Compatible artistic minds tend to gravitate towards each other, regardless of their primary genre or mediums. The thoughts and emotions that one person might try to convey through rock music can be interpreted and expressed in a meaningful way by another person in a completely different way. Art is the language of the soul, and that language is universal.
Given their irreverent approaches to pop culture and statuses as transgressors of conventional celebrity, it makes a lot of sense that drag icon RuPaul and Nirvana would find an instant spiritual kinship. It’s a topic that RuPaul discussed in an interview with the A.V. Club:
“I literally met them [Nirvana] on the step-and-repeat red carpet at the MTV Awards, and Kurt Cobain told me, ‘You know, we went to see you perform in Seattle, but you had already performed and left by the time we got there.’ Because it was one of those gigs where I think I may have gone on at like 10 or something like that, and that tickled me. These are kids who come from the same irreverent, hippie, bohemian mentality that I came from. So of course they’re going to gravitate toward what I’m doing. And a lot of people don’t get that. A lot of people don’t have that computer program to understand what that is, that irreverence, that wink that drag is. A lot of people are offended by it and that’s the end of it. So Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love and the other kids in that band loved it, and you could see it in their faces when they’re taking the pictures. They’re not going boo, or it’s not like a joke. It’s like, ‘This is fucking cool.’ And they were so cool about it that they came and appeared on my Christmas special that year.”
RuPaul elaborated further, saying of Nirvana’s approach to art that “they understand that everything is a jokey thing. Not a jokey thing to mock, but a jokey thing in that is that the act of irreverence is very important. It’s so important to mock all of these things that our culture takes so seriously.
“My kind, the bohemian kind, find comfort and refuge in each other, especially after the cruel hoax of society is uncovered by them. There’s a point like when Dorothy looks behind the curtain and says, ‘You’re the wizard?’ There’s a point where you think, ‘I’ve been duped. What is this?’ And beyond that, once you recover from that, we find comfort in the irreverence and making fun of it, and in duty and joy and music, color, laughter, and dancing. And we have to have that. Otherwise we don’t want to play.”
In a friendship that was both brief and beautiful, RuPaul invited Nirvana to appear on his VH1 talk show, performing a rendition of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ for the drag superstar.
As RuPaul’s star has risen, he has continually welcomed members of the Nirvana extended family into his inner circle. Courtney Love was the guest on RuPaul’s Drag Race on the 26th anniversary of Cobain’s death.