Diane von Furstenberg Joins RuPaul for Lively DragCon NYC Panel

RuPaul Diane von Furstenberg - Getty - H 2019
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

The designer talked about her daily meditative swimming and new HBO doc 'Liberty, Mother of Exiles,' while RuPaul opened up about therapy, in which he's done "a lot of fucking work."

Approaching New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center one sunny Saturday afternoon, visitors were treated to the sight of a bevy of drag queens in towering wigs and colorful getups, providing some cheery relief amid the cold glass canyon of Hudson Yards. Far inside the hall, RuPaul’s DragCon NYC 2019 was in full swing, with the queen of queens TV star hosting his so-called “RuTalk” with New York City’s empress of fashion, Diane von Furstenberg.

Entering to a hooting and hollering standing ovation, von Furstenberg (“Everyone calls me DVF”) had come to chat about all things in and out of fashion, as well as her new HBO documentary, Liberty: Mother of Exiles, produced and directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey of World of Wonder (also the production company behind RuPaul’s Drag Race).

At the outset, RuPaul and von Furstenberg made for a somewhat dyspeptic duo. Things got a little rocky as the designer was describing her daily vacation routine of swimming solitarily out to sea for an hour and a half each day to meditate, and RuPaul poked a little fun that her holiday may have been in the south of France ("Hmmm?") with a certain billionaire and his celebrity-welcoming yacht, in the company of a person known everywhere by her initial, “O.”

“Are you going to make fun of me?” von Furstenberg asked plaintively. “I thought the whole point of this organization was not to make fun of anyone.” Snap! The audience ate it up, oohing and awing.

After that, the waters calmed a bit as the designer explained her “manifesto for being a woman in charge.” The most important thing is character, “owning who we are.” You can lose your wealth, you can lose your health, you can even lose your freedom, she added, “but character is the only thing that we have complete control over.”

“Your character — are you talking about your authenticity, your frequency?” RuPaul cut in, in the jargon of modern day self-help. “Your character is your relationship with yourself,” von Furstenberg replied.

The designer then suggested that people follow her habit of sending two emails each morning to benefit someone other than themselves, and also arrange a weekly meeting or call with someone they don’t know or wouldn’t typically engage with.

“I think most people have Grindr for that,” RuPaul deadpanned across the chasm, to knowing laughter from the crowd.

Turning serious, 72-year-old von Furstenberg said, “I’m happy to be uncensored a bit. If I'm lucky, I'm in the early part of the sunset of my life. I mean, I came out of a miracle. Eighteen months before I was born, my mother was in a concentration camp in Germany." Not expected to ever bear children, she and her husband gave to birth to Diane after the war.

“And it's important to tell the story because, to be the daughter of a survivor, my mother always said fear is not an option,” she continued. “I was not allowed to be afraid. If I was afraid of the dog, she would lock me in a closet. Today she’d be arrested, but she made me fearless!”

Von Furstenberg added that, in the face of #MeToo, women should never feel like a victim.

“Can I get an 'amen' on that?" RuPaul encouraged the crowd.

Turning to the documentary ("Liberty, Mother of Exiles!" RuPaul boomed every time it was mentioned), von Furstenberg said that the great thing is that the statue belongs to everyone.

“The people of France wanted to make a gift to America because they looked at America as a utopia. Because in America, there had been the abolishment of slaves. And we have the writing of the Constitution,” she said. “And Bartholdi, the [French] sculptor, had the dream of building the highest structure in the world. Maybe it’s not anymore, but it’s pretty large.”

After discussing therapy (she’s never had it; he’s done “a lot of fucking work”); fashion (“It's a reflection of our time, and it's going to be very interesting to see where fashion goes now that the planet is threatened”); her husband, Barry Diller ("He's never really done anything with the idea of making money. But the money did come"); and the Studio 54 era (“The '70s was the best time to be young, we had so much fun”), RuPaul asked von Furstenberg if she herself was ever intimidated.

“To tell the truth, I was a little intimidated coming here today,” she admitted. “Really?” parried RuPaul. “Well, I don’t know,” she started, before dropping the pose. “I wasn’t really intimidated, I just wanted to pay you a compliment.”