Inside RuPaul’s Dramatically Glamorous Beverly Hills Manse
The legendary drag queen tapped AD100 designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard to reimagine the palatial property
By Mayer Rus
Photography by Douglas Friedman
Styled by Anita Sarsidi
May 16, 2023
Not since Carlos de Beistegui teamed up with Emilio Terry—or perhaps not since Auntie Mame joined forces with Yul Uhlu—have a client and a decorator been more happily matched than RuPaul Andre Charles and Martyn Lawrence Bullard. RuPaul, of course, is the queen of drag, a revolutionary performer and avatar of glamour recognized around the globe. Bullard, a mainstay of the AD100, is no stranger to enchantment himself—he, too, has built an international reputation based on unapologetic, often outré beauty. When the Drag Race impresario and his husband, rancher Georges LeBar, acquired a Beverly Hills mansion as their new home base in Los Angeles, they naturally called on Bullard, a friend of nearly three decades, to make it pop. “We’ve always loved Martyn’s aesthetic, so we trusted him,” RuPaul says. “I said, ‘Go for it. I can go as far as your imagination will take us.’”
And go for it he did. Draping his magician’s cloak over a grand but uninspired residence built in the 1980s, Bullard transformed the property into a fever dream of Hollywood Regency style that bridges old-school Beverly Hills swank and the vivacious, larger-than-life spirit of his client. “This is the house of Ru, a mansion of style designed as the center stage for the world’s most famous and celebrated drag queen. It’s the ultimate runway for the supermodel of the world,” the designer raves, adding, “I could not imagine a more appropriate place for the universe’s drag mother to hold court.”
Working with architect Christopher Hatch McLean, Bullard recast the complexion of the house by modifying the existing mansard roof, reconfiguring railings and colonnades, and adding a host of neoclassical details. As for decorative drama, the slay bells start ringing the moment one steps through the front door into a palatial, powdery-rose entry hall featuring a sweeping stairway with serious Mommie Dearest overtones. To the right is the formal living room, outfitted with jewel-toned fabrics and pagoda-form étagères that nod to the great decorator Tony Duquette. To the left is the jaw-dropping ballroom, a coup de théâtre crowned with an array of monumental disco balls and covered in photographs of divas on the order of Billie Holiday, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and Dorothy Dandridge. A tondo featuring a 1975 portrait of Diana Ross by photographer Harry Langdon surmounts a custom fireplace that evokes the work of Dorothy Draper, one of the guiding lights for Bullard’s decor.
Given the outsize scale and spectacle of the ballroom, one might expect the space to be used for high-octane revelries packed with legions of glitterati. Not so, it turns out. “I entertain on television, not at my house. When you live such a public life, you need boundaries,” RuPaul insists, emphasizing his preference for intimate gatherings and small dance parties with close friends. Nevertheless, spots for gracious entertaining abound, chief among them a black-and-white striped outdoor dining room adorned with fruit trees, topiaries, and chairs in the style of Elsie de Wolfe, another major inspiration for Bullard. “The stripe treatment is meant to feel like a tent. The room has orangery vibes, but technically it’s more of a kumquatery,” the designer muses.
Splashes of orange, RuPaul’s favorite color, also emerge in the kitchen and adjacent breakfast room, the performer’s lacquer-enrobed office, and the ultraluxe primary bedroom, where a Joan Crawford–worthy claw-foot daybed sheathed in orange velvet rests beneath a chandelier that echoes the draped plaster confections of Dorothy Draper. “The bedroom is very glam, very romantic, but in a weird way it still has some masculinity to it,” Bullard avers. Two enormous closets—one for male attire, the other for drag—accommodate the entertainer’s predictably vast collection of suits and gowns, and a queen’s ransom in sparkly bijoux. “It feels like you’re skipping into Bergdorf’s, the chicest boutique you could dream of,” RuPaul says of the kaleidoscopic closets.
Landscape architect James Hyatt reconceived the garden to underscore the ambience of classic Beverly Hills luxury and the neoclassical motifs that adorn the interiors, adding a graphic zellige-tiled spa to the pool and covering the hillside with a range of drought-tolerant plants. “We were going to do more planting on the pool terrace, but Ru wanted to be able to roller-skate and dance. We tried to capture the sense of joy he exudes,” Hyatt explains.
One of the most felicitous spaces in the home is a petite powder room on the ground floor wrapped in a custom de Gournay wallpaper featuring cameos with silhouettes of the drag doyenne sporting various wigs. The gilded cameos neatly encapsulate the extraordinary meeting of the minds that animates the performer’s Tinseltown Shangri-la—in a word, flawless. “The house is a touchstone to remind me to inspire people to feel the magic that’s seemingly so elusive these days,” RuPaul asserts. “It’s meant to be whimsical and fun. None of it is to be taken too seriously—except for love and kindness.”