How RuPaul Overcame Failure
RuPaul—pioneering host of Emmy-award winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, LGBTQ advocate, and fiercest drag queen in the history of drag queens—is no stranger to struggle. At age 28, he was sleeping on his sister’s couch in Los Angeles and trying to put his life back together after working as a go-go dancer and performance artist in New York during the height of the AIDS crisis. He was penniless and wandering the streets, wondering where he’d gone wrong.
A friend, Larry Tee, jolted RuPaul out of his malaise by buying him a plane ticket back to New York so that he could “remember who he was.” That was January of ’89. By September, RuPaul had been crowned the Queen of Manhattan. He’d changed up his aesthetic, gone full glam, and begun to entrust his professional life to mentors who encouraged his solo music career.
“In hindsight,” RuPaul says, “I realized I needed to hit rock bottom to have the energy and the gumption to fight for my position.” Building self-esteem requires hard work, a willingness to overcome the obstacles in your life, and the capacity to face failure.
RuPaul’s 4 Tips for Overcoming Failure
Failure is something all successful people encounter and must grapple with at some point in their lives. Embracing life’s ups and downs kicks open the door to infinite possibilities. Here is some of RuPaul’s best advice for overcoming failure in your life.
- Love your failures. Many of us go out of our way to try to avoid the possibility of failure. And yet it’s crucial to our success. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a project that isn’t received the way you’d hoped, or just a feeling that you’re not fulfilling your dreams, life’s hardships can become catalysts for tremendous growth—so long as you don’t get mired in self-blame and shame. You’re going to make mistakes; learning to see that as a given, rather than a ding in your success story, gives you a chance to turn the resulting negative feelings into fuel.
- See every stumble as an opportunity to improve. Viewing “failure” this way can help you grow and learn from your mistakes, rather than expecting perfection right off the bat. Pushing yourself and failing still counts as forward motion. Stay positive, and move on.
- Learn from your failures. Most things don’t work: Out of every five things RuPaul creates, he says that only one works—but even the things that don’t work eventually lead to something that does. “Many of the worst things that happened to me were gifts because they taught me what worked for me,” RuPaul says. The big goal, he adds, is to stay in the game and to be of service to humankind.
- Challenge yourself on a regular basis. One of the more daunting aspects of failure isn’t actually the failing itself: It’s the discomfort of tackling something outside of your comfort zone. Without thinking too much, make a list of things you’d try if you weren’t afraid to fail. Would you write a book? Start a podcast? Choreograph a dance routine? Bake an upside-down cake? Aim for at least 12 goals, and map out genuine plans for achieving them. Hold yourself to these plans, and embrace each result as proof of self-improvement—not as a failure or a success.
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