Who is Michelle Visage? Is she gay? RuPaul’s Drag Race judge and longtime LGBT+ ally

RuPaul’s Drag Race has attracted millions of viewers in recent years on American network VH1, and in the UK on Netflix. At the heart of the show is the “supermodel of the world”, RuPaul, and his close friend and business partner Michelle Visage.

Visage – whose real name is Michelle Lynn Shupack – has been a judge on the reality show phenomenon for over seven years, which is currently airing its tenth season.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is an American reality show which pits drag contestants against one another to take on a series of challenges as they compete to be crowned ‘drag superstar.’

Away from the hit show, Michelle has also made a name for herself in the UK as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother in 2015, and through music too as one-third of R&B trio Seduction.

The reality diva, who is 49, first met her on-screen counterpart in 1992 and went on to co-host US talk-show The RuPaul Show.

Visage identifies as a straight woman, and has had two children with screenwriter husband David Case. She has long been a vocal ally and defender of the LGBTQ+ community since the 1980s. 

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“I truly believe my calling is to be here for a community that’s always been there for me,” she told Billboard.

“I walked into this group of like 20 or 30 people, the weirdest, craziest, queerest misfit group I’ve ever seen, and the hair stood up on my arms like I knew I was home. I had found my tribe, which had never existed before.”

Related: Michelle Visage helped a struggling gay teen find a roof for the night

Her actions of allyship have been prominent throughout her time in the spotlight. In 2016, Michelle reached out to her then 291,000 Twitter followers to find shelter for an 18-year old teen who was kicked out of his house by his parents for coming out as gay.

Visage has also faced criticism from some queer people for using the word “we” when referring to the LGBTQ+ community.

Among them is her fellow Celebrity Big Brother contestant, Perez Hilton. The celebrity blogger told her whilst in the house: “as a member of the LGBT community, you do not represent me”.

Visage has since reflected on the encounter saying: “I was never told that I couldn’t walk for autism because I’m not autistic or I can’t fight for the rights of animals because I’m not an animal.

“It never made sense to me that someone would question my validity fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people”.

This year saw her role as a reality-television judge cross the pond to Ireland, where she sat alongside Louis Walsh and Denise Van Outen for Ireland’s Got Talent. 

Related: Michelle Visage tells Azealia Banks to quit saying ‘faggot’

Ireland introduced marriage equality in 2015, with Visage calling the nation “a beacon of tolerance for LGBT youth”. She has also been outspoken about the lack of same-sex marriage across the border in the north.

Telling The Irish News, she said:  It’s ridiculous that Northern Ireland still doesn’t have marriage equality.

“It literally blows my mind, considering the UK as a whole is way more progressive than even America in some ways.”

Michelle has made her opinion on current US president Donald Trump clear, and has spoken against his influence over America’s tolerance for the LGBTQ+ community.

“There are a lot of lost children who need to feel like they fit in and belong. What Trump is doing is the opposite: he is pulling everybody apart.”

Despite this, RuPaul’s Drag Race has never seen such mainstream success as it has now.

The premier of season nine drew in over one million viewers for network VH1 and has garnered an international audience, with the show streaming on Netflix UK.

Related: RuPaul compares transgender drag queens to doping athletes, doubles down on Drag Race ‘ban’

RuPaul and Michelle Visage (Getty Images)

Since RuPaul’s interview with the Guardian this year, in which he stated he would “probably not” allow a trans woman who had undergone gender reassignment surgery on the reality show, Visage has since raised her voice in support for ‘bio-queens’.

“I never saw an issue with trans women doing drag because I knew that to be part of the spectrum,’ Visage said. “It’s time we stop persecuting. Why can’t this person do whatever they want to do?”

“As far as the show goes, we have had a lot of trans women on over the years… I stand very loudly and proudly with the trans community.”