RuPaul's Recipe For Success? Love Yourself And Stay Flexible

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The host of RuPaul's Drag Race describes his drag look as "one-part Cher, two-parts David Bowie, one-part Diana Ross and two heaping spoonfuls of Dolly Parton."
RuPaul's Recipe For Success? Love Yourself And Stay Flexible

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Fans of the VH1 reality show RuPaul's Drag Race know that every episode ends with a mantra. After finishing the weekly challenge, the drag queens competing for the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar" (and a hefty cash prize) gather on the runway before host RuPaul Charles, where the drag icon proclaims: "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"

RuPaul says that repeating these words is an important touchstone — both for the show and for life: "These mantras are set to align you with the truth of who you are," he says. "You are love — and you cannot give something that you do not have."

RuPaul got his start in Atlanta in the '80s, performing a punk-inspired "genderf***" drag — for example, pairing an old prom dress and a tiara with combat boots and a mohawk.

"We did drag as a social commentary," he says. "It was a reaction to the Reagan '80s, and it wasn't trying to look real or pass [as a woman]. It was a rebellion against the status quo."

In 1993, RuPaul's break-out hit "Supermodel (You Better Work)" brought him — and drag — national attention. Now 59, he sits at the helm of a drag empire. Since it began in 2009, RuPaul's Drag Race has launched the careers of hundreds of drag queens. The Emmy-winning series, now in its 12th season, has spin-offs in Chile, Thailand, Canada and the U.K.

RuPaul, who splits time between Los Angeles and a 60,000-acre ranch in Wyoming, says one of the secrets to his success is adaptability.

"In this life, if you can stay flexible, you have a really good chance of navigating a really rich experience for yourself on this planet," he says.

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