This 1990s Hit Song Led to RuPaul’s Television Career

RuPaul is primarily known as a television personality — but he’s also had a long career as a musician. In fact, he scored a modest hit back in the 1990s. Here’s how one song changed Mama Ru’s career.

RuPaul wearing a hat
RuPaul |Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage

The song that made RuPaul feel he’d made it

RuPaul has recorded everything from Christmas music to political music to R&B tracks. However, his most well-known song is probably “Supermodel (You Better Work).” The upbeat track exemplifies the glossy and upbeat sound of 1990s dance music. It’s Madonna’s “Vogue” with a sense of humor. Mama Ru discussed the track’s creation in an interview with The A.V. Club.

“I had been in the downtown scene for about 11, 12 years at that point,” RuPaul recalled, “in bands and go-go dancing and hosting and all that kind of stuff. This is in New York. And finally, I took the time to buckle down and work on a demo tape.” That tape became “Supermodel (You Better Work).” While many people remember the song, the video is what sticks out in Mama Ru’s mind.

“Supermodel (You Better Work)”

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“I shopped it around at different record labels, and I got a deal,” RuPaul said. “So I had this song, made a video for it, and it was the first time I had ever had a Winnebago trailer to get ready in, and I knew that was the hallmark of being a star. So that was what really set the tone for the rest of my career.”

RuPaul liked the video and felt it held up decades after its release. In addition, the video made RuPaul feel he’d “made it” — even though his career hadn’t even reached its peak.

RuPaul with a flower in his hair
RuPaul | Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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How ‘Supermodel (You Better Work)’ changed RuPaul’s career

Billboard reports “Supermodel (You Better Work)” reached No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a modest hit at best. However, “Supermodel (You Better Work)” is definitely better remembered than many 1990s songs which were much bigger hits. In addition, its popularity granted Mama Ru new career opportunities. 

RuPaul told Out the success of “Supermodel (You Better Work)” led VH1 to ask him to present an award at their fashion awards. He agreed and enjoyed the experience, as he got some of his idols like Tina Turner and David Bowie to laugh at his jokes. In contrast, Mama Ru was upset Madonna didn’t make eye contact with him during the award show. Afterward, VH1 asked him to host a talk show.

RuPaul in a suit
RuPaul | Randy Holmes via Getty Images

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The RuPaul Show lasted 100 episodes — and Mama Ru had lots of fun making it. Guest stars included Diana Ross, Cher, the Backstreet Boys, Bea Arthur, La Toya Jackson, and others. It was fun in its own right and it became the predecessor for the much more iconic RuPaul’s Drag Race – all because of a modest dance hit.