The phone rings. It’s RuPaul calling.
And immediately, the world’s most famous drag queen starts throwing shade.
“That was a very long intro, what was happening?” he asks, as you explain that your phone is Bluetoothed to your MacBook, and there was this delay that prompted you to choose which device you wanted to converse on, and you couldn’t act quickly enough because it just did an update, and …
“Uh-huh, I didn’t really need your life story, buuut that’s OK.”
The occasion for the call is RuPaul’s upcoming appearance at the Sundance Film Festival, where he’ll be on an afternoon discussion panel Jan. 26 at Park City’s Egyptian Theater commemorating the 10th anniversary of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” He’ll also be choosing the NEXT Innovator Award, given to an up-and-coming filmmaker.
Ask for spoilers about the upcoming third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” (premiering Jan. 25 on VH1), a spinoff of the original “Drag Race” (still shantay-you-staying strong), and he will shoot you a sharp, tongue-lashing “Bitch, please!” And you will feel as though you’ve been blessed by the RuPope.
RuPaul dished on Sundance (running through Jan. 28), Utah, “Drag Race,” what drag means in 2018 America — and why people aren’t stopping at stop signs anymore.
You’ll be awarding a filmmaker the NEXT Innovator Award, and you’re the only juror. What will you be looking for?
I’ve made films myself and I know how difficult it is to put something together. To go from an idea to making it a fruition is tough. So I’m not looking forward to just picking one winner because I wish I could choose all of them. But I am looking for something that moves me emotionally, which is what I’m looking for throughout my life. I shoot from the heart.
What movies have influenced you?
I love movies that emphasize the tenacity of the human spirit. Growing up, I loved Rosalind Russell’s “Auntie Mame,” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Wizard of Oz” are two of my all-time favorites. Movies that express the beauty of what it’s like being a human being and how to overcome your own self-imposed limitations and limitations put on you by society. And of course I love films that are irreverent and tickle me, because it’s so important to laugh and not take life too seriously.
Have you seen anything in the past year that’s really moved you?
I’ve just finished a bunch of screeners. I loved “Get Out.” I loved “Lady Bird,” and “The Shape of Water” was fantastic.
Have you been to Sundance before or seen much of Utah?
Sundance only once, in 2000, when I had two films in the festival. I narrated “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and I was acting in “But I’m a Cheerleader.” But I’ve been to Utah many times and it’s one of the most beautiful spots in this gorgeous country of ours, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve been all over the world and Utah is at the top of the list. I drove through Utah many years ago and remember these winding roads through the mountains. I was by myself, and I could barely describe the beauty to people. It looked like a CGI wonderland.
Do you ski?
[RuPaul proceeds to laugh long and loud for a solid 12 seconds.]
No, that’s, uh … no, um, no, I don’t ski. When you say “ski” to me, all I think of are broken legs.
Let’s move on to “Drag Race.” Does it feel like it’s been 10 years?
No! As time goes on, everything moves faster. I remember being a teenager in San Diego at 13 or 14 and thinking, why is time going so slow? I couldn’t wait to get out of there and start my career, to start everything. So it seems like only yesterday that we started “Drag Race.”
With each season of “Drag Race,” there’s been more talk of drag entering the mainstream. What do you think that says about your legacy and the show’s legacy?
I think it says more about the press wanting to sell a story on how the world is evolving closer to this utopia that we were all sold in the ’60s and ’70s. And it’s really just that, a story. They were saying that when “Will and Grace” was on the first time, and people would ask me about it and I would ask them if they’d ever been anywhere outside of New York or L.A. Because that’s not what’s happening. People in New York and L.A. don’t have any perspective on the world. This last election told you how far we’ve come. We are very, very primitive people, which is hard to imagine with all our smartphones and smart televisions. But honey, come on. The fact that people still scoff at gay people is ridiculous.
Do you see a day when we can become more, I don’t know … evolved?
We are so ego-based that we can’t see beyond ourselves. In L.A., people have stopped stopping at stop signs, which is for all of us for the traffic grid to work. But people today are deciding maybe other people have to do that, not them. Because we’re such an ego-based culture, we can’t move forward until we can see ourselves as part of the whole, not as single individuals. They can’t even walk down the street without looking at their phone! What the [expletive] is that? If you don’t know where you’re going, then how the [expletive] are you gonna get back?
We really need to have a worldwide campaign on the importance of being present. But nobody wants to be present, because being present also invites introspection, which means you’d have to get in touch with your pain and walk through that fire, and nobody wants to walk through that fire. That’s hard to do.
So what can we expect from the new season of “Drag Race All Stars”?
Well, there are a bunch of drag queens, there are a lot of wigs, and a lot of shade. But more than that, the show is about the tenacity of the human spirit, which is always so exciting to watch when someone expands beyond their self-imposed limitations.
Those personal stories are what really resonate every season.
Yes! Yes! Because these kids come from abuse and struggle and being ostracized from society and their families, and they have made it work for them, they have used their love of color, beauty, art and transformation and turn it into their survival mechanism. And that is some great takeaway for everyone watching.
How do the all-stars get chosen?
We look for the girls that people continue to talk about far after their seasons, girls who still have the heat after all these years.
This is the second season working under VH1 after the show being on Logo. How has that change been?
Seamless, really. I cant even call it a change, they let us do what we do and I think that’s part of our success. The producers and myself, we all come from the East Village experience in New York, so we speak the same language and have such a reverence and love for drag that we wouldn’t do anything to hurt it.
Can we expect a twist this season like we’ve seen in the past?
Does [”Drag Race” judge] Michele Visage sleep on her back?
How to Sundance
When • Jan. 18-28
Where • Park City and venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon
Passes and ticket packages • On sale at sundance.org/festivals
Individual tickets • $25 for the first half of the festival in Park City (Jan. 18-23), $20 for Salt Lake City screenings and for the second half in Park City (Jan. 24-28)
Information • sundance.org/festivals