Role models come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve had many different people I’ve looked up to over the years, all of them very different, but one thing tends to unite my heroes. They are all eccentric weirdos who have found a way to operate within the system, to subvert it for their own ends, and who still lived in a wild and free way that pleased them before it pleased anyone else. Diana Vreeland, Marilyn Manson and Hunter S. Thompson are all people who immediately come to mind, but today I want to focus on one of my most recent role models: RuPaul Charles.
I first knew of RuPaul as the supermodel of the world and as the creator of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one of my favourite shows! How the contestants perform gender and break it down as a societal construct just gives me LIIIIIFE! But I recently started watching interviews with RuPaul where he literally tears reality apart, and it’s beautiful.
Here are some of my favourite excerpts from his interviews, and why I love them. I think you’ll love them too.
“Yes, you can focus on the darkness, it’s there, and you can focus on light. But one will bring you joy and one will bring you pain. It’s your choice.” — RuPaul
In my book, Radical Self-Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dreams, I say something almost identical: “The marvelous thing about happiness is that in a lot of ways, it’s very easy. You can either choose a thought which makes you happy, or a thought that makes you anxious, and you can make that choice every moment of every day.”
Some of us feel that we are ruled by our thoughts, that they are running the show. The truth of the matter is that with discipline and a little practice, you’ll realise that you are in control of your mind. Your mind is a missile: it will go wherever you point it… And you choose the direction! If you want to enter a downward spiral, point it at your dissatisfaction and keep on going. But if you want to feel good and embrace life, instead you need to point your mind towards the blessings you already have.
This is one of the reasons why I talk about gratitude so much and practice it so often. In fact, you can join me for a #GratiScope on Periscope every Monday to Friday at 12.30pm EST! The more we focus on gratitude, the more we can see our blessings in plain view. There are always going to be better options, people with more money or resources, girlfriends with “better” bodies than us, but if we obsess about those things, we will never feel good enough. Instead, we need to turn inward, to look at what we already possess. I promise you, if you pause for a moment to take stock, you’ll find that you have so much to be happy about.
Like Yogi Bhajan said, “Love is not enough; intelligence is not enough; powerful strength is not enough. You may put everything on one side of the scale, but if you are missing gratitude, you shall lose.”
Focus on joy. Now, this is not to say that we should ignore the atrocities and human rights abuses that are going on all around us — being aware and getting involved is the best way to be on the right side of history. But don’t obsess. Do the best that you can to help the people around you, and remember that the most important thing you can do is feel good in every moment. Your positivity is contagious, and it can change someone’e day — if not their life. If you don’t feel good, do something to make yourself feel good! This is how we change ourselves and the world.
“When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most political thing you can do.” — RuPaul
Or to use another of Ru’s quotes to demonstrate, “We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.” Whatever you’re born with is your standard operating system, and you can change it and build upon it at will.
Nothing is set in stone. Who cares what gender is on your birth certificate? Who cares what name your parents gave you? Who cares what you wear, how you walk, how you talk? It is totally up to you.
The simple act of getting dressed up and presenting yourself the way you want to be seen is totally political and can be absolutely revolutionary. You can change the way other people perceive beauty, gender, race; you can make them question every belief they’ve ever held about what it means to be “male” or “female”; you can begin to subvert the paradigm, by strutting down one street block at a time.
It all comes back to making yourself happy. You can make the choice to wear something that feels bland and flat, that doesn’t represent you or your beliefs, and feel yourself shrinking inside your skin a little bit more every day. Or you can choose to take a risk, to dress to express yourself, to be as big and bold and glamorous as you wanna be. And which side of the fence would you prefer to be on? I’d rather be called ridiculous than dull… And the people who think you’re ridiculous clearly don’t have enough imagination to be invited into your inner sanctum anyway!
