Alaska Thunderfuck, runner-up on the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, and all around amazing queen has the number one dance album in the country, entitled Anus. One can stupidly assume Anus is a flash in a pan, or that people are buying it as a joke. But when you cast aside your preconceptions, Anus is a really fucking good album. From one track to the next, Alaska is a beast whenever she comes on, from the engine-revving industrial beats of "This Is My Hair" to the heartfelt crooning of "The Shade of It All" (featuring other drag race alumni Willam and Courtney Act). The variety found shows Alaska reminding everyone she's not out to just make a "drag" album, but one anyone on the street can love like a child.
Despite being a runner-up, Alaska was the star of season five. She seamlessly went from delivering the funniest moments of the show, like bringing out every girl's new best friend "Lil' Poundcake," and being one of the most versatile on the runway. It was her drive that brought her to kill every challenge she competed in, doing her best to prove lame rumors wrong about only being on the show because her boyfriend at the time Sharon Needles won season four of RuPaul's Drag Race. But Alaska moved past the haters and built an aesthetic all her own. Videos like "Your Makeup Is Terrible" take a fun and goofy song, and put it to a glamorous yet terrifying video. She's all her own.
We interviewed Alaska about swear words, the drag illuminati, and how terrifying it is to meet Rupaul.
Noisey: Was it crazy watching yourself on TV when seaon five came out?
Alaska Thunderfuck: Oh my gosh, it’s so weird and it’s instantly like, "Oh god, I’m so ugly." Being in drag, I mean. So you just start wearing a lot more makeup after you’ve seen yourself on TV because you’re like, "Fuck, what was I doing?" But it’s cool. I mean, I like it. It’s my favorite show so I was going to watch it whether I was on it or not.
Totally. You applied for the show every year before you got on, right?
Oh, gurl. Yes. Every single year. And I would send in a tape and then I would get really far in the process. I would go do my psychological evaluation, and then I would not get it. And this happened for like, five years in a row.
What did you think when they finally put you on the show?
Well, I think that the timing was just right for them and for me. And RuPaul has talked about this on his podcast as well. It’s like the world isn’t really ready for Alaska Thunderfuck on season four of Drag Race, but by the time season five had happened, it had expanded a little bit, people’s minds were a little bit more open. And I wasn’t ready beforehand. I would have gone home instantly if I had gotten on earlier. So I think it was really good timing. I’m glad it happened the way it did. I don’t wanna be on there on season one, I would have looked bad.
It’s funny watching season one of that show to begin with. It looks kinda cheap and goofy and then it became this huge fucking thing by like season five or so.
It’s amazing. Season one is totally like the pilot. I mean, it was no money, but it had something really special to it which even with a shitty set and no money it still had that fucking something so special that you can sense. And here we are now. It’s amazing.
How has your life changed, being on the show?
Everything! Everything’s different. It’s like BC and AD. It’s like before Drag Race and after Drag Race. Now I’m working, I get to do this for a living. I get to travel the world and do what I do for a living which is a huge gift. And I’m so grateful to RuPaul and to the entire process and to everyone who watches. It’s amazing. It’s really cool.
What was it like meeting him for the first time?
RuPaul? Oh my gosh, so scary.
Yeah I’ve had some friends meet him. Everyone says he’s so nice, but it’s terrifying.
Well, I know, because he’s motherfucking RuPaul! [Laughs] He’s this very... he just has a glossy touch to him and he’s really an amazing presence. And everybody asks me "what’s he like in real life?" and it’s like there is no... it’s not like he’s putting it on for TV. That’s who he is all the time. He’s amazing and he’s such a natural at show business and I really look up to him.
Are you a big reality TV watcher?
Um, a little bit. I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I’ll watch some Housewives. If I’m in England I’ll watch Four in a Bed and Come Dine with Me, those kind of count as reality.
It's amazing how much the show has given queens visibility. I grew up in San Francisco so my mom was really into the drag scene, so I know a little bit about it, but now everyone can talk about it no matter what fucking crazy place you’re from.
Absolutely. I know. It’s like its own language and phraseology. So everyone’s like “werk” and “hunty” and “fierce,” “fish.”
Definitely. I think "throwing shade" is permanently in my vocabulary.
It’s become a thing!
Do you remember the first drag show you attended as someone in the audience?
As a little baby gay? Yes I do. I was like, 18 and it was in West Virginia because I was allowed to get into the clubs in West Virginia, not Pennsylvania where I was growing up. And we went in and there was a drag queen on stage and she was huge and beautiful, but she was lip syncing to a song. I was legitimately stunned. I was like, "Why isn’t she singing?" Because the only drag I had seen was on The Birdcage where Nathan Lane is doing her bit and she’s actually singing. So I was really stunned and a little disappointed that this drag queen was lip syncing. I didn’t get it. Of course now I understand that lip syncing is an amazing art form. It’s wonderful. But it sort of was an impetus for me to start doing drag and to be a live singing queen. Because I like using my voice on stage.
