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Drag star Alaska talks Pygmalion, drag bans

Drag queen Alaska placed second on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5 and won RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 2, but she's also released albums such as "Red 4 Filth" and "Poundcake."

The annual arts and culture festival Pygmalion begins next week in Champaign-Urbana. One of the first acts features two winners of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Alaska (Also known as Alaska 5000 and Alaska Thunderf*ck) and Monét X Change.

Given the growing climate of hostility toward drag in some parts of the country, festival co-director Patrick Singer said he was excited to book two prominent queens.

“They don’t typically perform together,” Singer said. “I’m really thrilled because it’s really going to be something that I have no idea what they’re going to do. But I feel like it’s going to be extremely entertaining.”

The drag show kicks off three days of music, comedy and celebrity speakers like chef Joanne Lee Molinaro and author Allison Boot in venues including the Rose Bowl Tavern, Analog, the Urbana Free Library, Canopy Club and the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

IPM reporter Owen Henderson recently spoke with Alaska about her work, upcoming show and the growing wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiment in state legislatures across the country.

 

 

OWEN HENDERSON: Since her time on Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and her winning run on All Stars 2, Alaska has released albums and toured the world, in addition to creating and starring in “Drag: The Musical” and hosting the podcast Race Chaser.

So, for the uninitiated in our audience, who is Alaska?

ALASKA: Alaska Thunderf*ck is a glamazonian princess from the planet Glamtron, and she crashed landed on planet Earth in the mid-to-late 1980s and has since been trying to get enough Twitter followers to get her spaceship back up and running.

But people might know me because I was on RuPaul’s Drag Race a few times.

HENDERSON: What can audience members expect from your performance at Krannert? 

ALASKA: What can you expect from the show? Well, I’m going to be coming with my best friend Jeremy [Mikush], who plays the piano, and so we’re gonna sing some songs. And yeah, it’s going to be lovely. 

HENDERSON: You’ve done some fundraising for causes that are working against the effort to restrict in band drag in states around the country. Now, Illinois isn’t one of those states, but what do you have to say to the politicians and the supporters of those bills? 

ALASKA: Well, I mean, it’s important to remember that, you know, queer people have always existed. And so you know, you can’t make that illegal.

I mean, you can try and it wastes everyone’s time and resources, but you can’t make us disappear. So we’re always going to be here and we’re not going anywhere.

I think it’s important to focus on issues that are actually important like you know, healthcare is really expensive in this country and climate change is really bad, and I mean, reproductive freedom. There are really way more important things that politicians should be spending time on. 

HENDERSON: So you’ve won Drag Race, you’ve released albums, been in movies, created a drag musical, you co-host a hit podcast — what else is on the horizon for you? Is there anything you haven’t gotten to do yet that you’d love to try? 

ALASKA: I’m always working on stuff that I don’t know, inspires me, and challenges me and so I don’t know, I’m just gonna keep doing drag and whatever that means. So I’m gonna keep making music and I’m gonna keep telling stories and so I don’t know.

HENDERSON: Alaska will perform alongside Monét X Change at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on Thursday, September 21 at 9 p.m. 

 

Picture of Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson

Owen Henderson covers arts and culture, as well as LGBTQ issues for Illinois Public Media News. He studied journalism, Spanish and theater at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has worked with Illinois Public Media in various capacities since 2021.

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