Five Things We Learned During the Live Taping of RuPaul's 'What's the Tee?' at RuPaul's DragCon NYC
While RuPaul may have started his career as a musician and drag superstar, he has made it abundantly clear over the last decade that he is also an excellent host. Along with RuPaul’s Drag Race, for which he's won three hosting Emmy Awards, the “Supermodel” singer has hosted a number of other television shows and his own podcast, RuPaul: What’s the Tee? with Michelle Visage.
In order to show off what a superb host he is, RuPaul teamed up with his friend and co-host Visage to deliver three live tapings of What’s the Tee? throughout RuPaul’s DragCon NYC over the weekend. The two kept the usual format of their conversations intact — starting on one topic while drifting off to talk about other ideas in a free-ranging conversation.
On Sunday (Sept. 30), though, Ru and Michelle were not alone — in a surprise twist, actress Kathy Najimy joined the duo to discuss her iconic roles in films like Sister Act and Hocus Pocus, how she and Ru met, and more. As RuPaul’s DragCon NYC comes to a close, here are our five takeaways from the weekend’s final panel and live taping of RuPaul: What’s the Tee? with Michelle Visage:
RuPaul and Najimy met at a club in the late 70s thanks to Sylvester
During the taping, Ru recounted when he was around 18 years-old at an all-ages club in San Diego in the late 70s, he saw a young woman wearing a floor-length skirt dancing to Sylvester’s classic song “Dance Disco Heat” and felt an immediate affinity with her. “You know those GIFs in your head that are just burned in there?” Ru asked. “That girl, who was Kathy… was spinning around in this patch skirt, and I loved it.” After hitting it off, Ru and Kathy evidently became fast friends and have stayed that way since.
Visage wants to see drag as an opportunity to lift up gender nonconforming people
A fan came to the stage and asked the panel how they felt about drag being used as a tool for expressing and promoting gender nonconformity. Ru didn’t quite know how to answer (“I don’t know what you said,” he said), so Michelle stepped in and spoke on how, when she came up in the New York ball scene, her biggest supporters were always her trans and gender-nonbinary friends. “Drag is expression of whatever you want it to be, whether it’s what gender you are or what you’re not,” she said. She added that drag can also be used as a tool to escape yourself. “Really, if you can use it to enlighten you in any way, it’s a good thing.”
Ru sang a Pentecostal hymn with a fan during the recording
Another eager fan of Ru’s came to the stage and, before asking a question, had a conversation with Ru about her name and growing up Pentecostal. Ru pressed her on her religion, asking if she ever felt the need to just stand up and sing during church. When the fan revealed that she loved to sing, the panel asked her to sing them something. The girl launched into a beautiful rendition of a hymn called “Lily in the Valley,” prompting Ru to join in harmony with her, creating a precious moment between idol and fan.
Najimy was responsible for Bob the Drag Queen getting on Drag Race
It’s hard to imagine a world in which season eight winner Bob the Drag Queen never appeared on Drag Race. But according to Najimy, that was almost our reality — Bob had auditioned six times to be on the show before Kathy saw him do a performance in New York City and immediately called Ru. “I said, ‘Ru, listen to me, go to New York and see this queen,’” she said. Ru did, and Kathy said that it wasn’t until a year later when she saw the fruits of her labor. “I turned on the TV and Ru said, ‘America’s Next Drag Superstar is Bob the Drag Queen.’”
Ru’s closing words of empowerment
Not only was this panel a live recording of Ru’s podcast, but it was also the closing event of the entire DragCon weekend. So, in keeping with the spirit of the event, Ru took a moment to share a few words with all of the fans who showed up to show their support for drag. “You are our ministry — so go out and spread the word,” he said. “You love yourself, and in loving yourself, that is your gift to the world. It’s not selfish, it is selfless actually.” And with a final round of thank you’s and cheers from the crowd, the taping, and RuPaul’s DragCon NYC, came to an end.