An Exclusive Interview With Alaska, From RuPaul’s Drag Race

I am a huge fan of drag for many reasons; first and foremost being that it is an extremely important form of performance art. Drag uses humor as means of relaying a message, and because humor tends to get overlooked as a valid way to communicate through art, drag tends to get pigeonholed into being something “less than” when you think about it in terms what you’d see at a museum. I can’t think of almost anything more artistically redeeming than a huge museum full of drag queens, but maybe that’s just me.

I was lucky enough to snag an interview with one of drag’s biggest stars – our very own Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame. Find out what Alaska has to say about who she is, where she came from, and where she is going! She even drops in some Marshall McLuhan for good measure.
image - Flickr / CarrieLu
image – Flickr / CarrieLu

TC: Who is Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, and how different is she from Justin Honard?

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 is a princess from the distant planet Glamtr0n.  She was banished by her evil twin sister to the most abysmal place in the universe, Earth, and stripped of all her wealth and power.  Ever since, she has been on a quest to gain enough Twitter followers to get her space ship up and running again, and to return to her home planet to fulfill her destiny.  

As a visitor to Earth, Alaska has very basic knowledge of human customs and culture.  Alaska is sometimes lewd and often inappropriate– but we love her anyway.  Justin Andrew Honard is a mild-mannered artist who currently resides in Los Angeles.  

TC: Would you say there is a message behind Alaska Thunderfuck 5000? 

The medium is the message.  But I also think there’s an element of Alaska’s tenacity at making glamour happen with very little (ie: gowns from garbage bags, trash into treasure, etc.) that speaks to making the best out of your situation, whatever it may be.  

TC: You’ve performed several times with Trannyshack (a group of drag superstars based in San Francisco). What are some of the differences between working with the Trannyshack queens and working with your co-stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Trannyshack is the reason I started doing drag.  The queens of Trannyshack make drag seem so dangerous and fun and they tell a story with the time they have onstage.  They also make it look easy, which is inspiring to a young baby drag queen.  As a result I definitely carry those Trannyshack elements with me wherever I go.  I don’t see much of a difference in performing with Trannyshack or performing with my RuPaul’s Drag Race sisters– we’re all trying to put on the best show possible and entertain the children of the world.  

TC: Trannyshack performances tend to focus on both “the look” and “the act,” rather than just one or the other – if you had to pick, which element of drag would you say is more important and why?

If I had to pick I’d say 100% of the time the act is more important.  I’ve seen some of the most breathtaking looks in the world fall completely flat onstage due to lack of stage presence on the part of the performer.  And I’ve seen some of the most rotted, heinous looks win over an entire audience because of the power the performer brings to the stage.  However, the look is also important– you can get away with a lot more onstage when you’re pretty.  

TC: Is there a difference between performance art and a drag show?

Drag is performance art… but with better hair and makeup.  The beauty and the glamour and the sparkles get people to pay attention, which opens their minds to the message you’re sending as an artist.  For instance, RuPaul’s Drag Race, on the surface, is a frivolous contest about men dressing up like ladies.  But there are actually really deep, meaningful life lessons that RuPaul is sharing through this medium.  And it is reaching people who only tuned in because of the sparkles.  

TC: How has the increased exposure of drag culture to the mass public via TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race helped the push for equal rights for LGBTQ people? 

I hope that the more exposure the world of drag receives, the more people understand that gender and sexuality and really all of humanity are much more confusing and convoluted than the mainstream media has time to demonstrate.  Any art form that shines light on the broad, expansive spectrum of human identity is a good thing.  

TC: What about drag queens and drag culture in general do you think is so polarizing?

It is confusing at first.  But the more you look at it, the more sense it makes.  Sort of like an episode of “30 Something.”  

TC: What is the scariest experience you’ve had while doing drag?

Some men (drunk) were cat-calling myself and my two sisters (drunk) while in full Jem & the Holograms drag… One thing led to another (because we were all drunk) and a wooden street divider was thrown, a fight erupted, and my sister Veruca got badly beaten up by these men.  Don’t drink and drag, children.  

TC: Tell me as much as you can about the term “Tranimal,” and how it influenced the evolution of Alaska Thunderfuck 5000.

What I love about the Tranimal movement is that it is the creation of huge lines and concepts but in a very short amount of time.  I automatically think of Fade-Dra who can put together an entire head-to-toe look and storyline in mere moments.  

TC: Very few people know who Leigh Bowery is, but everyone knows RuPaul. Why do you think that is? 

I don’t know that that’s necessarily true.  We have the internet now– Children of the world:  Google everything.  

TC: If being a drag queen hadn’t worked out as a way for you to make a living, what else would you have considered?

I’d still be performing in one way or another.  I’d still be doing what I’m doing– singing, acting, writing, and creating.  

TC: Who is your favorite drag queen of all time?

Impossible question.  But… Divine is definitely up there.  Glenn Milstead was an actor first and foremost, and Divine was his divine creation.  

TC: Can you name some “mainstream” entertainers that have ahem “borrowed” from drag culture?

Anywhere there is sparkle and fantasy and gasping for air because of beauty and glamour, there is drag.  So anytime you see a concert, whether it is Madonna or Taylor Swift or Alice Cooper, you are seeing drag.  I don’t consider it stealing or borrowing… I call it inspiration.  And I personally love inspiring young artists!  

TC: What do you see in the future for Alaska Thunderfuck 5000?

The play.  The movie.  The book.  But first… Twitter followers. TC mark

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