RuPaul's Drag Race RuPaul's Drag Race

If you've wondered why RuPaul's Drag Race didn't debut earlier in the reality competition craze, RuPaul says you can blame George W. Bush. The "Supermodel" singer asserts that the "mean-spirited times of the Bush era" weren't right for the show — maybe a Rudy Giuliani administration would have been more drag-friendly? We talked to RuPaul about the challenges facing Drag Race contestants and how Project Runway villain Santino Rice ended up on the panel of judges.

TVGuide.com: What are you looking for when casting?
RuPaul: We want showgirls. We want kids who are working in clubs for a living and doing drag. At this point, it's not about pre-op, or post op, or anything like that. It's drag — straight-up. We choose kids who exemplify what it's all about: It's fun, it's laughter and it's not taking yourself seriously. And throughout the ages, it has always represented that in culture.

TVGuide.com: How did this show come about?
RuPaul: When reality came to television, everyone pitched me this idea. And I wasn't ready to do a reality show during the mean-spirited times of the Bush era. Especially since during the fear-saturated era, gender exploration usually had to go underground. I knew I needed to stay away from that. So when the winds changed, I got back with my buddies and we pitched the show. It was basically bought in the room, which is unheard of.

TVGuide.com: How would you describe the drag challenges the contestants face?
RuPaul: The challenges are all born out of my experience in show business. On some level, it's everything I've had to do in my career. They're tweaked a little bit to be more TV friendly. They're all about creativity and how quick you are on your toes. Like there's a wedding challenge where the girls have to create a wedding dress and male persona that they will eventually marry. There's also an episode where they have to mentor and make over a senior citizen and make them into their "dragmother." It's pretty wild to watch.

TVGuide.com: Why did you decide to have Project Runway's Santino Rice serve as a judge?
RuPaul: I saw him on Project Runway, and I loved him, and I loved his wit. He was the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen. He looks like he could be from Spain during the Middle Ages. He looks black, he looks white, he looks everything. And I just loved his energy. He did not win Runway, but he is the winner because of what he brought to the table.

TVGuide.com: Besides entertainment value, what do you hope viewers will get off this show?
RuPaul: Courage. These are American success stories. It's the American dream to do whatever you want to do — if you have the courage. To endure other peoples' fear that will be projected on to you. You have to put on an armor of magnificence when you do this. We are really introducing young people to the genre of drag, which has really been missing from the pop culture landscape over the past 10 or 12 years during the Bush administration. And now it's changing.

RuPaul's Drag Race premieres Monday at 9/8c on Logo.