Yeah. I think what shocked me the most about the album. I’ve listened to some drag music, but I think one of the songs like “The Shade of It All," there’s some real fucking incredible singing on that.
Oh my gosh, thank you. I wanted to do a song with Willam and Courtney, but I wanted to do something so different than what we had done before. So I had my best friend Jeremy write me some piano music, and then I was in my hotel room in Sweden and I just wrote this really sad, sweet ballad. And then Willam and Courtney come in and they’re like the backup angels. So it’s like our heartfelt moment.
It’s pretty perfect. Is there a drag queen illuminati?
Um. [Laughs] What do you mean?
Seems like once you're on the show, instantly everyone you hang out with is a total superstar, from like Courtney or Bianca.
I think we’re all just friends because we’ve all been through this life changing experience. Maybe that’s what that is. Maybe Beyoncé hangs out with—I don’t know, who else is in the illuminati? But, you know, it’s people you have stuff in common with. We’re all sort of going through the same shit so we’re friends.
So with the record it shot up to number two on the dance charts for “Anus.”
I know! The album charting so high has been amazing. I apparently love the number two spot, I guess. [Laughs] But no, it’s amazing. And it’s just on presale so I can’t wait for it to come out on June 23.
Yeah, it’s gonna be great. What do you think is the biggest difference between vanilla dance music and drag dance music is?
I think with drag music, the visual component is really important, because I wanted to do this album and I wanted to have a bunch of different sounding music so that I could put out videos that look really different. My new drug—I don’t do drugs anymore, but instead of drugs, I now do music videos, because they cost a lot of money and they’re really intoxicating. And so I get to do all these really vastly different visual things. So I think with drag music the visual component is as important if not more important than the actual music.
Going into that, the video for “You’re Makeup Is Terrible,” what was your vision behind that beginning?
Wow. Well I was really hands on doing that video, because I wanted to tell this story and I wanted it to be like an evening in the life of a RuGirl, or an evening in the life of Alaska. So she’s getting out of the car, she’s going to the club, and then she has a mental breakdown, and shaves her head. And, of course, the only person who can legitimately tell you whether your makeup is terrible or not is Matthew Anderson because he’s the industry standard of cosmetical beauty. And he agreed to do it so it was amazing. Everything just really came together.
There are so many parts of the video that are really stunning and then it gets kind of terrifying. What gets sprayed on you guys?
That’s colored chalk dust. You can get it online, but it’s from this festival in India where for a week everything in the village is covered in that chalk dust, they just throw it at each other for a week so everything is just covered in this ethereal mystical colorful dust. It was so fun.
I was watching a drag-centric interview you were saying how it was Matthew just shaking his head around that really put it together.
Absolutely. He’s pretty brilliant. He’s really nice to work with and he’s a really kind gentle person.
What’s your favorite swear word?
My favorite swear word. Well, I’m from Pennsylvania. My mom was really good at swearing growing up. I mean "fuck" is such a good word. It’s four letters, it’s strong. So it’s like fucking fucking fucking fuck.
Nice. Is the Pennsylvania drag scene amazing?
Oh my god, yes. The Pennsylvania drag scene is everything. It’s where I started doing drag and then I moved to LA and I did a little bit of drag there and I sort of came of age as a drag queen in LA, and then I moved back to Pittsburgh where I really perfected and refined things. And so it’s amazing, we were able to really tell stories and be really visual and be really filthy and dirty and there were no rules. And so yeah if you’re in Pittsburgh you need to see some drag and if you’re in Philadelphia go ahead, gurl, go ahead and see some drag because you will live.
What other songs on the albums that don’t have videos yet do you really want to make something for?
Well we started a video for “This Is My Hair” and it’s going to be really cool. So it’s going to be coming out June 23 with the release of the album. I’m really excited for that one. And I’m really excited to do the video for “Anus” as well, the song. And “The Shade of It All” is going to be great because I’ll be working with Willam and Courtney and they’re stunning and gorgeous. And maybe “I Love Your Pussy” too. That’ll be fun. I envision it being really pink.
Nice. Is there a plan for “Give Me All Your Money” because I was not expecting a fucking trap song on that album which is really awesome.
I know, that’s my hood moment, gurl. Well, I really wanted to do a song with Laganja because I need to start sending her some checks because I’ve stolen so many of her catchphrases. So this is a way I can send her some checks. I want to do a video with tons of death drops. I want to try and break the world record for death drops in a video.
If you were to show “Anus” to someone on the street who has never listened to your music at all, what would you hope their reaction was?
I hope they don’t even think of it as drag music. I hope they listen to it and hear it and hear the love and the emotional journey that the album will take you on. I like to think of it like Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt, because when I had that album and I was growing up I would just be in my room and I would listen to it over and over and over. I hope it will be an album like that. And so, I don’t know. It will connect with whatever time in your life it is and this music will always help you remember whatever stage in your life you’re at. It’s really personal, you know. Music is really personal.
You can buy "Anus" on iTunes right now.
Please say hieee to John on Twitter - @JohnXHill