Adrianna Keller Wyman
June 15, 2013
Though heroes and role models are often seen as being the same, they actually are quite different. A hero is a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities, or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. Heroes and role models aren’t perfect; they can have flaws.
The person I chose to write about is RuPaul. Some of the values he has in common with me are creativity, freedom, and hard work. Some more of his values are respect, courage, fairness, humor, self-acceptance, and truthfulness. To learn about his life and values, I read his autobiography, “Lettin’ It All Hang Out.”
RuPaul is the first drag queen to be well known in mainstream culture. His current show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” recorded the highest-rated series premiere in Logo’s history. RuPaul was also signed to a modeling contract for MAC Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel.
RuPaul was born November 17th, 1960 as RuPaul Andres Charles, in San Diego. His parents divorced when he was seven. His family was poor and his mom was very violent. RuPaul was teased a lot growing up. People called him a sissy and made fun of him for being feminine. When he was little, he knew something about him was different from everyone else, he just didn’t know what.
When he was fifteen, RuPaul moved from San Diego to El Cajon with his sister Renetta and her husband Lawrence. He didn’t fit in at his high school at all. The next year, Lawrence decided to move them to Georgia, where RuPaul started going to the Northside School of Performing Arts. It was the first time he had been around people like him.
One of RuPaul’s big flaws is his former drug abuse. He started smoking marijuana when he was ten, and continued into his twenties. When he lived in New York City during the 80’s, he also used other drugs and drank.
RuPaul’s life has been one creative project after another. It seems to be the value that his whole life is based upon. His life was unhappy until he started at the performing arts high school, were he was with other black students and other kids who were artistic. It was here that he also started wearing clothes that he had made. In his autobiography, RuPaul wrote, “I would think nothing of going to school in stripes, plaid, and a cowboy hat.”
Since graduating, RuPaul has worked in almost every aspect of the performing arts. One success from his long career is his music. He has released many albums and singles. It impresses me that he can write all of these songs, and in addition has had so many other creative outlets, including writing two books. He is definitely a very talented, inspiring, and creative musician and songwriter.
His most recent big accomplishment is his show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, which is now in its 6th season. It features drag queens competing in different challenges for the crown and title of America’s next drag superstar. On the show, RuPaul often finds ways to help the contestants to deal with issues that have to do with being drag queens. For example, several contestants spoke to him about being bullied while growing up and about difficult relationships with their families. Stories like this remind me of the stories I heard about my own family during the time of the Holocaust. The contestants on the show were often bullied or put down for being different – my family was mistreated for being Jewish.
The second value RuPaul represents for me is hard work. Until RuPaul became a superstar, he never had it easy. For example, when he was 15, RuPaul left his mother so that he could make a better life for himself.
When he was 21 and living in Atlanta, he wanted to be on TV, so he wrote to a public access show and convinced them to let him perform. Not only was RuPaul hard working, he was also driven. He also became an actor in The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Atlanta, formed a musical group called the Uhauls, and was in movies.
When he knew he needed to be in New York City, he worked a lot of low paying jobs in order to follow his dreams. He worked as a coat check, started Disco 88 nite at the Pyramid Club, became a go-go dancer in drag and appeared on TV, sang and made several albums, and was featured in the famous documentary film, Wigstock, which led to big opportunities that propelled him into the public eye. This is inspiring to me because hard work is an important value to me and my family. When I moved to New York in 2008, I had difficulty making friends, but I worked hard at it and after a while I had a good group of friends.
RuPaul represents my value of freedom because he has always pushed to be himself no matter what other people thought of him. He followed his own dreams instead of doing what other people expected. He became a dancer, dressed flamboyantly, and wore makeup, things that were considered traditionally female. He started to dress in drag and moved around a lot to pursue his dreams.
RuPaul definitely helps people, especially young people, who are dealing with issues of gender. If people feel that they are different and are having trouble fitting in with gender rules, it can help them to see someone like RuPaul being well known, mainstream and accepted for who he is. Though he dresses up in drag, he sometimes also performs as a man. RuPaul was the first drag queen to really get famous and introduce more people to the world of drag.
RuPaul has his flaws. Nevertheless, I still believe he is a good role model for me. We have many values and beliefs in common, and I look up to him a lot. He inspires me to be myself and do what I want to do no matter what other people think. For example, I dye my hair even though some people don’t like it. He shows me that if you work towards a goal and don’t give up or get discouraged, it can be possible. After writing this paper, I think that RuPaul is definitely more of a role model for me than a hero. He is a real person, someone to be emulated. In time, he knew what he wanted and who he wanted to be and did it. He is my inspiration.