Sashaying into its 13th season on VH1, RuPaul’s Drag Race took off on the runway with episode one, “The Pork Chop,” named for Victoria ‘Porkchop’ Parker, who was the first queen ever eliminated from the show going back to season one in February 2009.
As always, the competition was fierce for the competing drag queens to impress the host, mentor, and head judge RuPaul for the coveted crown as America’s Next Drag Superstar, and a cash prize of $100,000. They ‘werk’ it with their drag style, talents in “Lip Syncs For Your Lives,” their charisma, and not to mention plenty of nerve when they face the panel of judges on the main stage.
There is an art to creating the face of a drag queen. That’s where makeup artist and fellow queen Raven (aka David Petruschin) excels, with her motto of fierce and fabulous. As a former runner-up in the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, she earned the certain distinction of being RuPaul’s personal makeup artist since the ninth season. But before she ever took a brush to create “the Ru face,” Raven worked as a cosmetics salesperson, applying makeup for customers in California, but never went for the hard sell. She also became a skilled sculptor of her own “Raven face.”
Painting faces is her passion so receiving her first Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic)” for the series in 2020 was unforgettable. Her talents were recognized once again, this time for “Outstanding Contemporary Makeup For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program (Non-Prosthetic),” along with Makeup Artist colleagues Nicole Faulkner and Jen Fregozo.
Below The Line spoke with Raven about the maquillage that goes into making RuPaul and company as fabulous as can be. She discusses what it takes to create the many faces of the queen of drag.
Below The Line: How would you describe RuPaul’s signature look?
Raven: It’s classic beauty. It’s very much what Ru would call “the Ru face.” It’s really relying on accentuating the features Ru has. We don’t do a lot of carving out. There’s still a lot of contour, and a lot of highlights but it’s a softer look. There’s a minimum of three sets of lashes. We use a full strip but we cut them into sections. For the bottom lashes, it’s anywhere from three or four pieces that Ru likes to do himself because he likes to get right up in there, whereas I’m a little nervous to get so close. The top piece is the base lash with the full piece that we manipulate to get the shape of the eye and cut up other lashes to kind of fill it out, like fuller on the edge or more of a round eye. And just a nice beautiful peachy beige lip with a nice wash of peach on the cheek.
BTL: The first time you did Ru’s makeup, did you have a moment of panic?
Raven: I was thinking, “You are not going to be able to do this. What are you thinking?!” I have watched RuPaul since I was 14 years old which was the first time I saw Ru. I thought, “What is this?” I knew what drag queens were but, up until then, I had only seen the likes of Divine, or what they would use in movies or television to poke fun at men in dresses. And here was a man in a dress that was celebrating it, and the world was celebrating him. So, he flipped it. I’ve always had a very high regard and respect for Ru. So, when I stepped in to do this after eight seasons of watching this beauty, and this severe fierce being, I thought, “You can’t do this.”
BTL: What mistakes did you make in the beginning?
Raven: I flubbed, and there were times where I look back and thought, “That was not that good,” which was all of Season nine (laughs). When I look back at season nine, which is when I first stepped in, and she was wearing a pink and silver dress, and she just said, “Do the Raven face on me.” I went to do it but I didn’t realize that there were certain angles and planes of her face that I needed to change up that I shouldn’t be doing on her. I needed to deepen up her highlights. I needed to warm up the contour where everything was a little too full and a little too light and I was trying not to go too big. I remember Season 10, the first thing she said before she sat down in the makeup chair was, “I’m gonna wean you off of that white crap,” because I was putting so much highlighter. I actually paint Ru a lot darker than she is and we have to wear some body foundation because we deepened it up so much. It was trial and error. But Ru always called me back to work the next season, so I knew he had faith and trust in me. So, we got to a place now where I feel we both trust each other, and know we are going to like what each other brings so, we just git her done.
BTL: What faces have been the most challenging to create for RuPaul?
Raven: We spend several hours in a makeup chair, and every time she sits down I want to make sure it is different each time. There’s always that face that we go to, but the liner may be ticked up a little more or thicker, or the lash is different. I’m always inspired by the dress because that lends itself to stay within a color palette. It’s always the more subtle looks. On Season 13, there was an episode where she was wearing a beautiful orange sequined gown with big curly platinum hair so, we did a very minimal look. That for me was hard because I want to go in and really sculpt. I had to pretend I was painting a bride for her wedding. I used to work at a makeup counter, and they always wanted to be pretty, but not look like they had a lot of makeup on. So, I had to think I’m painting a drag queen, but make her look beautiful for her special day. So, I had to go somewhere in between where it would not look too diminished or too taken out of the RuPaul face, but not give her the severity of a drag queen walking out onto a stage at a club.
BTL: Of all the drag queens, would you agree that Ru’s makeup looks the most natural?
Raven: I am one of those drag queens who goes over the top. (laughs) For my drag, I don’t really want to look passable. I’m not gonna be passable. Ru has always liked to play that line and give you that femininity, and that softness, but still when you see Ru in person, he’s through the roof. He’s so tall. I like the soft subtle beauty, but I also love the severe carved-out fierceness. Fierce and gorgeous are all those things when I think of makeup. I have a lot of drag queen friends who I work with who want me to paint them. The thing is, I don’t have the time. When I’m not painting Ru, I’m painting myself. Outside of working on set, I still love doing drag myself. There are so many tricks now that you can make anyone look like anything. I love transformative makeup.
