RuPaul Andre Charles Drag queen, author, singer, host, supermodel of the world

RuPaul Andre Charles
Drag queen, author, singer, host, supermodel of the world





“You know when I started out, they told me I couldn’t make it,” RuPaul said in the 1995 documentary Wigstock: The Movie. “They said, ‘ain’t no big black drag queen in the pop world and you ain’t gonna do it.’ And look at the bitch now!”


Born in San Diego, California, RuPaul Andre Charles developed his drag persona in Atlanta and New York in the 1980s. Since her 1993 breakout single, “Supermodel,” Ru has kicked her size 12 stilettos even further into the mainstream with more pop hits, a cult-favorite talk show, movie roles, dolls, books (including the self-help book RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style) and even a figure in Madame Tussauds.


And that’s not even including a little show called RuPaul’s Drag Race.


RuPaul, now 51, can also be credited with challenging perceptions of what it means to be gay, black, and for that matter, a drag queen. Her 2004 album, Red Hot, featured appearances by blackface drag personality Shirley Q. Liquor, stirring up dialogue about race and racism. Last year, three teachers at Los Angeles’ Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School were suspended over allowing students to carry photos of “questionable” African-American role models, including RuPaul, at a Black History Month parade.


But to Ru, her drag persona is a means, not an end: “The superficial image I project is a social commentary on the world we live in,” RuPaul said in an interview in the Willamette Week. “I’m saying, ‘Look, I’m beautiful with all this stuff on, but that truth is who I really am has nothing to do with any of this stuff… It’s not real at all. I never said it was.”


Can we get an “amen” up in here?


NEXT: Bill T. Jones steps it up


Photos: David Shankbone, Logo

Divas: demanding, entertaining, talented “ladies” who provide much-needed distraction in our troubled world. They are also, usually, total bitches.

That wasn’t the case with the delicious diva known as RuPaul, who’s not a woman at all, just the world’s most famous drag queen, and someone who has been notably absent from the pages of Us Weekly for the past several years.

But this dance-club fave is once again claiming tabloid headlines (he just unveiled the world’s first tranny fashion doll in her likeness-see right), and is about to get a lot of local attention when he headlines at CC Slaughters. But will gays embrace Ru like they did back in the early ’90s when the “Super Model of the World” was blaring “You Better Work!” all over the radio and runway? I had to find out.

While Ru was a bit threatening at first, the diva duel I’d anticipated never materialized. The most dramatic soundbite? When I asked him if he had any special plans while visiting Portland, RuPaul replied, “I plan on looking your ass up and kicking your ass, man.”

But that was the old RuPaul. After he dropped a few bitchy lines, I heard the voice of the new RuPaul on the other end of the line.

“I have to remind myself every day of what is real, and what is real is love,” said the 45-year-old RuPaul Andre Charles. “The superficial image I project is a social commentary on the world we live in. That’s why the doll is so important to me. I’m saying, ‘Look, I’m beautiful with all this stuff on, but that truth is who I really am has nothing to do with any of this stuff. I’m actually letting the cat out of the bag by saying it’s not real at all. I never said it was.”

So does the doll have all the right parts?

“I don’t know what all the right parts are,” he laughs. “It’s interesting. Hidden meanings are exciting to me: Living outside the box as a gay man, or as a gay little boy, I got to see that hypocrisy, and I always wanted to say, ‘Soylent Green is people!

‘”I don’t need to make a whole lot of money,” he says. “And I don’t need to become more famous. There are a lot of young people who need to see someone living their life outside the box and being successful at it. The shamans and the witch doctors remind each culture to not take themselves too seriously. They mock our culture by being both male and female, but in that context, there is a much deeper message, which is that we are all the same.”









Phill Wilson AIDS activist, founder of Black AIDS Institute

Phill Wilson
AIDS activist, founder of Black AIDS Institute





In 1981, Phill Wilson and partner Chris Brownlie, who owned a small giftware company together, found themselves in a doctor’s office, puzzling over mysteriously swollen lymph nodes. While no test yet existed to accurately diagnose their condition, both were infected with HIV, which was already sending shockwaves throughout the gay community. Since then, Wilson, 55, has made it his life’s mission to battle the epidemic, particularly within the black community.

Living in L.A. at the time, he and Brownlie quickly became involved with every area organization tackling this new plague, and helped to found AIDS Project Los Angeles in the process. Tragically, Brownlie succumbed to AIDS in 1989.

Wilson funneled his anger and sorrow into even more intense community efforts: In 1999 he founded The Black AIDS Institute, where he remains Executive Director, and has helped create numerous other service and community organizations including the Chris Brownlie Hospice, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the National Minority AIDS Council, the Los Angeles County Gay Men of Color Consortium and the CAEAR Coalition.

In an interview for PBS’ Frontline, Wilson shared:

As early as 1984, 1985, 25% of the AIDS cases in America were African-American. The majority of children with AIDS were African-American. The majority of women with AIDS were African-American. African- Americans have always been disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. The thing that strikes me about the AIDS epidemic is that, quite frankly, it’s always been about race, or it’s always been about ‘the other,’ and that’s one reason why stigma has been such a barrier to end this epidemic.

