so! You’ve got to dance with the devil. So which of the horrible people do you want? That’s more of the question. Do you want a pompous braggart who doesn’t know anything about diplomacy? Or do you want a badass bitch who knows how to get shit done? That’s really the question.
How would you describe your political ideology?
I’m a realist. Drag says, “This is all bullshit.” Drag says, “You’re playing a role, and I’m here to remind you: Don’t get it twisted. I’m not buying it. I understand what’s really real, and what’s really hood, and I’m living my life that way.” I see politics the same way. Everybody’s playing a role. And don’t try to make me believe that you are what you say you are. I can see behind that mask.
I wanted to talk about the shooting at Pulse in Orlando. You made a statement at the Trailblazer Awards, and I wanted to hear about when you first heard the news and how it impacted you.
I have a long, long relationship with Pulse nightclub for years and years. It’s a safe space. It’s a safe haven — a place where people can meet our tribe. It always has been. To have it encroached by such an evil force hurts very deeply. I’m 55. I’ve witnessed so many assaults — emotional assaults, physical assaults, all of that. I was assaulted after the first attack, assaulted again just by how the media handled that stuff. So, it was a hurtful situation, and even more hurtful that I don’t believe that we as a people, as a culture, have really learned from it and how to deal with it.
What do you think needs to happen?
We need to talk about the subconscious mind. We need to talk about the hateful darkness that lives in each of us. We don’t all have it to that extent, but we definitely need to shed light on that area of us. All of us have been sold this idea that we deserve the whole world, and that everybody’s going to get the big house, the big cars, the two and a half children, and all of this stuff that the media sells us. And then people who don’t get it get angry. And they say, “Dammit, if I’m not going to get mine, no one’s going to get it!” So we get angry, and from the anonymity of a keyboard online, we troll people, we put them down. Some people go to the extent of killing people or being horrible in that way. And that’s obviously the extreme. But we all have that element. I think the way we approach this is we need to acknowledge that area of our consciousness that lives in all of us, and we need to start that dialogue. We need to recognize it when it pops up.
It’s all throughout the whole Trump thing: Ego wants to divide us up. Ego wants to believe that we’re separate from one another, but the truth is there’s only one of us here. So for us to move forward, we have to acknowledge that element in us, and then when it comes up, say, “Thank you for sharing, but I’m going do this, because I’m not going to act on my fragile ego.”
Michelle Obama, at least during her speech, brilliantly did this. She took Trump down without even having to mention his name, which was the best shade I have seen.
Oh, God, yes. That is exactly how to deal with it.
Last question: Would you still rather have an enema than an Emmy?
[Laughs.] Well, it depends on who’s administering the Emmy. Or who’s administering the enema.
I think you could have both.
Then there’s your answer! I’ll have both.