‘Drag, beauty, fashion, glamour’: An interview with ‘Drag Race’ superstar Alaska Thunderfuck
MANILA, Philippines – On the hit and award-winning reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race, the “well-traveled, campy extraterrestrial” known as Alaska Thunderfuck took home the All Stars 2 crown after emerging as the 5th season’s runner-up. But her reign is no blip, as this queen of many trades – drag, music, and beyond – has a lot of tricks up her sleeves.
Alaska sashayed into RuPaul’s Werk Room with a signature “Hieeeeee.”
During her first time on the show-turned-cultural phenomenon, she moved past the haters – and the pressure of being the then-partner of season 4 winner Sharon Needles – becoming a competition standout and frontrunner. She was also known as one-third of a trio-slash-clique known as Rolaskatox with Roxxxy Andrews and Detox, who allied and rose to the top 4 of the competition – twice, in season 5 and All Stars 2.
The drag superstar was never one to settle for the bottom of the competition. “When Alaska came about, it was like she’s the center of the universe and she gets to be the leading role of everything,” she said in a Logo TV featurette.
Alaska also has a prolific music career, putting out bangers that can simultaneously read the filth out of a room (listen to her hit “Your Make-up Is Terrible”) and tear up a dancefloor.
Recently, she released her third full-length album, Vagina, after 2015’s Anus and 2016’s Poundcake.
Her songs, however, go beyond frivolous and campy concerns. She told MTV News at RuPaul’s DragCon this year, “Some of the message is I like to get wasted at nightclubs and get thrown out. Some of the message is that, like a lot of people, I’m fuckin’ pissed off at how women are treated in this fuckin’ country and in this world. So I just write what I’m feeling and that’s something I feel a lot.”
The queen is also a preacher who goes down from her pulpit: an influential artist who uses her platform to amplify causes about gender equality and even open up the male-dominated arena of drag.
“I think Alaska is probably one of the most important drag queens to the drag community simply because she’s not afraid to do what’s uncomfortable in order to do what’s right," said Abhora, the winner of her drag pageant, Drag Queen of the Year – which she made a point to include non-binary, transgender, and even cisgender contestants.
Alaska is set to return to Manila with a show called An Evening with Alaska on August 29 at the Samsung Hall in SM Aura Premier.
Prior to her show, we sent Alaska some questions via email, talking about her flourishing career after Drag Race – and her views on other pressing issues that will make you say, “Hear, hear!”
Your upcoming show wouldn’t be your first in Manila. You previously performed at Nectar, and now, you have a show at a thousand-seater theatre. How was that show like, and have your expectations changed?
The show in Manila was really fun and dynamic and exciting. I was also really impressed and inspired by the Drag queens there.
No matter what the venue, whether it's a huge arena or a tiny bar, I have a good time as long as I can connect with the people in the audience and with the other Drag queens in the show.
What do you think makes the drag scene here different, in terms of the local queens and the fans?
The queens in Manila have a level of fierceness that is really inspiring! They are sexy and energetic and inventive.
Also the fans are very warm and enthusiastic, which I love.
What do you think has changed since you left Drag Race – especially on the most recent seasons?
I think the biggest change has been the finale episodes. In the past it was sort of a recap of what happened throughout the season, and now there's more of an emphasis on drama and surprises happening on the night of the finale.
Season villains have always been a thing in Drag Race. At one point, Rolaskatox was considered as one. Who are some of the season villains you love to hate in the history of the show?
I think people get labeled a villain when they exhibit certain traits that exist within all of us.
People called me a snake when I was overcome with a flood of emotions – ambition, high expectations, immense pressure. I succumbed to these things, and that happens to all of us at times.
But when it happens to someone during the 5-week filming period, sometimes they can be called a villain. But at the end of the day every queen who has been on Drag Race is a human.
In the most recent season of All Stars, two queens were crowned. If there was another queen who could be crowned alongside you in All Stars 2, who would you like it to be?
Roxxxy Andrews – I believe she represents Drag excellence and she is here to make it clear.
Drag, in recent years, has gained widespread acceptance and popularity even among younger people and those outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. What can you say about this?
I'm glad that more and more people are enjoying the art of Drag. Drag is the celebration and worship of divine feminine energy, which is something our out-of-balance world needs desperately right now.
We still have a long way to go. A lot of places within the entertainment industry still don't understand Drag and close the door on artists who are Drag performers. I hope this changes and I hope to be a part of this change.
You have made it a point that Drag Queen of the Year, the pageant you have staged, would also be an inclusive space: for non-binary people, trans women, and even cisgender women. Why do you think is it important to open up this arena of Drag?
We made it this way because that is the reality of the Drag community. I have always worked alongside AFAB [assigned female at birth] performers and trans women and so I think it just makes sense for it to be an open call for anyone who is fierce.
It was a huge success. The anonymous Drag Elders did a great job in choosing a variety of performers who all brought 110% and really burned the building to the ground with their performances. I can't wait to do it again next year.
Last May, you released your new album, Vagina. Was there a direction, sound, or narrative you deliberately wanted to pursue differently from your previous albums? Why were there not much collaborations unlike the previous ones?
We actually wrote a lot of the music from Vagina in the cabin in the woods at the same time Jeremy [Mikush] and I wrote Amethyst Journey.
It came out of a very intimate and inspiring creative time. I love collaborating with other artists – Big Dipper is featured on "Cellulite," for instance, and I just performed "Pride" with Vivacious at the World Pride opening ceremony in New York City, which was amazing.
We wanted to make an album that was very much Alaska, so there are frivolous songs about getting wasted in night clubs, or getting thrown out of night clubs, or getting pissed on for fun, and there are also poignant songs about woman empowerment and the Me Too movement, and body positivity.
You said about Vagina: “In the wake of the current political climate, where women’s bodies are being regulated and controlled by men, I think the title grabs people’s attention and it’s a little dangerous.” Can you elaborate on this? Which track/s best express this thought?
The title track, "Vagina," is dedicated to all women everywhere – whether they have a vagina or not.
I think it is important for us to tip the scales of the earth energetically to lift up women and feminine energy in order toheal and move forward to a more prosperous future for humanity. Adam, take a seat, cuz Miss Eve is on duty.
The 2020 elections are coming. If you were to become the first drag president, what would you do? What are your priorities, and what platform would you run on?
I've thought about getting into politics. I think radical change is needed.
There should be equal pay for everyone. There should be reparations and atonement for the horrors that enslavement inflicted upon generations of people in America.
Trans rights are human rights and we have a long way to go in making sure that trans people are safe and respected and employed in our country and the world.
Aside from the bops you’ll be performing, what can we expect from your upcoming Manila show?
Drag, beauty, fashion, beauty, glamour, fashion, and Drag. – Rappler.com