Picks and Pans Review: Lettin It All Hang Out: An Autobiography

updated 07/10/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by RuPaul

Strutting into the Zeitgeist like some morphed cross between Mae West and Shaquille O'Neal, RuPaul isn't your ordinary drag queen. Talented, irrepressible and nearly seven feet tall (not counting heels), he bucked long odds to become a mainstream celebrity: a hip MTV fixture who had a hit song ("Supermodel"), performed at Disney World and even cut a single with Elton John. RuPaul's touching account of his journey from drugged-out go-go dancer to pop-culture icon is a captivating drag-to-riches story that celebrates perseverance and press-on nails.

"I'm going to show you that I am just like everybody else," proclaims RuPaul Andre Charles, who idolized Diana Ross at age 4, sawed the breasts off his Barbie doll at 5 and once marched against the KKK in fishnet stockings and high heels.

Overcoming a troubled childhood in San Diego, RuPaul embarked on a singular quest for stardom that led to New York City go-go bars, The Gong Show and, eventually, MTV Despite a graphic chapter on his cross-dressing techniques, Lettin It All Hang Out is not a ready-for-banning drag queen's handbook; RuPaul cheerily flaunts his show-business savvy, not his sexuality. If he's a little taken with his own gumption ("RuPaul is a boundless energy that can pour itself into whatever shape it wants"), who can blame him? Anyone who has to shave his fingers and toes before photo shoots has earned the right to revel in his success. (Hyperion, $19.95)

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