Supermodel (You Better Work)

Album: Supermodel of the World (1992)
Charted: 39 45
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Before this song made him the most famous drag queen of his time, Rupaul (born Rupaul Andre Charles), was hustling work in Atlanta as an actor, model and dancer. Born in San Diego, Rupaul moved there with his sister in the early '80s, and one day auditioned for a stage show called The Shaggy Dog Animation. He brought with him a sign reading "Rupaul is Starrbooty," which got the attention of the composer Jimmy Harry, who was working on the show. Rupaul got a role in the production and started a working relationship with Harry.

    After Rupaul moved to New York and became a star of the drag scene, he got a record deal with the Tommy Boy label. For his first single on the label, Rupaul and Harry joined the producer Larry Tee to write "Supermodel," a song about "working it" on the runway. A natural extension of Rupaul's drag act and model persona, he exuded confidence on the track, as if he was a master instructor drilling his charges. (This came full-circle in 2009 when Rupaul's reality/competition show RuPaul's Drag Race debuted on the Logo network.)

    The song was a huge hit in dance clubs, going to #1 on the Dance charts. It also did surprisingly well on the Pop charts, making #45 in America and #39 in the UK despite garnering very little airplay.

    Rupaul's career took off - he got a radio show, an endorsement deal with MAC cosmetics, and a number of TV and movie appearances. The song also launched the career of Jimmy Harry, who became a top songwriter/producer. His writing credits include "Low" by Kelly Clarkson, "True" by Ryan Cabrera, and "Funhouse" by Pink.
  • Rupaul is not a gifted vocalist in any traditional sense, but he can add flavor to a dance production and provide striking visuals to support it. His music is a corollary to his performance art, which proved very popular within his niche. Following the release of this song, Rupaul had several more encounters with the Hot 100. "Back To My Roots" bubbled under at #106 in 1993, and the following year his duet with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" made #92. In 1996, he reached #95 with "Snapshot."
  • This song was first released as a "maxi-single" with four different mixes on the first side:
    Ready To Wear Mix
    7" Mix)
    Couture Mix
    La Wanda In Your Face

    The B-side contained three mixes of a song called "House of Love." When the single took off, Tommy Boy commissioned a full album, which was released in 1993 as Supermodel of the World.
  • The song tapped into America's fascination with Supermodels, which was the new crop of models whose reach extended far beyond the pages of magazines. Madonna and George Michael had each brought modeling into the musical realm, with Madonna's "Vogue" channeling model culture and Michael's "Freedom '90" featuring five of the most famous supermodels: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Tatjana Patitz.
  • The Randy Barbato-directed music video has RuPaul strutting around New York City on various fashion shoots and selling perfume in a mock commercial. The scene with him splashing through a fountain was inspired by the 1975 Diana Ross film Mahogany.
  • Larry Tee came up with the initial lyric after attending a Versace fashion show in Milan where the most famous supermodels of the day were present. Knowing RuPaul was doing a supermodel look, he came up with some words that would suit him.
  • Tommy Boy promoted this song by getting designers to use it at Fashion Week in September 1992. The song became a sensation in New York dance clubs, and attracted a much larger audience when RuPaul performed it at the LGBT March on Washington on April 25, 1993. He brought it to a wider audience later that year when he appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show.
  • When the song entered the Hot 100 in February 1993, RuPaul became the first drag queen to reach the chart.
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