Legendary drag performer RuPaul Charles took home his sixth Emmy on Sunday, winning Outstanding Competition Reality Show for his drag queen elimination challenge, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
RuPaul is, no doubt, a pioneer in building acceptance for alternative lifestyles and an LGBTQ icon. “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which is now more than a decade old, is a universal favorite, and celebrates and mainstreams drag culture.
But even if RuPaul is a progressive trailblazer, he’s still not progressive enough, it seems, for today’s woke Left. On Sunday, as RuPaul celebrated his Emmy win with his cast and production team backstage, a reporter asked RuPaul why “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was so lacking in diversity, throwing the drag icon into a whirlwind of social justice trouble.
According to LGBTQ media site Pink News, RuPaul was taking part in a traditional post-win press conference when a reporter from the African-American lifestyle magazine Essence confronted him over his mostly white production team.
“I have a question about the hot-button term diversity that always gets thrown around. We’re looking at your team and I don’t see a lot of diversity,” the reporter said to a shocked RuPaul. “I’m curious about how you feel, especially as someone who represents so strongly for the LGBT+ community… Do you feel like it’s important for that to be represented behind the scenes as well?”
RuPaul was clearly taken aback at the suggestion that he or his show was in any way backward thinking, even if his production team and crew do appear to be mostly white (though not necessarily homogenous, as RuPaul’s drag race counts several women and members of the LGBTQ community among its key staffers). He tried to make a joke about BLT sandwiches before sputtering in disgust.
“And the BLT community, I love myself from bacon, lettuce, tomato. First of all, the host of our show is black, gay and a drag queen, so check, check and check,” RuPaul replied. “But we’re pretty diverse, there are lots of different types of people here. But is it important? Absolutely.”
“When I grew up, I had to fight, like… I feel like I’m about to quote a movie right now… but it wasn’t easy,” RuPaul continued. “You know what I had to do? Some of the things, I’m not even going to repeat what I had to do!”
RuPaul clearly didn’t have an explanation for his mostly white staff, but like many old school progressives — particularly those who were involved in social justice movements in the early days — his version of “the fight” is somewhat outdated, and his cultural cache is now bordering on meaningless. If he doesn’t conform to the new, woke rules, he will see himself made a villain.
And the reporter for Essence has definitely cast RuPaul as a villain — or, at least, a hapless relic.
On Twitter, she doubled down on the drag legend.
“Let me be clear. I asked about diversity on @RuPaulsDragRace’s staff bc it honestly caught me off guard to see so many white men behind Ru in the press room,” she wrote. “His show centers diversity & the staff seemingly doesn’t. As a journalist, I wanted to give him the space to address that.”
She then penned a full article taking him to task in her magazine.
RuPaul, for his part, doesn’t seem all that bothered. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is sticking around for at least two more seasons, according to entertainment news reports.