RuPaul’s new book GuRu is more of a spiritual guidebook than a memoir.
Sure, the nuggets of wisdom he sprinkles throughout are a little more, um, blunt, than traditional religious texts (i.e.,“Having a fat ass is a good thing” and “Get yourself a colonic immediately”). But trust: As one of the most successful people in show business, and the best-known drag queen ever, Mama Ru knows a thing or two about keeping your priorities straight.
Here, the cultural icon, and three-time Emmy winning host of RuPaul’s Drag Race, talks to MONEY about spirituality, abundance, and the price of a good wig.
You’re a very spiritual person but also a very successful person. Is it hard to reconcile the role money plays in your life with your spiritual side?
We live in a world of polar opposites. Black, white; night, day; male, female. But multiple things can be true at the same time. It’s about maintaining a balance. It takes a spiritual practice to center between the two extremes. And it does take work to reconcile.
In your new book, GuRu, you discuss how hard it can be for some people, like lottery winners, to “remap their relationship to abundance.” How has your own relationship to abundance evolved?
My parents were country people from Louisiana who endured racism and were systematically put down [by others]. They inherited that concept of themselves from their parents, and I inherited it from them. So I had to break the shackles of who I thought I was. It’s important to know that you can’t bring everyone with you. Certain people feel, once they cross a certain threshold of wealth, that they have to bring everybody from the neighborhood with them, or their whole family. A lot of performers will have their love interest as their manager—that’s also a big mistake. There are a few exceptions. Céline Dion was very successful having her love interest as her manager, but how many Céline Dions are there?
No. It’s difficult to manage all the things that come with abundance. I remember when things started happening for me, and I would say, “Oh, my God! Last week I flew to Düsseldorf on Elton John’s private plane!” And my excitement was genuine, but the look on my friends’ faces was “You’re leaving us behind.” That adjustment was difficult and sometimes heart-wrenching. It’s hard to let go of your old self. Because, in doing so, you’re going to be leaving certain people behind. They know it, you know it, and it’s sad.
Can we talk about how much it costs to be RuPaul? You have a favorite blond wig that’s been in your life for, like, 25 years. How much was that thing?
You know, years ago, lace-front wigs were very expensive. They’re not as expensive anymore because they have machines that make them. But years ago, when I was buying lace-front wigs, it would be two wigs: the front, which had the lace on it, and the back, which was a support wig. It emulated your own hairline and was measured to fit your head. It was bespoke. And that would cost about $1,500 [back then]. Now you can get a lace-front wig for $80. It’s made by a machine and made for everybody, so you have to cross your fingers and hope it works.
How much are you willing to spend on a gown?
And how many $10,000 gowns do you have?
Oh, I don’t know. I’ve lost count. Our show has been on the air for 10 years, and there are—I don’t know—14 gowns per season? So…
A hell of a lot?
Have you ever sat down and calculated how much a RuPaul look costs—from wig to gown to makeup to jewelry?
No, I never have. I do know the end result is worth a million dollars [laughs]. It’s really all about the end result and what effect it has on people. I don’t know how much it costs. It’s a lot. It takes a lot of people. I have hair people and makeup people and people who help me get it all on. It’s a big production.
You’re a job creator.
I like that! You better work.
GuRu is out October 23.