It’s early evening and RuPawl, the top dog of drag, is in the middle of a photo shoot, dressed in a tiny lamé ensemble inspired by drag superstar, Sasha Colby, a contestant on season 15 of the hit reality television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
An adorable eight-year-old Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, RuPawl, (whose out-of-drag name is Xóchitl, which means flower in Spanish) isn’t affiliated with the TV show, but is a huge fan of both the host, RuPaul Charles, and the show’s drag queen contestants. For the past six years, the charismatic canine’s Instagram account has featured photos of RuPawl wearing handmade mini replicas of the dresses and wigs worn by the show’s drag queens.
“My husband, Arturo Cortez and I adopted RuPawl from the San Francisco SPCA as a three-month-old puppy,” says RuPawl’s dad, José Lizárraga. “We’ve been fans of “Drag Race” since the first season and when season nine aired in 2017, I decided to post some pics on Instagram of RuPawl wearing some of the show’s iconic fashions.”
The photos (and the model) proved to be a hit both with the drag queens and fans of the show and it didn’t take long for RuPawl to amass a loyal social media following.
Lizárraga is a college professor who teaches classes in human development, but he gained skills in design from his mom, who “was a seamstress and taught me how to sew,” he says. “I never envisioned I’d one day become a connoisseur of dog clothing,” he says with a laugh. Lizárraga creates RuPawl’s outfits by hand and says it typically takes 8-15 hours to complete a look.
To replicate the drag queens’ costumes, Lizárraga tries to use the same materials and even messages contestants to ask about the use of specific fabrics. “While I try to recreate the exact ensembles from the show, I also have to adapt the designs to ensure they look good on a dog and are comfortable for RuPawl to wear,” says Lizárraga, who designs a new look each week to coincide with each episode of “Drag Race.”
A Star Is Born
Although RuPawl has undergone training and has even been taught tricks such as jumping through hoops, spinning on command, and giving “high fives,” modeling came to her naturally.
As soon as Lizárraga sets up a backdrop and blanket, RuPawl knows it’s time for the “pawparazzi” to take pictures and that she’ll be rewarded with treats after the photo shoot. “She’s really good about looking directly at the camera and hamming it up,” Lizárraga says. “She even has this smile thing she does when posing. We keep photo shoots at 5-10 minutes so that it’s a fun experience and she doesn’t get stressed.”
Despite her fame and being named the recipient of the Webby Award for Best Social: Animals in both 2021 and 2022, Lizárraga says fame hasn’t gone to RuPawl’s head. When the pint-sized pup is not posing for photos, RuPawl can often be found playing with her collection of squeaky toys (pigs are her favorite) or going for nature walks on the trails near her Colorado home. She’s also a big believer in naps and each week, RuPawl live Tweets her reactions to the performances on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” (She enlists Lizárraga’s help since she doesn’t have an opposable thumb).
Small but Mighty
The doggie diva also enjoys attending RuPaul’s DragCon, an annual event held in Los Angeles, where she’s met both the “Queen Mother,” RuPaul herself, and many of the drag queens whose looks she’s emulated. Her webpage (rupawl.com), features videos from past “Drag Race” winners including Willow Pill, Jada Essence Hall, Symone, and Yvie Oddly, as well as other past contestants who sing RuPawl’s praises.
“The drag queens love RuPawl and her recreated outfits, and RuPawl loves them,” says Lizárraga of his playful pooch who has also dressed as Jenna Ortega who plays Wednesday Addams on the Netflix show, “Wednesday,” as well as country singer, Dolly Parton.
A Doggie Drag Ambassador
Although RuPawl takes a lighthearted approach to her work, she also takes her role as a drag ambassador seriously. “RuPawl uses her platform to elevate the art of drag,” Lizárraga says.
She supports the LGBTQ+ community and social justice causes through her website and sells t-shirts and other merchandise with a portion of the proceeds going to the San Francisco SPCA.
With season 15 of “Drag Race” recently premiering on MTV, RuPawl has already served up some drag dog realness in photographs wearing recreations of fashions worn by this season’s contestants Loocey LaDuca and Anetra.
When asked to predict a season 15 winner, RuPawl declines to bark, believing that when it comes to drag, all “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants are winners.
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All photos courtesy José Lizárraga