This quote is not just about physical appearance, even though it might seem that way. Becoming the image of your own imagination extends throughout your entire life. If your imagination has you as an eccentric bachelorette living in Morocco, painting huge canvasses, shopping for treasures and eating fruit until your dying day, so be it! Do what you want to do and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. They’re not in charge of your life, you are. Stop sitting on the sidelines and make a move towards the life you really want to be living, instead.
“I say everything, because it’s all bullshit. People take things too fucking seriously. If you get offended by bullshit, what you’re offended by is the least of your problems.” — RuPaul
The things that people get offended by is incredible to me. Just this week I was speaking to someone who went to refer to my iPhone, then corrected himself and said, “I mean, smartphone. I’m careful about that now. Don’t want to upset anyone.”
Look, dude. If you’re offended by someone getting the brand name of a phone wrong, your life is totally lacking in purpose and meaning. Who gives a shit?! If the brand of your phone is your identity, you need a new one… And probably a new personality to boot. Don’t be so precious that you get tripped up on idiotic trivialities.
There are two sides of this lesson. One is that we shouldn’t be so sensitive — how is it benefitting us, really? And the other is that by obsessing over small, unimportant things, we miss the grandness, the expansiveness, the wonder of the universe and everything else happening around us.
There are a lot of things to get upset about in this world. But the brand of your phone, the choices other people make, or the daily movements of celebrities are not worth obsessing about. Strive to fill your life with meaning! Fill it with interesting people, great music, mind-expanding experiences… Don’t buy into the lies you’re sold by corporate interests. Step off the treadmill of bullshit and become an active participant in your life. Create your own existence. Craft a life that pleases you.
“If you have goals and the stick-with-it-ness to make things happen, people will feel threatened by you, especially if your goals don’t include them. They believe that if you take a piece of pie, then that leaves less pie for them. Seeing you follow your dreams leaves them realizing that they’re not following theirs. In truth, there is unlimited pie for everyone!” — RuPaul
So many people operate from a place of scarcity. They believe that there is a limited amount of love, money, opportunity, beauty and happiness. The truth is that all of these things are infinite! The universe is constantly generating more for everyone: more love, more money, more opportunities, more beauty and more happiness!
There are no limits. You can’t “use up” all the good stuff. It doesn’t run out. There is always more of it to go around, and when you make feeling good a priority in your life, you’ll find that you generate positivity even faster than you ever imagined possible. Wallowing in misery never brought anything good to anyone. If you feel like crap, take a shower, put on some lipstick, and walk down the street with your head held high like the High Priestess you are.
Don’t be thrown off by the people who are threatened by your ambition, your creativity, or the awesome stuff that you attract into your life. One of my favourite new quotes is from Conor McGregor, UFC champion, who said in a recent press conference, “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.” The people who are tripping out over what you say and do will always be stuck in that place — that place where they obsess over others instead of actively improving their own lives.
Do what you’ve gotta do, and do it without apology. Don’t worry about the small-minded people who cannot see that one person’s success elevates everyone around them. A rising tide lifts all boats. Shine theory, baby.
“People like to play small, but you are an extension of the power that created the whole universe. You have to be conscious. And once you understand that, that’s when you can really have a party.” — RuPaul
You have no idea how massively powerful you are. You have the strength, imagination, courage and ability to completely create your own life. This idea that we have to kowtow to our families, to society, or to our own unexamined beliefs — and live in a state of unhappy servitude! — is so over. Don’t imprison yourself. Stop telling yourself old stories about the way things are supposed to be. There is no such thing. The only limits are your imagination and level of courage.
We often adopt the beliefs and attitudes of the people who shaped our childhood, and we let those unchecked and unexamined thoughts run our lives. Owning your life in full starts with taking responsibility for every thought, and ruthlessly discarding the belief systems that hold us back from fulfilling our highest potential. It’s the only way to move forward. And it’s the start of total magic in your own life.
Shantay, you stay,
P.S. Another favourite? “My goal is to always come from a place of love… But sometimes you just have to break it down for a motherfucker.” — RuPaul