RuPaul and costume designer Zaldy go back 30 years and never once have they ever disagreed on any look. Seriously. “We’ve never had a disagreement ever in our life,” Zaldy tells Gold Derby at our Meet the Experts: Costume Designers panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). “We’re so in sync and aligned that it’s really more like a surprise of, like, ‘Oh, my God! I can’t wait to wear this thing that doesn’t define my waist!'”
A three-time Emmy winner, Zaldy has designed Ru’s costumes for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and all of its spin-offs. Because of their long relationship, the two are “telepathic” with one another and Ru trusts that Zaldy will always deliver. “We have this deep, deep, deep trust in what we want to do each season. Ru is very up for it,” he says. “Sometimes when I bring her something… it’s never been something that she doesn’t understand because we’re just creating and building this character that we love and have loved for decades.”
In the early years of “Drag Race,” Zaldy would create outfits by episodes, sometimes inspired by that episode’s challenge. But as the franchise has expanded, that approach was no longer sustainable. These days, as the mothership series heads into its 15th season, Zaldy designs a full wardrobe for Ru to pick and choose from throughout the season.
“[It’s about] anticipating the different things that Ru might want this season within her wardrobe — something flowy, something classic and glamour goddess, where it’s just the tiny waist and the long, slim skirt,” he explains. “You kinda have to intuit what Ru’s mood is. I can suggest and place something in each episode, but, as we all know, Ru is the final judge of everything in that Runiverse of hers.”
Altogether, Zaldy works on six show for Ru and designs about 75 to 80 costumes a year. In fact, he only has one month off. “Basically August is the only month where I’m not making clothes for Ru in the studio,” he shares. “I’m actually on vacation [now]. I completely forgot about this, like, ‘Oh, my God! I have T-shirts with me.’ It becomes a year-round project, much the way a fashion collection would be as well. You work all year-round and it drops throughout the months.”
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