BTL: What do you remember most about winning your first Emmy last year?
Raven: I have the whole thing on a video. I have a video of it which I will keep to my dying day, and I don’t share it with just anyone. There were five of us in an office because we weren’t allowed to go. It was myself, Jen Fregozo, RuPaul, Curtis [Foreman], and two of the producers watching it. When they said, “RuPaul’s Drag Queen,” I grabbed Jen and was squeezing her, and all I could hear was RuPaul jumping and screaming, “Oh my God.” It was wonderful to share that moment with the people who we work together with. I will never forget it. Last year, they only used my pre-recorded acceptance speech, and there were three other people in that same category that got nominated, and we didn’t get to hear from them so, if we win this year, I will give the girls (Nicole Faulkner and Jen Fregozo) a chance to speak and have their moment.
The other artists who’ve been acknowledged with an Emmy nomination for RuPaul’s Drag Race are the hairstyling team of Curtis Foreman and Ryan Randall for “Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program.” They also won in 2020 for the episode “I’m That Bitch.”As Department Head Hairstylist, Foreman has been turning heads on the show with RuPaul’s unique colorful wig creations. Hairstylist Randall barbers, styles and occasionally colors for judges Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Mathews. A graduate of Paul Mitchell The School, Randall quickly made a name for himself as a hairstylist for the stars, with clients such as Demi Lovato, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Hudson.
In the drag queen universe, it’s all about appearances, with the hair often being front and center. Randall discusses his ultimate drag queen looks for wigs and reveals some new ideas for Ru.
Below The Line: What exactly is your role when it comes to hairstyling this show?
Ryan Randall: It literally is one of those shows where every day is something different. Ultimately, Curtis looks after Ru, and then I’m mostly responsible for Michelle, Ross, Carson, and any of the guests that make an appearance, and our Drag Race family and looking after them. Sometimes it’s making wigs as options for challenges or “Rusicals”. For instance, 12 wigs of Madonna were provided for them to use to look aesthetically cohesive and well done. Many times they don’t use them. The queens are responsible for the individual runway looks that they’ve brought with them and styled. Many times, the wigs we style aren’t seen. For instance, we’ll have an Afro ready, but that queen thinks her character has long straight Kim K locks so, they won’t use what we have prepped. Michelle is always in some sort of hairpiece, fall, or extensions. She’ll actually color her hair at home by herself. She is now embracing the gray in her hair, which I think is quite amazing.
BTL: How do you groom the male judges on the show?
Randall: Literally, on every taped day, Ross gets a haircut. He’s always set up to be barbered first thing in the morning. Carson, depending on the day, we do a little trimming. Sometimes, he’ll go early in the season for a cut and color, and then we maintain a consistent look for him.
BTL: Would you agree that when it comes to drag queens, it’s all about the hair?
Randall: Glam is a huge piece of the puzzle. Drag has definitely been elevated over the last few years. Back in the day, they were doing their own wigs. Now the access is easier for people who do hair and styling. But if you’re coming from a small town, it’s easy to connect with somebody on social media. You don’t need to be a wig stylist in order to look good. They’re quick to credit their wig makers, which is great.
BTL: If you could design a drag queen wig, what would it look like?
Randall: When somebody says, “Let’s do a drag look,” I feel like there’s a sense of color and silhouettes that come to mind. I think wigs and extensions and hairpieces have definitely become more mainstream. I do love the classic drag wig, of course, the bigger the better, traditionally kind of wavy. I also love an unexpected pop of color like a highlighter neon yellow which is one of my favorite wig colors. It’s not something that you see often but I love that. You can’t have an elevated/successful look without having the whole package with the dress, hair, and makeup.
BTL: Ru’s hair is styled by Curtis Foreman. If you had the opportunity to do her hair, what would it look like?
Randall: I tell Curtis this all the time. I love Ru in a coppery orange wig which Ru definitely wears. My favorite look on Ru is the optic white wigs. Ru’s classic silhouette that Curtis does is “the pineapple.” Ru loves an asymmetric, heavy-over-one-shoulder look, which is super chic. So throwing the hair to the opposite side to kind of balance that look out is very smart, and a classic drag silhouette. I would love Ru to wear a periwinkle [wig] or even the highlighter yellow that I’m kind of obsessed with or a sherbet orange would be fun too. Ru can wear anything and looks stunning. Maybe I should talk to Curtis about some fun change-up choices. (laughs)
BTL: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination. Have you thought about who you would like to thank?
Randall: Most of the nominees this year are friends and have worked on other shows together. They’re a constant source of inspiration and I adore them. This show is the epitome of the highest functioning dysfunctional family. It’s a cast of characters that have the most insane ingenious ideas. We couldn’t do it without each other. I would thank my mentor when I got into the business, Dean Banowetz, who is also nominated this season for Legendary. Just giving a nod to people who have supported me over the years. A dear, dear friend and artist [Meagan Herrera-Schaff] that I was working with for over 15 years, we actually started working on American Idol way back when who has been a constant source of creativity and support, passed away of colon cancer so, I would love to take this home in her honor and dedicate a win to her.
Photos courtesy of VH1, except where noted.