Asked what advice he would give young people today, he said:

“I basically would say to anyone, young, old or otherwise, that there will be an accounting, and you have to be comfortable with that. [The] price of the ticket for life is to leave the world a better place than you found it. That’s the minimum payment that we owe for the privilege of having spent time on this planet. Make sure that you at least pay the minimum dues.”

Photo: Todd Williamson/PRNewsFoto


Mabel Hampton Lesbian activist and archivist

Mabel Hampton
Lesbian activist and archivist

Known fondly as Miss Mabel during her later years, Mabel Hampton (1902-1989) was truly “in the life.” A major contributor of her time and personal materials to The Lesbian Herstory Archives, she witnessed and helped document gay and black life during the 20th century, from the Harlem Renaissance to her own 25-year relationship with partner Lillian Foster.

Hailing from Winston-Salem, NC, Hampton moved to New York in the 1920s to become a dancer and singer, and found a home in the Harlem Renaissance scene alongside queer black icon Langston Hughes and bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith. She was sent to a women’s reformatory for 13 months for prostitution in the early 1920s, but spoke openly about the kindness she received from other women there:

“[Another prisoner] says, ‘I like you.’ ‘I like you too,’ [I reply]… We went to bed and she took me in her bed and held me in her arms and I went to sleep. She put her arms around me like Ellen used to do, you know, and I went to sleep.”

In 1932, she met Foster (right) and the two remained a couple until Foster’s death in 1978.

Throughout the years, Hampton squirreled away hundreds of letters, photos and other items that chronicled African-American and gay life and history, including her own. She became a prolific philanthropist, volunteer and a piece of living history, appearing in the 1980s documentaries, Silent Pioneers and Before Stonewall. In one of many oral histories she recorded before her death in 1989, Hampton mused:

“I’m glad I became [a lesbian]. I have nothing to regret. Not a thing. All these people run around going, ‘I’m not this, I’m not that.’ [Being gay] doesn’t bother me. If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing. I’d be a lesbian. Oh boy, I would really be one, then! I’d really be one! Oh boy!”

Photos: Joan Nestle/The Lesbian Herstory Archives.


Bayard Rustin Civil-rights activist, organizer of the 1963 March on Washington

Bayard Rustin
Civil-rights activist, organizer of the 1963 March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream—and a gay ally who helped make it come true. A pacifist and activist, Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) learned to take a nonviolent yet effective stand for equality from his grandmother, Julia, and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In his youth, Rustin rallied against Jim Crow laws and the racially charged case against the Scottsboro boys.  Later, he debated Malcolm X, stressing the importance of seeing the world’s various races as one big family.

Rustin first met King in 1956, when Rustin helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He educated MLK in Gandhian nonviolent protest principles and went on to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where King made his immortal “I had a dream” speech.

But Rustin’s homosexuality posed a problem: Some civil rights leaders took issue with it, while members of the U.S. government used Rustin’s sexuality—and his arrest in 1953 for a “sex perversion” offense—to undermine his effectiveness.  Senator Strom Thurmond, in particular, blasted Rustin as a “Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual” in 1963 and had his arrest file entered in the congressional record.  (Thurmond also produced an FBI photo of Rustin and MLK chatting while the latter was taking a bath, to suggest the two were lovers.)

Before views about homosexuality softened, much of Rustin’s accomplishments in the civil rights movement went unsung, though they are chronicled in the brilliant documentary Brother Outsider.

By the 1970s, Rustin began championing gay rights more directly: In a 1986 speech, “The New Niggers Are Gay,” he drew an explicit connection between the struggles of the black and LGBT communities:

“Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new ‘niggers’ are gays. It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change. The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.”

faces that changed LGBT black community

Slowly but surely, the phrase “the first black person to…” has begun to disappear from our collective lexicon. There are many checkmarks on the list of African-American achievements, not the least of which is President of the United States.

For gays of color, though, there can be more obstacles: When he came out, CNN news anchor Don Lemon jested that he was “a double minority,” but tensions between the two communities have strained in recent years. (Whether true or not, the perception that black churches were heavily involved in the campaign to pass Proposition 8 opened old wounds on both sides.)

African-Americans, though, have always been a party of the gay community—both as members and as allies. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous told the audience at the recent Conference on LGBT Equality, “if you pick a fight with my brother—whether it is because you say we ain’t like you or he ain’t like us—you have picked a fight with me.”

Many gays of color have made their mark on America, including writers James Baldwin (above), Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde and E. Lynn Harris; directors Patrik Ian-Polk (Noah’s Arc), Paris Barclay (Glee, Sons of Anarchy) and Lee Daniels (Precious); pro basketball players Sheryl Swoopes and John Amaeche (right); singers Meshell Ndegeocello and Kele Okereke (Bloc Party)—and even a Republican mayor, Bruce Harris of Chatham, NJ.

Today is the start of Black History Month, and Queerty is taking a look at seven gay African-Americans who weren’t just pioneers in their chosen fields, but who paved the way for all of us.

Have someone to add? Share their names and accomplishments in the comments section below.

