RuPaul Andre Charles, better known by his first name, is an actor, model, singer, and drag queen. Charles was born in San Diego, California on November 17, 1960. When he was seven years old, his father, Irving Andrew Charles, and mother, Ernestine (Fontenette) Charles, divorced. Charles was raised in a strict Catholic home by his mother and three sisters. He went to Patrick Henry High School in California, but was expelled in his 11th grade year for persistent truancy. Charles and his older sister Renetta moved to Atlanta, Georgia, when he was fifteen, to attend Northside School of Performing Arts.
In his 12th grade year, Charles dropped out of Northside to pursue his dream of becoming a musician and filmmaker. In 1982, he made his first television appearance, singing on The American Music Show, a public access variety show in Atlanta, Georgia. For a few years, he and his band Wee Wee Pole performed at The Celebrity Club, often dressed in drag. In 1987, he made his film debut in RuPaul is: Starbooty!, a low-budget film. Charles gained national attention in 1989 when he appeared as a dancer in The B-52’s music video “Love Shack.”
With Tommy Boy Records, Charles released his first album, Supermodel of the World, in 1993. The album included the single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and number 39 on the UK Singles chart. After selling over 500,000 copies, it was certified gold in the United States. Charles made history as the first openly gay network host with his VH1 variety show The RuPaul Show (1996-1998). The show inspired several other shows in the United States, as well as international adaptations. In 2013, Charles released a cosmetic line and unisex perfume with Colorevolution, and in 2016 he hosted a game show called Gay for Play Game Show Starring RuPaul on the Logo cable network.
Charles is the most commercially successful drag queen in the United States and the first drag queen to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The artist has received 31 awards, including a Billboard Music Award, a Canadian Screen Award, MTV Music & TV Awards, and his eleventh Prime Time Emmy Award, making him the most awarded person of color in television history. Charles has three books to his credit and has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community since high school.
Charles discovered that he is a cousin of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on a 2020 episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. Charles met Australian painter Georges LeBar in 1994, and the couple married in 2017. They lived in Los Angeles and on a 60,000-acre ranch in Wyoming.