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You Better Work! Well, for most of RuPaul’s life that is just what he did. Whether is was working on a signature look, how to perfect his hair, makeup, or tuck, or climbing the stairs to stardom, working is all he did. All the while battling a few addictions, failures, and being grossly misunderstood at times.
RuPaul Charles, supermodel of the world, like many modern stars wasn’t born with bright lights showing off his best features and people dying to hear what he said. It began, as most consider their beginning, rather humble. He was the only boy of a group of girls, his parents were divorced, and he knew from a young age he wasn’t like everyone else. Now, whether he was trans or just gay that wasn’t clear until he realized how much he was a man who loved men in his teen years.
But, like most, life was a struggle. Yes, love was what he preached, especially self-love, but it was a complicated thing personally. RuPaul’s father wasn’t really there, his mom loved him, but was a bit mean about it, and while his sisters were always supportive, that is never enough. You need friends, someone who can be more than a friend, but people came and went, sometimes on good terms and other times not. Either way, RuPaul had to keep his angles right, the look fierce, and that upper lip strong.
After all, while the 20s were sacrificed to drugs, setbacks, and personal humiliations, those 30s were stardom. From the kid who put his own posters up in Atlanta to become known, and the one who used to go-go dance to make rent, to emceeing parties, putting out hit records, and even being nominated for televised awards. This is the story of a man with no fear of embracing his feminity in all aspects, besides just glamour, and who took their wit, their radiance, and ability to speak to the common man while dressed up as their own version of a supermodel, to heights that possibly we won’t see repeated anytime soon.
From how RuPaul transforms into the supermodel to details about how he survived when he knew he was a star undiscovered, there are a lot of details and random facts provided within this book. But perhaps what makes this book so appealing is that it doesn’t pull punches yet doesn’t become downtrodden nor vulgar. RuPaul, recognizing the dark times, always tries to make light of a situation. All the while, not trying to present a condescending tone of “If I made it you can to” but more so that you have to find a way to make it, there is always a better tomorrow, and who knows how fabulous it could be.
On The Fence
Unfortunately, this book is out of print and while it is worth reading if it is $12 or $13, this isn’t a masterpiece worth paying more than that. For as much as RuPaul fills the book with pictures, random facts about his favorite movies, actresses, and how he survived his rise to fame, something about this book feels strange.
Strange in a good way since RuPaul’s tone isn’t speaking to you as a friend or stranger, but more so like a fairy godmother or weird uncle. However, at the same time, it also feels weirdly calculated. For those who are familiar with Beyoncé’s work, it is similar to what she puts out. Yes, the work is personal, but it is also made so you only really know what they are willing to let go. Meaning, you aren’t going to be let into anything which can’t be spun into something positive. Especially something which won’t make them look like either the victim or someone who did something justifiable. Heck, even the times when neither is an option, it is at least written to be funny so you easily forgive.
Making for RuPaul quickly going over his relationships being one of the few times you feel like you get to see behind the curtain. For despite noting alcoholism, homelessness, and depression, it isn’t until we hear about how RuPaul would chase those who didn’t love him and push away those who did, which makes him seem human. That is rather than this person who you fully recognized struggled, but is written like they had a Disney Princess like rise to a happy ending. One in which eventually they got out of their drab clothes and the cellar and got to walk amongst Hollywood royalty.
Even with that said, though, the book brings up many points about feminity and being your own person, and loving that person, which is what makes it worth finding. However, it is hard to shake that we are being told things on a need to know basis and even those details are watered down. Be it to protect the legacy, RuPaul not ready to reveal the pain and open the cut, or simply this book wasn’t about you feeling pity, sympathy, or anything like that. It was about saying that I found a way despite of and so can you. Maybe not the exact path I took, but one day, be it tomorrow, next week, next month, or even a few years, your dreams can come true. Yeah, you may need to modify that dream so it can come forth into reality, but while it may be difficult it is possible.