In black-and-white with a faded peach tint, RuPaul sits at her vanity and stares at a photo of herself as a 15-year-old standing by her home. She narrates that “once upon a time there was a little black girl in the Brewster projects of Detroit, Michigan.” The girl in the photo leans against the wall as RuPaul continues that she was spotted by a talent scout and started working as a model. She was an overnight success.
In color, RuPaul swishes the liquid of the lipstick in a bottle and applies eyeshadow.
On the street, in black-and-white, she sways her hips as she carries her luggage and spins in a circle. She hails a taxi and poses on top of a car. The photographers adjust their zoom as she laughs.
She throws the basketball into the net at the court and dribbles the ball in her stilettos. The photographers call out for her to “work!” on the rooftop of a building.
In color, against a white background, she dances during a photo shoot. To the right, the negatives in the camera roll by.
Back in black-and-white, she poses in a fur coat near a statue. As she exits her trailer, she is greeted by her fans. She holds some balloons by a pole. Outside a diner, she kisses her dog.
In color, she changes outfits during the photo shoot. Stylists fluff her hair and fix her gown. She clenches her teeth as the stylists fuss with her hair and shoves them away with her arms.
Back in black-and-white, a woman reads “Sashay” with RuPaul on the cover. People snatch copies at the newsstand. She signs the magazines for her fans waiting for her behind a barricade.
In color, she has been featured on the covers of Vanities, Drague, Swish, Ms. Thing, Star, and Oh La La. She also has her own fragrance called Shantay. The bottle drops down during the photo shoot, landing in the corner.
Back in black-and-white, she walks down the street with little girls dressed in suits. At her vanity, she tears off her choker as the stylists fix her hair. She kicks her leg up in the fountain and dances. Her manager puts a stack of magazines on her vanity for her to sign. She heaves an exasperated sigh and starts scrawling her name on the cover. She shoos her stylist away, instructing her to leave.
In color, she makes the “cut” gesture to the photographer and walks out. In black-and-white, another model mocks RuPaul while sitting in her vanity and wearing her wig. She kicks him out of her chair. She sits down at her vanity and punches the mirror.
RuPaul won’t let anyone take her crown. She came from nothing and often took care of herself while her mother worked two jobs to help them stay afloat. Every day, she prayed for an out. She developed an interest in makeup and started reading every beauty magazine available, learning about color and shading. She viewed the models in the fashion advertisements and wished she could be one of them. Whatever money she made helping people out in the neighborhood, she saved for cosmetology school. She figured it was as far as she could go.
Then, while she was eating lunch after school, a talent scout approached her and asked her if she had an agent. She furrowed her brow and answered “no.” He said he represented models and she would be a great one. If interested, she should give him a call.
A month later, she began to appear in local catalogues. However, she quickly outgrew it as people began to notice her stature and charisma on camera. A year into her modeling career, she was living in New York, and walking the runways during Fashion Week.
Designers know her name. Some request her. Lower rung models gossip about her, calling her a diva, a term she embraces. She worked long and hard to earn her place. Half of her paycheck goes back to her family in Detroit, Michigan. She plans on buying her mother a home in the suburbs. They were dirt poor and relied on one another to get by. She won’t let her family return to the projects ever again.
Director: Randy Barbato Year: 1993