As if we needed any more evidence that the world is a psychedelic hellscape, RuPaul—yeah, that RuPaul— and his husband are making money off the fracking industry. Yes, yes, this sounds like a wild conspiracy theory. But we’ve got the receipts.
RuPaul’s a big fan of getting that coin. In 30 years, they went from struggling artist to a household name. Now, as the host of the wildly popular TV drag competition RuPaul’s Drag Race, he’s a household name and has amassed a net worth of $US60 ($98) million. Fans know that RuPaul and his partner Georges LeBar have a massive ranch in Wyoming. And in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, they let us know a little more about what goes on at that ranch.
“Do you have, like, horses or cattle or a farm or...?” Gross asks.
“A modern ranch, 21st century ranch, is really land management,” Charles explains. “You lease the mineral rights to oil companies. And you sell water to oil companies. And you then lease the grazing rights to different ranchers. So it’s land management. Yeah.”
A little fucking vague, no? Rory Soloman, a PhD candidate at NYU, looked into it after hearing the interview.
“The unfortunate thing is that I was actually really enjoying the segment,” Soloman told Earther in a Twitter direct message. “I was doing dishes while learning about RuPaul’s punk past and was like, ‘wow, RuPaul has had such a cool and interesting path. But then it got to the last 5 minutes, and he dropped that line about selling mineral rights and Terry Gross didn’t follow up! So I had to do a little research.”
Soloman found Ru’s ranch was a fracking hot spot, according to the nonprofit group FracTracker. Earther dug further, checking public records of the couple’s ranch.
HOLD UP. (Non-COVID content) @RuPaul was just on @NPRFreshAir and shared that he & his partner own 60,000 acres in Wyoming & they "lease mineral rights ... and sell water to oil companies" and Terry Gross did not follow up with one question about the fact that RuPaul is FRACKING pic.twitter.com/KJanHgi0xI
— Rory Solomon (@rorys) March 15, 2020
We found that Ru’s partner, Australian rancher Georges LeBar, owns seven parcels of land in Wyoming totaling some 66,000 acres. LeBar’s company, Le Bar Ranch, leases that land to at least three oil companies: Anadarko E&P Onshore, Chesapeake Operating, and Anschutz Oil Company. Using FracTracker, we looked at just 10,000 of those acres and found more than 35 active oil and gas wells.
All oil and gas drilling is bad, but it’s worth mentioning that all three of these companies are major players in the fracking industry. Chesapeake Energy was a pioneer of the drilling method, and it’s the second most active drilling company in the nation. It’s closely followed by Anadarko. And Anschutz is no mum-and-pop shop either—its owner, Philip Frederick Anschutz, made billions from fossil fuel extraction that earned him the 41st spot on the Forbes 400.
“I know RuPaul has been a really inspirational figure for a lot of queer people, and has inspired many to engage in transgressive gender performance, but beyond improving the representation of marginalised folks in pop culture, it’s important to recognise that these celebrities rarely embody our political broader aspirations,” Soloman said.
Truly, does RuPaul not know about the years-long campaign to end fracking, a practice of drilling for oil and gas that’s well known that emits methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 84 times more climate-warming than carbon? Does he not know that the process emits toxic air pollutants which can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disease? Research also shows that poor people and people of colour are more likely to be forced to deal with hydraulic fracturing in their community, and therefore disproportionately suffer the health problem it causes.
I’m going to be honest: I don’t watch DragRace, but mad people are losing their minds over this.
as if 2020 couldn't get more bizarre you learn that rupaul has 60 *thousand* acres of land that he leases out for fracking ??
— nico????️???? (@nicodelort) March 16, 2020
Checks out latest trends, finds “Rupaul is fracking”, thinks it’s some type of drag queen slang...nope. It is what it means because this is 2020 and we live in a dystopian nightmare. https://t.co/ooD1fX7CcR
— Cat Mysterious (@ofipof) March 16, 2020
And honestly, folks should be losing it. RuPaul hosted a climate crisis-themed ball in 2018. Green New Deal queen Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who, because life isn’t weird enough, just introduced federal legislation to ban fracking last month—is set to be a guest host on his show this season. That makes this whole profiting-from-oil-companies thing worse and way weirder.
We’ve reached out to RuPaul and LeBar for comment and will update this if they respond.