Watch RuPaul Explain How 'Hillbilly' Childhood Led to Emmy-Nominated 'Drag Race' Gig

RuPaul in Los Angeles
Todd Williamson/Getty Images

RuPaul at the Bing Theatre at LACMA on March 15, 2016 in Los Angeles.

RuPaul has seemingly done it all. He’s topped the Billboard charts, acted in film and on TV, written books, was a radio DJ, hosted his own talk show on VH1, blazed trails for the LGBTQ community for decades, and, of course, is the host and co-executive producer of Logo TV’s hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race. And now he has one more mighty achievement to add to his resume: an Emmy nomination.

RuPaul garnered the nod for outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program, for Drag Race, Logo’s highest-rated series. He’s nominated alongside Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars), Steve Harvey (Little Big Shots), Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (Project Runway), Jane Lynch (Hollywood Game Night) and Ryan Seacrest (American Idol).

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We caught up with RuPaul on the set of Drag Race, where we talked with the entertainer about his first Emmy nomination and took questions from fans live about the series, his music and more. (Watch the video, below.) RuPaul is currently filming the ninth season of Drag Race, while a special edition of the show, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, premieres on Aug. 25.

During our chat, RuPaul talked about how his multi-faceted role as host on Drag Race (where he’s not only an emcee but a counselor, den mother and mentor) is informed by the interpersonal skills he learned as child.

LIVE with RuPaul on the set of RuPaul's Drag Race!

Posted by Billboard on Tuesday, August 16, 2016


“My parents were these hillbillies from Louisiana who were wrapped up in this wild psychodrama with each other,” says RuPaul, “so us kids -- me being the middle child -- had to be a diplomat, and had to read the situation to figure out what was needed at that time.

“It's a survival technique. I've used that technique throughout my life and on this show. These girls come, and they want to become America's Next Drag Superstar -- and I am America's First Drag Superstar [laughs] -- so I help guide them through these challenges, and through the changes that go on psychologically inside, and that's where those coping tools come into play, that I learned from early childhood, with these crazy hillbilly parents. And also just navigating in this career.”

With regards to his thoughts on what his first Emmy nomination means, personally and professionally, RuPaul says his “first thought was [of] Logo, and how great it is for them to get this nomination. And then second, I thought about all the people I work with here at RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

On a personal level, RuPaul says he has “mixed feelings” about the nod. He says, “For me personally, I’ve lived my life and career outside, off the grid, so to get the acknowledgement from the establishment, it feels kind of weird. It’s not like all of a sudden I have to really care and focus on what they think of me, because I’ve created my career without them -- the establishment -- giving me validation.”