MIPCOM: RuPaul Talks 'Drag Race' Global Reach

RuPaul's Drag Race-Publicity Still-H 2019
Courtesy of VH1

“I'm very proud our show has been a navigational tool for young people,” he said of how the show helps teens who are figuring out their sexuality.

RuPaul took Cannes by storm, dazzling a packed Lumiere Theater for his keynote speech on the first day of MIPCOM. He's the biggest draw at this year's television confab, where he discussed the global success of his drag shows.

His global star power hasn't changed who he is, he said, instead making him look outward towards the fans that have boosted him and look to him for inspiration. “Why I get out of bed in the morning is different,” he said. “Initially I thought I'd become famous and life would be rainbows and unicorns and the world would say unanimously 'We love you!' and life would be fabulous, but that's not enough and doesn't fill the void that every human being feels.”

Instead he's able to tell the stories of his contestants who have sometimes been shunned by their families or sent to conversion camps, which gives hope to young people figuring out their sexuality all around the world.

“I'm very proud our show has been a navigational tool for young people,” he said, noting that's its viewed in many different countries and cultures. Hearing viewers' stories is “sometimes very, very heartbreaking but optimistic that they found our show.”

He referenced Jennifer Newsom's 2015 documentary The Mask You Live In, which depicts how boys are forced to suppress their emotions and become tough as they reach their teen years. “Most of the violence and ill will in the world is linked to that moment when boys are told to put that emotion aside. I never subscribed to putting emotion to the side, I was able to sneak past that by not taking the blue pill. I was somehow able to navigate never having to give up that thing that so many boys have to do to survive,” he said.

That's part of the reason why drag is a draw at this political time. “It's people who society has told, 'You don't fit in this box or in this box' so we said 'I'm gonna create my own box, give a big f--- you to and your boxes and show you that your boxes are an illusion.'”

He said that while the show may have “salty” moments, it's different than many other unscripted competition shows that thrive on takedowns: “It always comes back to you are my sister and you are my brother."

As far as attending MIPCOM, the biggest TV market in the world, and delighting a room full of executives and buyers, he joked that with the proliferation of the many offshoots of his shows he is here trying to pitch Drag Race Prison Break, Drag Race Junior or Drag Race the Senior Years.

“There are so many platforms. People want drag and we're gonna give it to them!” he joked.

The Emmy winner said that when first creating the show, he didn't predict that it would become the worldwide juggernaut that it is today. He did always have an innate feeling that he would be famous, a belief his mother instilled in him after a psychic told her while she was pregnant.

“That's what drag is about: You're more than it says you are on your passport.” He summed up his golden touch — or saffron, to match the suit he was wearing — “I believe in magic.”