The Multi-Talented Alaska Goes Meta
Look out for a new comedy special, vodka, and intimate memoir.
Since winning season two of Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars, Alaska Thunderfuk has been keeping busy to say the least. In addition to a new album and tour, this multifunctional queen has a comedy special, vodka, and new book all out now.
I caught up with Alaska over Zoom to hear all about the process of editing a comedy show mid-quarantine, late ’90s early 2000s music aesthetics, and the layers of meta-commentary inherent in the art form known as drag.
John deBary: I want to start by talking about The Alaska Thunderfuck Extra Special Comedy Special. I thought it was really amazing the way that you structured it. I want to hear about the process of filming something in 2019 and then releasing it in 2021.
Alaska: No, it was really weird. Watching it back and editing it during complete lockdown—like deep first-wave lockdown—was really weird because we didn’t know how precious it was to gather with people in a room like that. We were just doing it and having a good time. And I was like, we can’t just release this, no context of how the world has changed. So, we ended up reaching out and interviewing people and adding zoom interviews, which, now, I mean, if it doesn’t have Zoom interviews, what is that?
JdB: One of the things I’ve noticed throughout your whole career is how it feels like there’s a meta layer of commentary and self-reflection, which I saw play out in the special, which was very much about the process of recording a special and reconsidering it amidst a pandemic. It feels like a theme to me: You’re always trying to have a comment on a comment.
A: Yeah, for sure. I always liked that and I think it’s why I like drag because drag is beautiful and it is fashion and it is glamor, but it’s also kind of dissecting fashion and beauty and glamor. It’s like a parody. That’s why I like drag. I like taking things apart and looking under the hood.
JdB: How did you get into drag?
A: Funny you should ask! You should pick up a copy of my new book, which will tell you all about that. It’s called My Name’s Yours, What’s Alaska? It basically follows my whole life, from being born until now. Drag is a huge part of that and it was very organic. Drag was not a viable career choice when I decided I wanted to throw myself into this world. It was a crazy, weird, niche, underground thing and I was just really obsessed with it and wanted to be a part of it.
JdB: Tell me about the title.
A: Well. It’s stolen from Rose’s Turn and is just an old show biz saying and so I wanted to invert it and make it like, I don’t know, make it stupid. “My name’s yours, what’s Alaska” was the first thing you hear on my very first album, Anus, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a really good name for a book.” The publishers originally thought it was a misprint and wrote “My Name’s Alaska” and I was like, “No, no, no, no. We have to switch it. We have to make it make no sense. Thank you.”
JdB: Amazing. What about the writing process?
A: It was definitely largely a quarantine baby. That’s when we did the bulk of the work on it. It’s like a very long therapy session, but you don’t just do it once and then move on. You write it and then you write another thing and then you have to go back and read it all again, and then you have to make sure the commas and periods are in the right place. It's a very difficult process. I have a lot of respect for writers. It was a lot of work but I’m happy with the result.
JdB: Your fourth album, Red 4 Filth, is coming out in 2022. What was the inspiration behind the album?
A: It’s all music that was inspired by the ’90s and early 2000s, which was the time in my life when I really started to discover and really fall in love with music. We did a checklist of every sound and texture and vibe: There’s some Aqua, there’s some Weezer and Toni Braxton. There’s some Britney Spears influences. It was really fun to do.
JdB: I just watched the “Wow” video, which has a very Blink-182 vibe for me. I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t in drag in the video.
A: What is “drag,” really, right? I was more nervous and scared doing that music video than any of the others because it was in front of about 20 people and I was playing with a real band. They’re called The Disciplez and they’re amazing. And they have a vibe and then I show up and I’m like, “Hi, I’m going to be lip synching to this song that you’ve never heard. Okay, ready? Let’s go.” And I was really nervous, but they were amazing and I’m glad we did it.
JdB: How do you feel drag culture has progressed since you started?
A: The big one is that drag is now a viable career choice, which makes me giggle because, when I started doing drag, it was taking a big leap because there was no career path. It was very underground, but it was something I was really compelled by and something I was really drawn to. And guys were like “I’m never going to date you if you do drag.” It was really taking a leap to follow the attraction and inclination towards drag. Now it’s like you could go to college or spend $30,000 on a package for RuPauls’ Drag Race.
JdB: Are you watching any of the current seasons?
A: I’m watching them all. I also love Dragula.
JdB: I just interviewed Merrie Cherry. She’s wonderful but now she’s getting heat online based on how she was portrayed on Dragula. Do you have any queens you’re fond of?
A: I really love Astrud from this season of Dragula. I think she is foolishly talented and I’m excited to see what she does in her life because she’s really good.
JdB: What’s something about drag that you wish more people knew?
A: I feel like people know a lot! You were talking about Merrie Cherry getting heat online and I guess I would like people to know that drag queens are human beings. When queens get on a platform or a reality show, people stop having the courtesy that they would have with any human being face to face in a room. And I think this applies to anyone online. Social media has this way of making us act really heinous and really gross toward each other. And I think that’s dumb and I think people should stop. I don’t know how to make people stop, but they should.
JdB: What’s next for you?
A: I don’t know. Let’s get the book and the tour and the album and the vodka off the ground and then we’ll think about what’s next, but who knows? Anus-thing is possible.