Alaska Thunderfuck is a goddess in the drag world. Well, technically, the universe, as she is an alien from the planet Glamtron. As all fans of Thunderfuck know, she first visited Earth in March, 1966. Since 1966, the alien famously ruled on RuPaul’s Drag Race and gained a legion of passionate followers.
Thunderfuck has dominated the world of drag, plus, she’s been making equally hilarious and empowering music. Most recently, the artist released a special as well as an addictive, new pride anthem, titled “ROY G BIV BBT.” Next, we’ll see a memoir from her this fall.
Thunderfuck was hooked by drag the first time she performed. With a background in the arts, she was attracted to the total sense of freedom offered by the medium. “There are no rules and it’s kind of the wild, wild West,” she told us. “We’re allowed to do music or graphic design or perform on stage or do a podcast, so I love that about drag, that there are no rules. I get to do a little of everything.” Recently, Thunderfuck told us about her career, plus why Alaska Thunderfuck and cannabis go hand in hand.
Creatively, what were you doing before your career in drag?
It’s such a good question. What was I doing before drag was in my life? I guess theater. I was in college, and I was studying theater because I was going to be a communications major, and then, at the very last minute, my mom was like, “You’re going to do this. You’re going to go to college, and you’re spending all this money to go to college, so you can do what you really want to do, or you can do what you think you’re supposed to do.”
Anything about a communications major you think applies to drag?
What is a communications major? I guess there is overlap. Drag is communication, but then again, so is theater. The training I got at the University of Pittsburgh was like, “You’re not just going to study acting, you have to do everything.” I had to drill sets, and I had to do costume design, and I had to do lighting design, and I had to direct stuff, too. It’s all communication if you have a clear message you want to tell people, and you have all the tools to make that clear to people or attempt to.
So you must have a pretty clear idea of what you want from staging to lighting when you perform, right?
Well, thank God there are really amazing people who are good at that stuff, good at lighting design and sound design. I know that I like to look really beautiful on stage. I usually just tell the lighting director, “Okay, this section, we want it to be red. Then, when we go into this song, it’s more blue.” Thank God that there are skilled, brilliant technicians who make it happen.
You released your first special recently. You said standup was good for getting out of your comfort zone, so I’m guessing it was a positive experience?
I don’t know if I’ve ever properly done stand up until this special. I had done roasts and stuff, which is great because it’s a format; you have a set amount of time. There are people who go before you; you stand at a podium; you read your things. Stand-up is so hard. You go out there and it’s you and a microphone, and that’s that. I have so much respect for comedians who are out there, because that’s hard. It’s really hard.
When you perform for the special or in general, how much is written ahead of time, and how much is improvised on stage?
In general, I love leaving so much open to whatever happens in the moment. Even to the point where it’s with songs, I liked to not rehearse too much. Whatever happens in the moment. If someone is wearing a blue shirt, then one of the lines in the song will become about the person wearing a blue shirt. You don’t know what’s going to happen on stage, and I like to leave a lot of room for whatever happens in the moment. So, for better or for worse, that’s what I like to do.
You’ve just released your Pride anthem, “ROY G BIV BBT.” How’d it come about?
Well, my dear friend Nick, Nick Loughlin, we like to collaborate on everything together all the time. He said, “You’ve got to do a pride song called ROY G BIV because that was our way of remembering the colors of the rainbow in order in school.” We then took it from there and we worked with the amazing writers at Killingsworth and Toby Marlo. Now, there’s a new pride flag; the pride flag doesn’t stop at violet. Now, we have black and brown and the trans colors in there as well. This was the updated celebration of the new pride flag.
Even when you’re recording an album in a studio, do you like to keep it spontaneous?
I love to just let stuff come to me from the music, like the chorus of this pride song. It very much just came out of the ether and it came from the music, the chords. It’s channeling from the Lord. It’s a vibe; it’s a feeling. You know it feels good, and you go toward it.
How much is marijuana a part of your creative process?
It is a little bit; it used to be way more. I remember when I wrote the song “This Is My Hair,” we were like, “We don’t really know what to do with that.” Then, I smoked weed one night, and it just was there. It was like, this is the song. Now it has become a song. The very concept of Alaska being from outer space all came from marijuana. The title “Alaska Thunderfuck” is named after a strain of marijuana. I stole the name from weed. Alaska and marijuana go very hand in hand.
How good was that weed for you to use that name?
Girl, at that time, I was in college. A dispensary was a distant fantasy. It didn’t exist. So, my friends were talking about strains they had tried in Amsterdam, and one of them was like, “Oh you have to try Alaskan Thunderfuck.” I just liked the sound of it. I was like, “What did you just say?” Those words next to each other are so weird to me and I was like, “That’s going to be my drag name.” I had never done drag before, but I said, “That’s going to be my drag name.”
Was marijuana pretty prevalent in theatre school?
Yeah. My theatre friends taught me how to smoke weed. I tried it a few times, and it didn’t really work, and it didn’t really do anything, but it was great hanging out with my college theatre crew. I’m such a lightweight with it, that I would just get so fucking stoned and then my friends, Meg and Alaina, would just feed me ice cream, and I would just be like, “Oh, this is the best sensation I’ve ever had.”
Do you look back fondly at your time in college then?
It was amazing. I met so many amazing people, and I learned so much, and I love Pittsburgh. I want to buy a house there one day. I love it.
How was it transitioning to life in LA and entering the drag world?
It was really weird and really difficult. My best friend Jeremy had gotten into UCLA. He was living here, and he was new out here, too, so thank God we had each other because it is such a strange and wacky and weird experience to move out here. I felt very out of place. I moved out here to become an actor. I immediately learned that I was too weird; I was too gay. My body was wrong and my voice. None of it was going to work in that world at all.
