These days, the name RuPaul is synonymous with “icon,” whether you’re talking about fashion, music or the drag community. It’s no surprise that the RuPaul’s Drag Race host has 11 primetime Emmy Awards to his name and has helped push hundreds of drag careers to the next level.
As Ru’s own career and empire continues to skyrocket, it’s also worth looking back on his eclectic past.
After years of turning looks and faces in the New York City drag underground, RuPaul splashed into pop culture consciousness with his 1992 song “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which hit No. 45 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Dance Club Songs chart. A regular visitor to the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, Ru has put a number of titles on that particular tally, from “Sissy That Walk” to “Read U Wrote U” to “Kitty Girl” to “I’m That Bitch” to “Catwalk,” several of those in collaboration with the various queens competing on the smash hit reality shows RuPaul’s Drag Race and Drag Race All Stars.
Additionally, the celebrity drag queen has released more than a dozen studio albums, published several books, become a spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics, hosted The RuPaul Show on VH1, won the aforementioned Emmys, and earned countless other accolades, including a 2022 Tony nomination as one of the producers of A Strange Loop, a nominee for best musical.
If we know anything about RuPaul, it’s that words can’t do his presence justice — photos, on the other hand, just might. Below, take a scroll though the drag icon’s life in photos, from 1979 to today.