'We celebrate people who dance outside the box': RuPaul makes Emmy history

VH1's hit reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” won big at this year's Emmys. Among its five wins was the coveted Outstanding Reality-Competition Series award.
by Alexander Kacala /

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” won big Monday at the 70th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. The hit VH1 series sashayed away with one of the the top prizes, Outstanding Reality-Competition Series, besting “The Voice,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” “American Ninja Warrior” and “The Amazing Race.”

The win made Emmy history, with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” becoming the first show to win the Outstanding Reality-Competition Series and Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program award in the same year. RuPaul won the latter category three years in a row. In total, the show won five Emmy awards this year, adding to its total of nine since it launched in 2009.

In the series, RuPaul — a longtime drag performer, singer, actor and television personality — searches for “America’s next drag superstar.” RuPaul acts as host, mentor and head judge for the competition show, as contestants are given different challenges each week that test their myriad talents, from lip syncing to sewing. Along with other judges that include Michelle Visage, Ross Mathews and Carson Kressley, RuPaul critiques contestants' progress throughout the season, crowning one champion in the end.

In his acceptance speech for the Outstanding Reality-Competition Series award, RuPaul gave a nod to the “140 drag queens we have released into the wild” and sent a message to “all of the dreamers out there.”

"If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here? Now let the music play!"

In a press conference following the awards ceremony, RuPaul explained why he thinks the show has resonated with so many people.

“There’s an interesting balance of entertainment and deep stories that really touch our audience,” RuPaul explained. “We started out this show to celebrate the art of drag, and in doing so we brought along a bunch of kids who had varied backgrounds. We have challenges that are fun, but these kids bring their courage and their stories, and that is what the heart is.”

RuPaul also said the series “adds a little relief” during this time, in which “we’re living in a country that is very divided.”

“We celebrate people who dance outside the box, and those are my favorite kind of people,” he added. “Those stories need to be told, and I think there is value in those stories for everyone, not just drag queens.”

A number of of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-inclusive programs were acknowledged at this year’s Emmy Awards. In addition to RuPaul and “Drag Race,” other winners included out director Ryan Murphy, out actress Samira Wiley, reality series “Queer Eye” and limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”

“The Television Academy is reflecting how both audiences and critics embrace diverse LGBTQ images on television,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement sent to NBC News. “While there is still work to be accomplished, tonight was a truly powerful evening for LGBTQ representation.”

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