Alaska Thunderfuck on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Where to Eat in LA, and Why She Wants You to Listen to Her ‘Anus’
All photos courtesy Producer Entertainment
RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, theatre junkie, and space alien Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 just released one of the best dance albums of the year. Don’t believe us? Her debut album, titillatingly titled ‘Anus‘, shot to the number one spot on the iTunes Dance chart and number three on the Billboard dance chart. Now the performative provocateur will be in New York for the next week mounting The Gayest Show You’ve Ever Seen, a queer cabaret act at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. We spoke with Alaska right before she jumped on a plane from LA to NY to talk about the show, her album, and Caitlyn Jenner:
So, you’re back at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Can you tell me a little bit about The Gayest Show You’ve Ever Seen?
It’s really gay. My best friend [Handsome] Jeremy and I have been doing cabaret shows for many years. One of the main things that attracts us to the music that we like is that it’s all pretty gay shit. So we decided to do a show that’s celebrating all these really gay things that we like.
What kind of really gay music is a part of it?
I asked a bunch of people what they thought the gayest music was and everyone has different answers. We have show tunes and Ethel Merman. I wanted to throw a Liberace reference into it. There’s a whole ‘Golden Girls’ segment, which is really fun.
Is there anything from your new album ‘Anus’ in the show?
Absolutely. What’s gayer than an album named ‘Anus’?
It’s been really well received. Are you really excited about that?
I am. It’s pretty really cool. I’m glad people are getting into it because I put a lot of work into it.
It really shows when you listen to it. It’s really heavy dance-electronic, which your fans would expect from you. But you incorporate some trap inspiration on “Gimme All Your Money” and then you have that gorgeous piano intro to “Nails” which is kind of a throwback. Was it important for you to show a wide range on your first album?
Yes, because I’m the type of person who likes to perform so many types of songs. I like to go from rapping and swearing to singing really sweet, sad ballads. I wanted to make some of my own music that did that. I really love making music videos. This way, the music all sounds different, so the videos are all different.
Your music videos are really incredible—very well produced, and, visually, very alluring. Can you talk a little bit about that process?
Music videos are currently my drug of choice because they’re really expensive but they’re really gratifying. It’s like giving birth to a child because you have all these people involved and you’re hoping and praying everything comes together and everything works. Then you wait—there’s this gestation period where they’re putting everything together and editing it, and color correcting and everything like that. Finally you get it and [southern belle accent] all the pain and torture is worth it.
I want to backtrack a little bit and ask: do you remember the first time you performed in drag?
Yes I do! I performed when Chi Chi LaRue came to Pittsburgh. She did a contest called the Fishbowl Contest. You didn’t know what you were going to perform until you got on stage and picked your song out of the fishbowl. The prize was $200 or something astronomical. All the major queens from Pittsburgh came out and I had never performed in drag before in my life. But I showed up and I picked “How Many Licks” by Lil Kim, which is a song that I knew really well. I ended up winning the contest. That was sort of when I was bit by the drag bug and I got addicted.
Then jump-cut to you infamously auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race every season it was on and then getting in on Season Five. Fifth time’s a charm?
I guess so. I’m glad I wasn’t on before that because I wouldn’t have looked right and I wouldn’t have been ready, and I don’t think the world would have been ready.
Did Alaska evolve during those years? Did you try each time harder and harder to impress RuPaul?
I think it just comes down to learning your craft and getting better at it. The more you do it, the better you become at it. I definitely needed that time to just do it – go out on stage, do my makeup a whole bunch of times, learn what looks good on camera. The audition process, every year, was really helpful. You get to take an inventory on tape each time of what you have. “This is where I’m at.” That’s why I always encourage younger queens to audition to say, “okay, this is where I’m at right now.” Doing that, I think helps you grow and move forward.
And you went on to excel that season, even with a type of drag that’s maybe a little different from the mainstream, maybe a little more like performance art. How would you define “drag” and your drag? I know you come from a tranimal tradition, correct?
Totally. Those are kind of the crazy, wild, scary drag queens like the queens of Trannyshack: Squeaky Blonde, Jer Ber Jones, Phaedra. All of these queens were my heroes. I went to Trannyshack when I was 22 when I lived in San Francisco. That was the spark that made say, “I want to be that”. I went back to Pittsburgh and that’s when the Chi Chi LaRue thing happened. That was the spark that made it so acceptable, and you’re telling a story by being on stage. I really loved that aspect to it. There weren’t any rules. I’ve always been theater. I went to school for theater and I did theater. I love acting and theater but there are very few roles for someone who is like me – who falls between two categories. In drag, there aren’t those rules and restrictions. That’s what attracted me to it.
You’re coming to New York soon, but you’re living in LA. What spots do you like going to in your neighborhood?
I live near Silver Lake – I live right near The Eagle which is really fun because they play gay porn on the TV. That’s always nice when you’re catching up with your friends. I also love My Vegan Gold because they have these amazing fake chicken nuggets. I don’t eat meat and they’re really good.
What do you think of the proliferation of gay and LGBT culture in the mainstream? Like, the Supreme Court decision and people like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, who are giving great visibility to the trans community.
I think it’s great. I think it’s a good thing. I think that we may have differences. Caitlyn Jenner is a Republican, so politically I think she might be at odds with a lot of people in the LGBT community. However, I think it’s great that she’s giving visibility to the transgender community because there are a lot of people who are on this journey and I think we all have to be a little more understanding and a little more sensitive. I think her having this huge visibility is moving things in the right direction.