- Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have labored with RuPaul since they met on the Nineteen Eighties NYC membership scene.
- They launched his music profession and their manufacturing firm makes “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
- “Drag Race” collected 3 extra Emmys, together with an eighth excellent actuality host win for RuPaul.
Anyone who’s watched “RuPaul’s Drag Race” could have seen the names Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato flash on-screen within the opening credit.
Bailey, 63, and Barbato, 62, are liable for propelling drag tradition into the mainstream by serving to to show RuPaul and “Drag Race” into international phenomenons.
They have been at RuPaul’s facet via the numerous phases of his profession, from singer to talk-show host to the truth star we all know at the moment.
“Drag Race” added three extra Emmys to its bulging assortment this month together with excellent actuality competitors program, bringing its whole to 29 wins from 63 nominations.
RuPaul additionally picked up his eighth consecutive award for excellent host for a actuality or competitors program, with 14 Emmys from 22 nominations. That’s a file for a Black artist and likewise makes him the most-awarded host in Emmys historical past.
“The show just keeps growing,” Barbato advised Insider on a Zoom name from Los Angeles. “Everyone can relate to the feeling of being an outsider. Drag is ultimately a universally relatable thing,” Bailey mentioned of the recognition of “Drag Race” and the celebs it has helped create.
“Drag Race” has a mean weekly viewers of greater than 600,000 within the US, and thousands and thousands extra around the globe.
Bailey, who’s initially from Portsmouth within the UK, and Barbato, from New Jersey, have labored with RuPaul for the reason that Nineteen Eighties after assembly him on the New York membership scene.
The duo run World of Wonder, the manufacturing firm behind the truth competitors that has spawned an ever-growing variety of editions in international locations from Canada to the Philippines, together with the spinoffs “All Stars” and “Untucked.”
Bailey and Barbato aren’t strangers to performing themselves. While attending New York University’s movie faculty collectively within the ’80s, they shaped a disco-pop duo referred to as the Fabulous Pop Tarts.
They recorded two albums that includes visitor stars like Lady Miss Kier, the singer for Deee-Lite, the band behind the infectious ’90s traditional “Groove Is in the Heart” — and an artist referred to as RuPaul, who’s gone on to turn into the world’s most well-known drag queen with their assist.
Bailey and Barbato produced Ru’s first solo album in 1986 and have become his supervisor.
In 1991, they arrange World of Wonder, borrowing its identify from the title of a Seventies British academic journal for youngsters that Bailey as soon as learn. That yr, in addition they made their first TV present, a compilation program referred to as “Manhattan Cable.” RuPaul was featured on the present, which Barbato as soon as described as “YouTube before YouTube.”
RuPaul’s first actual style of success got here in 1993, when his track “Supermodel (You Better Work)” grew to become successful after being performed in heavy rotation on MTV.
The dance-pop track gently poked enjoyable on the supermodels who then dominated the style world and supplied a break from the grunge rock that dominated the charts on the time.
Bailey and Barbato then produced “The RuPaul Show,” a chat present for VH1 that aired between 1996 and 1998.
At the identical time, they have been creating productions like “The Adam and Joe Show,” a comedy TV present for Britain’s Channel 4 within the late Nineteen Nineties, introduced by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish. (Cornish went on to direct “Attack the Block,” the movie that first introduced John Boyega to the large display).
Bailey and Barbato additionally directed the 2000 documentary “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which advised the story of the rise and fall of the televangelist couple Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, with RuPaul narrating.
“Drag Race” happened when Bailey and Barbato have been discussing new initiatives with RuPaul within the late 2000s. According to them, RuPaul mentioned he would by no means do a reality-competition sequence earlier than finally altering his thoughts.
But Bailey mentioned on the time there was “a resistance to drag on TV” and “the door felt closed.” World of Wonder ended up co-financing the primary season themselves earlier than it was picked up by Logo, a cable channel geared toward LGBTQ audiences, the place it ran for eight seasons.
“It became clear to all of us very early on that there was something absolutely magical here,” Barbato mentioned, noting that RuPaul was an “incredible talent that you didn’t ordinarily get to see on television.”
“Ru speaks TV fluently and has a very specific point of view that’s a combination of comedy and wit and heart and sass and spirituality,” Barbato mentioned. “So even though those early seasons were a bit raw and rough around the edges, the format really hasn’t changed.”
As its score steadily rose, the present’s breakthrough got here in 2017 when it moved to VH1, which is accessible to most US houses with cable TV.
The first international variations appeared in Chile and Thailand, however the pinnacle arrived in October 2019 when “Drag Race UK” premiered on the BBC.
Getting a British version commissioned had taken “dozens” of makes an attempt, Bailey mentioned. Sky, the satellite-TV broadcaster previously owned by Rupert Murdoch, “thought it was too trashy for them,” he mentioned, however the BBC finally mentioned sure. “Drag Race” has turn into one of the crucial fashionable reveals on its iPlayer streaming platform, with a fourth season underway.
“Drag Race UK” was a turning level, as a result of it helped reveal the present’s universality, Barbato mentioned.
“Drag is alive in every corner of the world,” he mentioned. “The format translates without overwhelming the regional aspects of drag in all these different territories. Each version has its own flavor. They wear their own set of heels and their own wigs, and we’re all happier for that.”
There are actually variations of the present in Canada, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, the Philippines, and “Down Under,” however solely the UK and Australia-New Zealand iterations are introduced by RuPaul. Some are hosted by former contestants, such because the Canadian model which has Brook Lynn Hytes on the helm.
Barbato pressured that “Drag Race” is making a platform that permits current drag expertise to be seen: “We are not creating a drag empire — a drag empire already exists. It’s global and we are turning people on to it. That is an important distinction.
“There’s been this expertise pool that is gone unrecognized for many years and individuals are simply discovering that.”
He added: “One of essentially the most satisfying issues about engaged on this present is simply watching these women touring around the globe and dealing and making individuals completely happy.”
This article has been up to date because it was first printed in 2022.