The February 2017 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine will feature an interview between “our future president” Oprah Winfrey and legendary drag queen RuPaul. According to the leaked cover, they’ll discuss “life, liberty and the pursuit of fabulous, can we get an amen?” But we wonder if their chat will be as illuminating and thoughtful as the 1995 Oprah Winfrey RuPaul interview when RuPaul appeared on Winfrey’s daytime talkshow, The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The recently rediscovered Oprah Winfrey RuPaul interview happened because RuPaul was promoting her autobiography, Letting It All Hang Out, an out-of-print book that now costs $73 to $145 on Amazon. At one point in the interview, RuPaul said:
We all have so much to bring to the party. And that’s what it’s all about. Kids write to me and say, “Well, what am I going to do with my life? My parents don’t understand me.” I write back and I say, “Listen, find out what it is you have that makes you unique and special, and cultivate that and make that, bring that out, and then bring that to the party.”
“So really,” Winfrey clarifies, “it’s about the truth of who you are and this is the truth,” she said gesturing to RuPaul’s look. “One aspect of who you are.”
“Absolutely,” RuPaul said. “And I’m many things. In fact, I’m even more than this. These bodies that house our souls are really just temporary… We are so incredible. We’re an extension of the power that created the whole universe. And we have to acknowledge that and say that and say, ‘Yes, I am that.'”
Then Oprah said:
Well this whole show is about how … if you can be a drag queen in Georgia and black, anybody can make it. But I know there were some times when you didn’t feel like you could, like when you were living back at your sister’s house, everyday walking the mall at the Beverly Center and contemplating suicide for a while.
“Sure,” RuPaul said, “It was really tough. It got really dark. But one of the things that kept me going through it was knowing that bad weather always passes over, and if you can persevere … if you can just wait it out, it will pass.”
RuPaul said she knew this lesson when she was suicidal. “I kept the faith though my faith was waning. It was a weak point…. In fact, it was when I was 28, which is traditionally a really rough time for people because you have to sit back and reassess what your dream was.”
“Absolutely!” Winfrey said. “At 28, I was like, ‘Is this it?!'”
Here is a clip from the 1995 Oprah Winfrey RuPaul interview:
Winfrey then said, “And then you decided that you were going to go ahead and turn this into a little industry for yourself.”
“Absolutely,” RuPaul responded. “In fact, you know, it was good for me going back home because I got to recharge my battery and understand what it was that I wanted to go out there and do in the first place. I guess my battery had gotten weak. And I got back there and I thought, ‘You know, I’m special. I’m wonderful.'”
“Why do you think you made it,” Winfrey asked. “Because, I mean, I know a lot of drag queens.”
Let’s pause there for a second. Oprah Winfrey in 1995, a daytime talkshow host for housewives across America, admitted that she knew “a lot of drag queens.” Let that coolness sink in for a second…. aaaand we’re back!
The audience laughed at her admission, and she clarified, “I mean, not a lot, but I know a couple of drag queens in my life. And lots of people want to make it. ‘Making it’ isn’t necessarily, I think we need to emphasize, being on TV or being famous. It is what to you?”
“I think success is something between you and yourself,” RuPaul replied. “I think only you know how far, where you’ve come from and how far you want to go.”
Here is another clip from the 1995 Oprah Winfrey RuPaul interview:
Their 1995 chat also included a bit on how RuPaul went from punk rock to drag. If you remember, RuPaul once fronted a punk band called Wee Wee Pole. About 14 years after her interview with Winfrey, RuPaul would go on to start a little show called RuPaul’s Drag Race. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?