RuPaul Charles Becomes the First Drag Star Inducted to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

On Friday, March 16, RuPaul Charles werked his way down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in one of his dashing tartan suits and trademark glasses. The entertainment icon and LGBT advocate was finally cementing his status as a Hollywood legend, with a gleaming bronze star.

RuPaul is not only the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he’s the only drag star to be inducted.

“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” said RuPaul in a speech at the ceremony.

Actress Jane Fonda introduced RuPaul, telling the crowd that he deserves a star at least three times the size of anyone else’s, to match the colossal contributions he’s made to entertainment and society at large.

“Behind the glamour, behind the drag queen is a man of great depth, incredible intelligence and compassion,” said Fonda.

The Emmy-, Critics Choice– and GLAAD Media Award-winner is credited with catapulting queer culture and drag to mainstream society, largely due to his hosting gig on VH1 franchise-turned-cultural phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The show’s emphasis on competition, performance art and avant-garde pageantry entices fashion fiends and drama queens, as well as those seeking comfort and acceptance.

This is where RuPaul truly shines: Drag Race contestants strut the runway in bedazzled ball gowns, false eyelashes and towering wigs topped with tiaras, but Ru ends each episode with a declaration of empowerment, reminding contestants that what’s most important lies underneath their (meticulously applied) makeup:

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

Drag Race moved from Viacom’s LGBT-focused channel, Logo, to VH1 in 2017, where the season premiere drew 1 million viewers. Since then, even more fans have flocked to VH1 on Thursday nights for new episodes. The spin-off shows (RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked and RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars) are equally popular. As of March 21, RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3 became the most-watched season of Drag Race in history.

RuPaul’s followed a long route to the Walk of Fame. From hosting local live shows on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the1980s, RuPaul is now a centerpiece of VH1 (which reaches tens of millions of U.S. households). RuPaul now evokes something like Beatle-mania, with live events such as Drag Con, where throngs of fans swarm the former contestants, sobbing ecstatically as they ask the queens for autographs and selfies.

Some of my closest friends are loyal AF Drag Race fanatics, and their devotion to the show, RuPaul and all he represents is awe-inspiring. I’ve seen firsthand how long it takes my friends to apply false eyelashes and foundation. They never miss an episode, or a chance to discuss its jaw-dropping moments.

I started watching Drag Race at the behest of these friends, which is rare, as I tend to stick with watching shows I’m already obsessed with. There’s something about the drag-fanatic-culture that stuck with me. I love glamour, gossip and self-love, and it’s hard to find a culture that is inclusive of all three. Drag Race manages to balance sincerity with shade, and I adore that.

This level of fandom reminds me of those who camp outside overnight at AMC Theaters to get tickets to the latest Star Wars movie, or “Phish-heads” who pay upwards of $300 to see a jam band perform for the 50th time in a campground that is, inexplicably, dusty and muddy at the same time.

What distinguishes Drag Race from these other sources of fandom is its accessibility. It’s a bit more like football, one of the most traditional sports in the U.S., attracting hardcore fans and casual viewers alike, gathering to watch the show in a bar or apartment, with friends and family. U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is one of them: Pelosi, who guest-starred on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars earlier this month, went to D.C. gay bar Nellie’s to watch among other revelers the night her episode aired.

VH1 President Chris McCarthy spoke to CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Nancy Giles about the show’s phenomenal community: “They just happen; that’s the great part,” McCarthy, referring to Drag Race viewing parties. “It happens in every city all over the country, and in many places, the smaller the city, the bigger the party.”

And VH1 is, after all, the place where pop culture comes to party.

Even with his legend now engraved on Hollywood’s most famous street, RuPaul will continue his prolific hosting schedule. VH1 “Ru-vealed” the guest judges for its highly anticipated 10th season of Drag Race on March 8. Prepare to watch the 14 queens vogue in front of stars like Christina Aguilera, Shania Twain, Lena Dunham, Halsey, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Courtney Love, Ashanti, Stephen Colbert, Andy Cohen and more major names. The roster covers celebs from nearly every realm of Hollywood, once again cementing the broad reach of Drag Race’s popularity.

Watch the trailer for Season 10:

Season 10 premieres Thursday, March 22 on VH1.

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