With so much attention on the competing queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4 let’s not forget that hostess RuPaul is the Queen with a capital Q. Mama Ru is not only a drag phenomenon, but she’s also a model, actor, singer-songwriter, and television personality. The name “RuPaul” is so ubiquitous these days Time recently called her one of 2017’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Aside from her flagship drag competition RuPaul’s Drag Race and its All Stars 4 offshoot, Ru has starred and cameoed in countless TV shows and films both in and out of drag (must’ve been during all that free time between producing her 14 albums and oh, you know, starting her own empire).
Here are five of RuPaul’s best film and TV appearances.
1. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
What better movie to cameo in than a movie about drag queens on the road! Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo play three New York City queens who embark on the adventure of a lifetime as they head west to take part in Hollywood’s Miss Drag Queen of America pageant. Mama Ru plays Miss Rachel Tensions, the previous winner of NYC’s Drag Queen of the Year who announces the tie victory between Noxeema Jackson (Snipes) and Vida Boheme (Swayze) that starts their friendship and journey together. “This land was made for you…and her!” Well said, Rachel.
2. Broad City (2017)
On Comedy Central’s Broad City RuPaul played Marcel, Ilana’s restaurant boss and eventual confidant. “Working with RuPaul Charles was such a dream and finding out that he knows the show and liked it…” said Ilana Glazer, trailing off. Abbi Jacobson picked up from there: “It is a different character for him too, but it’s also just so him.” Marcel appears in three episodes of the show’s fourth season, with Ru fitting into the show’s insanity with natural ease. “It was just such a crazy American honor to have Ru on our show,” said Glazer.
3. The Comeback (2014)
In HBO’s criminally underrated comedy The Comeback, Lisa Kudrow plays sitcom actress Valerie Cherish as she fights and claws her way back into the limelight. Thanks to the show’s modern-day Hollywood setting, Valerie runs into plenty of celebrities and media personalities as she bumbles and fumbles her way through life. In the Season 2 premiere “Valerie Makes a Pilot,” Val runs into Andy Cohen and RuPaul (playing themselves) as they’re having a very fancy lunch in downtown LA…because RuPaul is fabulous and fancy no matter what she’s wearing (this time a couture jet-black suit). Even out of drag, she’s ready for the runway.
4. The Brady Bunch Movies (1995 and 1996)
RuPaul donned heels and a curly black wig to play Mrs. Cummings, the high school guidance counselor at Jan and Marcia’s school. Mrs. Cummings tries to decipher what’s wrong with Jan. Is it teen pregnancy? Bulimia? Suicidal tendencies? Nope. It’s just her “stupid glasses.” When Jan mentions hearing inner voices, Mrs. Cummings makes a leap to Paranoid Schizophrenia. But nah, it’s just a serious case of Middle Child Syndrome, deduces Mrs. Cummings. It’s a brilliant cameo that even ends with Ru’s trademark catchphrase: “Jan, come back when you’re pregnant. And girl…you better werk.” Let the music play!
And Ru even came back for the Very Brady Sequel! (Moesha, Moesha, Moesha!)
5. But I’m A Cheerleader (1999)
In Jamie Babbit’s late-’90s rom-com, parents worried their children might not be walking the straight and narrow path discover a rehabilitation camp designed to curb alternative lifestyles. That’s exactly where Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is sent when her honest self-expression and lack of romantic enthusiasm for guys convince her repressed parents that she’s becoming a lesbian. RuPaul cranks the comedy up to 11 as Mike, a camp guide at True Directions, where he, along with the other counselors, tries to make the campers see the errors of their homosexual ways. But I’m A Cheerleader drips in satire and according to this interview, was Ru’s first cinematic foray dressed as a man.