With a new book, new music, and a brand new nationwide tour, 2022 truly is going to be the year of Alaska. For anyone who picks up her new book My Name’s Yours, What’s Alaska, they will see that the road from small town drag performer to global multimedia performer was not an easy one. As Alaska pulls the lid back on her past and strips down in the video for her new single ‘Wow’, I sat down for an intimate chat with this one of a kind performer. We chatted about past relationships, her new music, and who she thinks could be the perfect choice to play Alaska on the big-screen!
Michael Cook: So many books are written by drag performers, but My Name’s Yours, What’s Alaska? is extremely personal and intimate. This also seems to follow the lead of some of your music, with the single ‘Wow’ showing you performing raucous rock and roll out of drag. Is this a new and more personal Alaska we’re seeing?
Alaska: Yeah, well when it came down to what kind of book we were going to do, I could have done a book filled with pictures and put five words in it. I’ve always liked writing and I wanted to write a B-O-O-K book, okay. In doing that, it was unavoidable to leave out the stuff that was icky, difficult and stupid; you can’t leave that stuff out, so we didn’t. We went there. As far as the music, yeah sure. I’ve always come out drag from a perspective that I get to do stuff that I like and interests me, but I guess taking off my wig and singing with a guitar in no makeup is interesting to me!
MC: To read about where you come from and what has molded you into who Alaska truly is was really enlightening. Was it as liberating for you to be able to do so as well?
A: It was definitely difficult. It was challenging; it was like a prolonged therapy session where you rehash your whole life. Then you go back and read it again to make sure that all of the commas and capital letters are in the right place (laughs). It was difficult, it was cathartic, it was therapeutic, and I am proud of the result. I am glad the process of wiring the book is over (laughs).
MC: You speak very openly, particularly about your relationship with RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 winner Sharon Needles. After reading it, it seemed that not only did you pay tribute to your relationship as it was, but in the form that it is right now. Did you let Sharon know that you were going to be brutally honest about your relationship?
A: Yes of course. She knew about it and she helped me remember things that I couldn’t. That was the way that it was for everyone that is mentioned in the book; my memory is one that is like the memory of a dead goldfish (laughs) with dates and things. We had to go back and talk to everyone and fill in the holes. She knew about it and she helped tell the stories. I hope the takeaway is….look, it is so simplistic and it is so Hollywood to say “they were together and now they’re broken up”. In real life, relationships are more complex than that. I am glad that you were able to take away that now we’re friends. We went through this horrible, dramatic, crazy thing and now we have come out on the other side and we are able to be in a different place and that is amazing.
MC: Absolutely. Relationships always take a tremendous amount of work and when they don’t work out, it is simply too heavy a burden to hold onto the anger, wouldn’t you say?
A: Yes, it’s too much work to stay mad.
MC: You have said in the past that it is “easier to not win “‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’”. That is an interesting perspective; looking back on your RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 experience and then moving on to win All Stars 2, does it almost seem like it is like looking at someone else’s experiences? Your own experiences were quite some time ago now.
A: It was quite a long time ago. I always tell young drag queens if they want a piece of advice and they are trying out for Drag Race, my advice is “dont win…don’t do it” (laughs). Losing Drag Race was the best thing that could have happened. It set me on the path that it did; there was so much unknown. When you win, it’s like “well now you’ve done that and that’s that” and it’s all wrapped up in a bow. Now when you don’t win, there is so much more unknown and possibility. So don’t win Drag Race kids!
MC: The path you have been on is filled with fantastic new music. While ‘beautiful (night 4 a) breakdown” is classic dance/pop anthem, ‘Wow’ is a completely fresh new spin on the kind of music we have gotten from Alaska. The video is very stripped down, with a very Dave Grohl/90’s Seattle vibe.
A: Thank you so much! That was definitely the scariest music video that I have ever done. There is no armor, with drag you have control over every aspect of it and this was like “we are taking all of that away”. I worked with the band The Disciples and it was actually at one of their shows. They had the audience there watching us jam out and then I got up and was like “okay I’m going to lip sync this song that no one has ever heard of”; it was so scary.
MC: Ironically, on your season of Drag Race many years ago, you were criticized for performing in a challenge as a boy, and now in one of your most well-received videos you are completely stripped down performing out of drag. Life truly is filled with twists and turns we don’t see coming.
A: (laughs) Well maybe in my next video, I’ll perform as Buffalo Bill’s Barnyard Buddy!
MC: Do you think you want to do more music in this stripped down and armor-less way?
A: I think it really just depends on the song. It depends on the vibe. For ‘Wow’ it had to be that. It depends on the song and the project, but if it calls for that and it calls for that guy, yeah I’ll be that guy.
MC: With your new music finally being released and being able to tour after an extended period of not being able to be in front of audiences, what does it feel like?
A: It feels really amazing. It has been a long road for a lot of people. There is nothing that can replace or replicate the feeling of having real people in a room watching something real happen. I am really excited for it and it is going to be amazing.
MC: Let’s say the book is adapted into a full big-screen Oscar-bait screenplay. Who plays Alaska?
A: Sandra Bullock (laughs)! I really don’t know but I would really like young models to play Sharon and me.
MC: The past couple years have been filled so much turmoil, change and sometimes uncertainty. What do you think you have learned in the past couple years that you are taking into the next phase of your career?
A: I have learned that writing a book is really hard. I have learned that it is okay to make mistakes in your life as long as you are able to learn from them and use them as an opportunity to make the world better. I think that is really important and I hope that people are able to take that away from the book as well.
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