FIRST: There wouldn’t have been a civil-rights movement without Bayard Rustin

Photos: PBS, Orlando Magic


giving out gay death call leaflets

Derby men jailed for giving out gay death call leaflets

L-R: Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed were found guilty of stirring up hatred

Related Stories

Three Derby men have been jailed for giving out leaflets calling for homosexual people to be executed.

Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed were found guilty at Derby Crown Court last month, of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The leaflet, titled Death Penalty?, was distributed in the build-up to a gay pride event, in July 2010.

Ali was jailed for two years while Ahmed and Javed were given 15-month sentences.

It is the first prosecution of its kind since new laws came into force in 2010.

‘Muslim duty’

The leaflets, which were handed out and put through letterboxes near Derby’s Jamia Mosque, were described in court as “threatening and nasty”.

They showed an image of a wooden mannequin hanging from a noose, quoted Islamic texts and said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.

Two other leaflets, called Turn or Burn and God Abhors You, were also distributed while a fourth, called Dead Derby, was found but not given out.

Death penalty leaflet The leaflet called for gay people to be given the death penalty

Ali, 42, of Fairfax Road, Ahmed, 28, of Madeley Street, and Javed, 28, of Wilfred Street, had claimed they were simply doing their duty as Muslims to condemn sinful behaviour in society.

Two other men, Mehboob Hussain and Umar Javed, who were also charged with the same offence, were found not guilty.

Judge John Burgess said: “You have been convicted of intending to stir up hatred.

“It follows that your intention was to do great harm in a peaceful community.

“Much has been said during the course of this trial about freedom of expression, and the freedom to preach strongly held beliefs; beliefs, which may have some foundation in scripture.

“Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy and a basic ingredient of any free society.

“Parliament clearly had this very much in mind when this legislation was passed.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said: ‘Gay people in Derby – and their friends and families – will feel relieved to see these extremists kept away from the community that they terrified with their deeply offensive and threatening leaflets.

“This whole case vindicates Stonewall’s long fight to secure specific legal protection for gay people against incitement to hatred.”

BBC news 2012

Christian hotel owners lose gay couple appeal Peter and Hazelmary Bull.

Christian hotel owners lose gay couple appeal Peter and Hazelmary Bull.

Pic: PA Mr and Mrs Bull said they did not believe unmarried couples should share rooms C

Gay couple hotel appeal withdrawn Christian couple contest gay ban

Two Christian guesthouse owners who refused to allow a gay couple to stay in a double room have lost their appeal against a ruling they acted unlawfully.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull, from Cornwall, took their case to the Court of Appeal.

The couple had refused to allow civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, from Bristol, the room at Chymorvah House in 2008.

They were ordered in January 2011 to pay £3,600 in damages. The challenge by the couple, whose guesthouse is in Marazion, was rejected by three judges in London.

They had appealed against a conclusion by a judge at Bristol County Court that they acted unlawfully when they turned the couple away.

Judge Andrew Rutherford ruled last year that the Bulls had breached equality legislation. The appeal judges heard that the Bulls thought any sex outside marriage was a “sin”, but denied they had discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy. Mr Bull, 72, and Mrs Bull, who is in her late 60s, were not in court for the ruling. ‘Promoting a sin’ During the hearing of the appeal in November, James Dingemans QC, for the Bulls, argued that the couple were entitled to hold “outdated” religious beliefs.

He said the Bulls operated a policy directed towards sexual practice not sexual orientation and said they believed that permitting unmarried people – whether heterosexual or homosexual – to share a double bed involved them in “promoting a sin”.

Mr Dingemans said the Bulls were not trying to undermine the rights of Mr Hall and Mr Preddy and judges had to carefully balance all human rights involved.

Gay couple Steven Preddy (left) and Martyn Hall outside Bristol County Court Mr Preddy and Mr Hall were backed by by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Robin Allen QC, for Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, argued that his clients had a “lawful civil partnership” and the guesthouse should have been “open” to them in the same way it was to heterosexual married couples.

The judges heard that the Bulls’ appeal was funded by the Christian Institute and Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

After the ruling, John Wadham, the commission’s group legal director, said: “I have genuine sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bull, as their beliefs are clearly strongly held. “We believe that this case will help people to better understand the law around freedom of religion.

“When offering a service, people cannot use their beliefs – religious or otherwise – to discriminate against others.”

‘Penalised for beliefs’ He added that the commission had no intention of enforcing its entitlement to legal costs. Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said:

“Peter and Hazelmary have been penalised for their beliefs about marriage. “Not everyone will agree with Peter and Hazelmary’s beliefs, but a lot of people will think it is shame that the law doesn’t let them live and work according to their own values under their own roof.” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, said he was “delighted” that the court upheld the judgment. He said:

“The court’s decision vindicates Stonewall’s hard lobbying to make it illegal to deny goods or services to someone just because they happen to be gay.

“That obviously includes hotel rooms for many gay holidaymakers. “I hope Mr and Mrs Bull will now feel content to go home to do God’s good work as Easter approaches, instead of relentlessly pursuing a happy couple through the courts.”