I felt like an alien on a different planet. I think that’s where the idea of Alaska being an alien came from, too. I was smoking weed, and I said, “She’s from the planet, Glamtron; she crash-landed on earth. That is her story.” That beamed into my mind as though she had already existed, and I was just channeling her. Thank you, marijuana.
I felt like a fucking alien living in Los Angeles. I was completely out of place. I didn’t know what I was doing, and drag was the thing that I was doing to just keep myself sane because I was like, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing with my life.”
Do you still feel like an alien in Los Angeles?
Oh no, I still completely feel like an alien. I go home to Pennsylvania; I go to Erie, and I’m like, “Oh, this is where people act normal.” I always feel like a weird outsider in Los Angeles.
I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot, but what was your first experience with drag? Was it a magical moment?
It was a magic moment. It was the spark that made me think like, “Oh, I can fucking do this.” Chi Chi LaRue came to Pittsburgh, and she was doing a contest called the Fishbowl contest, and there was a cash prize of $200. My rent was $275 at the time, so that was fierce.
I had never done drag before, but the gimmick with this show was you would show up and pick your song out of a fish bowl and that’s what song you were going to do. You would pick it right on stage. You didn’t know what you were going to be performing that night. I showed up; I had gimmicks planned. I had shit I was going to pull out of my skirt.
I picked a song, and it was “How Many Licks” by Lil’ Kim. I knew every word of it. Some girls picked really easy. Some girls picked Rocky Horror songs and didn’t know a fucking word. I picked Lil’ Kim, and I was like, “Okay, this is it.” I did all my gimmicks. I pulled shit out of my skirt. I was pulling dildos and vodka bottles, and then a baby came out on my skirt, and then my skirt came off and it said, “I love Chi Chi LaRue.” I was sucking up to the queen running the show, and I won.
Lil’ Kim’s music can be so empowering, so that’s a great way to start.
Oh, absolutely, and I love that we’re having such a resurgence; now we’ve got Megan Thee Stallion, and we’ve got fucking Cardi B out there singing about fucking my pussy and don’t you want to fuck my pussy? That’s so fierce and empowering and amazing.
You have some great lyrics, such as, “Adam take a seat cause Miss Eve is on duty. But I thought without men then we couldn’t have babies. Well, on Jurassic Park, all the dinos were ladies.” Any lyrics of yours you’d call your favorites?
Yes. I was singing about this ex-boyfriend that was really wrong to me, and I don’t like him.
I wrote a line, “He crossed me like the River Styx. But the sex was good ’cause I like small dicks.” But I’m more impressed with the cross. I like the River Styx because that’s such a Biblical image. You cross the River Styx in mythology. Those River Styx are the river that you cross and it erases all your memories from your life and you cleanse yourself from the life that you lived and you forget all about it. Then you go to start a new life.
So, I could see your joy talking about your first experience of performing drag. Sometimes creatives do fall out of love with what they do, though. Does that ever happen with drag?
There have been moments where it’s been touch and go where I’ve thought, “You know what? Fuck, I wish there could be a viable option for me to have job that didn’t depend on my face being out there and my body being on the stage and my image and my this and Alaska.” Then I’m like, “Literally every fucking job I’ve ever had that wasn’t drag, I had for less than a year, and it didn’t work.” Ultimately, I know that there are things about any job, even if it’s your dream job, that are going to be fucking annoying. I love drag, and I can’t do anything else, though. It’s my calling, and it’s my destiny and it’s what I’m doing. It’s what I have to do, and I’m grateful for that.
What were some of your other jobs?
Every job you can imagine. I worked in an office; I worked in a restaurant; I worked as a dishwasher for one night because I broke a whole fucking pile of bowls because I stacked them too high. I worked at TJ Maxx. I worked at a clothing boutique. I worked in the computer lab. I’ve done everything, and I can’t do anything.
How’s navigating the business side of drag?
I feel grateful that I haven’t really dealt with anyone who was trying to outright fuck me over, outright steal from me or do me wrong because I think that drag is still new in the sense of it being a viable career option. Because when I started drag, it was like you’re throwing your whole life away to do this crazy hobby that will make you no money, and that’s what it is. Now, it’s a viable career path.
Drag is becoming more viable overseas, too.
I love that. It’s great because the more eyes get to see drag, the better. I think that’ll make the world better and it’ll make humanity better. Ultimately, I think it’s a really great thing. RuPaul’s Drag Race is the best show on television, so now there’s a hundred different versions of it, and I’m going to watch them all.
It’s joy, and it’s liberation, and it’s empowerment and it’s all of these things. But ultimately, it just comes down to, it’s fucking fun. Drag is really fun. It’s fun to do. It’s fun to watch, and you are not allowed to have a bad time at a drag show. It is your job to laugh and have a great time.
It’s been a very difficult year for drag. How do you think it’ll bounce back?
No, it’s really hard that our community has been hit really hard because of COVID and because of everything’s shutting down. It’s good that we’ve been able to survive, drag has been able to shift online, but there’s just this really long list of queer spaces and bars and venues that are in danger of being gone forever, and that is devastating. So, I don’t know. Talking about it, moving money to help each other out is important. I hope that we can get these places back on their feet because they’re essential to us.
We talked about the future of drag, but what’s the future look like for Alaska Thunderfuck?
Oh my gosh. I’m working on new music right now, and it’s really exciting and really inspiring, and the pride single is really fun, and just getting to do that again is great. I would love to see us getting out there and dancing and screaming and sweating on each other and spitting on each other again. Filthy dollars being shoved in my brassiere, I look forward to that.
Photo credit: Shaun Vadella