Bert and Ernie. Lucy and Ethel. Batman and Robin. Hollywood’s history is full of powerhouse pairs, who recognize that life is better with your best pal by your side. But few dynamic duos have ever come close to the sheer fabulousness of two longtime friends nominated at this year’s Emmys.
As club kids, RuPaul Charles and Michelle Visage crossed paths in New York City for years before fate finally had her way with them. Visage did a radio interview with Charles on WKTU in 1996 and the two had such impressive chemistry that the program director of the station said, “Here’s my new morning show,” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ever since that fateful day, Charles and Visage have been near constant collaborators, be it on radio, television or the internet, most notably appearing together on the judge’s panel for VH1’s Emmy-winning reality-competition program, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” And while Charles has won four previous Emmys – including three consecutive wins for Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program – 2019 marks the first nomination for Visage, who has served as a judge on the series since Season 3, and became a producer in the show’s most recent season.
But what makes the pair so special? It’s a shared sensibility that makes communication effortless. That’s true of most friends, sure, but what is it about drag culture that Visage seems to inherently understand? “I remember the first time I was writing an essay, a report for school, you had to pick somebody you looked up to,” she explained in an interview with IndieWire. At the time she was a competitive swimmer and she went looking for Mark Spitz in a big old book called an encyclopedia – whatever that is – and first happened upon Mae West.
“As time went on I realized, ‘I think I am Mae West,’” Visage continued, adding that once she entered the New York club scene, it was in the company of drag queens that she found solace.
“I was raised off the cotton teats of drag queens because that’s who I looked up to,” she said.
“We’re the outsiders,” Charles added, by way of explaining drag culture. “We’re the ones that find sanctuary in the irreverent. In the twist of a phrase. We’re highly intelligent and the basic, everyday fodder is not going to work for us.”
“Mae West was definitely one of those people who had to find joy in the mundane,” he said.
Both Charles and Visage went deep on identity and inspiration during their time with IndieWire, all of which can be witnessed first hand in the video below.
Final-round Emmy voting is open from Thursday, Aug. 15 through Thursday, Aug. 29 at 10 p.m. PT. Winners for the 71st Primetime Emmys Creative Arts Awards will be announced the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15, with the Primetime Emmys ceremony broadcast live on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 22.