Vintage RuPaul Photos Document The Rise Of History’s Most Iconic Queen

rupaul-vintage-picsIcons don’t spring from the Earth overnight — they’re born over a series of years.

From his early days acting in low-budget films as a fly-by-night Atlanta drag queen to his current gig as the creator of television’s only drag competitionRuPaul has become a fixture of the LGBT community and will forever be hailed as the first and one of the most successful female impersonators in history.

On the eve of the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see how Mama Ru’s career has blossomed throughout the last three decades.

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My sister Roz and me 1972.”

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A young RuPaul at the ripe age of 19 in 1979. Ru struggled as an Atlanta musician and filmmaker before dabbling in drag.

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Mastering the art of the selfie thirty years before the trend, Ru’s ooking mighty handsome in this 1981 self portrait.

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Channelling an early Joe Calderone, circa 1980.

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Oh no she betta don’t! Ru slaying the children at Atlanta’s Club 688, 1982.


Posing for Bill Adler in Rolling Stone, 1982.


RU-ling Atlanta’s Northside High in 1983. “I never graduated from collagen,” he says.

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Early advice from aboriginal Ru, via Instagram: “Self Love 101: Don’t take life too friggin’ seriously.

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Every pic of me in late 80’s included a cocktail,” says Ru.

Before Starrbooty there was Ru’s first made-for-TV movie, Trilogy of Terror (1984).


Atlanta debauchery 1986.

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Ru goes Controversy Queen sporting a Confederate flag in the late ’80s.

Watch RuPaul and friends walk the pre-Giuliani streets of New York in 1986.

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RuPaul enjoying another cocktail, circa 1989.

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Roadkill Ru in the late ’80s.

RuPaul and Judy LaGrange in “Just Between Friends”, shot in Atlanta, circa mid to late ’80s.

Behold, the trailer from Ru’s 1987 low-budget underground film trilogy, Starrbooty!


A still from Starrbooty!

RuPaul explains the difficulties of go-go dancing, 1988.

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“In the summer of ’89, one word could be used to describe me and my wigs; Thirsty.”

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Serving layered leg in an early ’90s edition of Sassy magazine.

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Giving Tyra Banks a run for her money, circa mid-’90s.

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Posing down the early drag days, “with just a push-up bra and a dream” in 1993.

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RuPaul performs at the LGBT March On D.C., April 1993.

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Ru sticks her finger in an electrical socket during her first Jane magazine photo spread in 1994.

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Photoshoot with Ellen von Unwerth, 1994.

RuPaul appears with the original Club Kids on Geraldo in 1994. Watch Part 2 of the interview here.

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RuPaul poses for her infamous side-by-side portrait for Patrick Demarchelier in 1995.

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RuPaul meets designer Jean Paul Gaultier in 1995.

Ru’s infamous 1996 performance and interview with the woman who inspired her career, Diana Ross.


RuPaul poses with Cher at her 1997 photoshoot with David LaChapelle. Photo by Kevyn Aucoin.

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Ru poses with Donna Summer backstage in 1997.

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Posing for Albert Sanchez in 1999.

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Ru serves face for the original RuPaul doll product shots, created by designer Jason Wu in 2005.


RuPaul serves country-fresh fish, sometime during the mid-’00s.

Ru performs for her best squirrel friend Lady Bunny’s Wigstock festival in 2004.

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Last year, RuPaul poses for RuPaul’s Drag Race promo shots.

The most current RuPaul, appearing with RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 queens in her latest music video for “Sissy That Walk”, available on the 2014 album “Born Naked“.

All photos courtesy RuPaul’s Instagram.