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BWW Interview: Alaska Talks ON GOLDEN GIRLS, Why RuPaul Is A Total Rose Nylund, And Her New DRAG RACE-Themed Podcast

BWW Interview: Alaska Talks ON GOLDEN GIRLS, Why RuPaul Is A Total Rose Nylund, And Her New DRAG RACE-Themed Podcast
Alaska will return to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in August for an encore of ON GOLDEN GIRLS. Photo courtesy of the artist.

If you know one thing about Alaska, it's that she won RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE ALL-STARS 2. If you know a second thing about her, it's probably that she's obsessed with THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

So much so, in fact, that the drag queen and her partner-in-crime, Handsome Jeremy, molded that obsession into a live show, which returns to The Laurie Beechman Theatre for an encore run in August. Before Alaska kicks off the latest string of shows, we spoke with her by phone about what fans can expect from the aptly-titled show, ON GOLDEN GIRLS, which pays tribute to the musical stylings featured on the beloved sitcom.

For one, you better (do your home-)work! She recommends catching up on "Journey to the Center of Attention" and "A Little Romance" before coming to the show. As for her own performance in ON GOLDEN GIRLS, she has a soft spot for "Miami, You've Got Style," the delightful ditty fans will remember Dorothy and Rose writing for a songwriting contest back in season two.

In addition to ON GOLDEN GIRLS, we also chatted about why DRAG RACE alums remain so connected to the series, how drag helped her overcome her fears, and her new podcast with Willam, RACE CHASER.

This interview has been edited for length and content.


TF: What can fans expect from the show?

A: I'm unabashedly obsessed with THE GOLDEN GIRLS, and I have been for many years. And I consider myself to be a priest in the church of THE GOLDEN GIRLS. So I hope to just stand at the pulpit and share the joy and the love and the obsession of this phenomenon with the world.

TF: If you had the chance to have one of your original songs featured on the show, which one do you think would work best?

A: It would probably be my song "Your Makeup Looks Terrible." I could definitely see Sophia singing it. She definitely loves to read the other girls about their makeup and their clothes and their hairstyles, so I think it'd be fun for her.

TF: Which Golden Girl do you think would go the farthest on Drag Race?

A: I could see Dorothy doing really well because I think she would start out kind of getting read for always wearing shoulder pads and always wearing flats. Then she could face her inner saboteur and realize that her relationship with her mother is kind of holding her back in life. She could have a serious glow-up and start wearing heels.

TF: On the podcast WHIMSICALLY VOLATILE, you said you see yourself as a Dorothy with a Blanche rising--- Dorothy because you're tall and have a deep voice, and Blanche because you're a little "criminally insane." Which character do you think RuPaul would be on the show?

A: RuPaul is kind of like a Rose. RuPaul has a very playful outlook on the world. He always looks on the bright side. I think he's very open-minded and has a childlike spirit, and I think, in that way, he would be a Rose.

TF: How did you start working with Handsome Jeremy?

A: We first met in psychology in my freshman year in college. We met because I was sitting in the very very front row of the class and so was he. Most students didn't want to sit anywhere near the front. We became study friends and then we became really good friends.

TF: As collaborators, what kind of working relationship do you have? Do you like to divide and conquer of make decisions together?

A: We go from the music. We choose what songs we're going to do and then, out of that, the transitions between the songs kind of come out organically. But we really like to focus on the music and then the rest of the show kind of tells us what it wants to be.

TF: On WHIMSICALLY VOLATILE, you also said you started drag at a time when you decided to really lean into your queerness, really deciding not to back away from being flamboyant. I was hoping you could expand on that, because I think it's so interesting that that kind of led you to start drag.

A: I think it comes down to fear because I had a lingering fear and so did my roommate at the time in college. There was some pressure from within gay community that if you were feminine in any way, there was some fear that no one would want to date you or have sex with you.

I was in this sort of constant conflict with myself because my natural impulses are to be very flamboyant or feminine or whatever word [you want to use]. So, at a certain point, I just went through the fear, rather than running away from it.

Through it, I discovered drag and discovered a whole new world of expression and it really changed my life. And I had better relationships and a better sex life than I had before. My fear was completely unfounded.

TF: And you started drag by entering a Chi Chi LaRue Fishbowl contest and winning the competition. Did that give you a false sense of how things were going to go for you or did your career just evolve organically from there?

A: It was that moment of getting bit by the bug. That was the inciting incident that really put me on the path to keep pursuing drag, [like], "Oh, there's something to it. I can make something of this." But exactly as you said, no, I thought I was hot shit for a minute, and then I did another contest and came in dead last. And I've come in dead last in a lot of drag contests in my long and illustrious career (laughs).

TF: You and Willam also have a podcast coming up. What can you tell me about RACE CHASER?

A: I'm so excited about the podcast because I love RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE. It's GOLDEN GIRLS and RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE; those are my two obsessions. It's perfectly natural that I would want to do this podcast. Where we came up with the idea is Willam and I were at Burning Man and there was a delay getting out of the gates. We were sitting there for like seven or eight hours. We couldn't leave or do anything. Luckily, on my phone I had all these episodes of this GOLDEN GIRLS podcast, OUT ON THE LANAI. Ot really just made the time go by really amazingly, and we were like, "Why don't we do this on something we're obsessed with... RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE!"

BWW Interview: Alaska Talks ON GOLDEN GIRLS, Why RuPaul Is A Total Rose Nylund, And Her New DRAG RACE-Themed Podcast
Alaska in a past performance of ON GOLDEN GIRLS

TF: Do you have any guests coming on the show, or are you going to keep it to you two for the time being?

A: We have lots of guests, and that's really one of the unique things about this is we have access to a lot of people who are insiders, and we're insiders. Some [of the guests are] in studio, some we just call out of the blue. And, of course, we have little tidbits from Tammie Brown in multiple episodes... We're starting out with season one, so I don't want to give anything away, but we have a few interviews with some season one queens.

TF: What I find so interesting about the DRAG RACE is that, unlike with other shows or other projects in entertainment, contestants seem in no hurry to try and distance themselves from the show once that experience is over. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's really no, "DRAG RACE was then, and this is what I'm doing now." Why do you think that is?

A: Well, for me, I love the show. I love being a part of the sort of canon of people who've been involved in the show, so any time I can be involved I will be there. I will answer the phone. I will fly across the country and be there.

I don't know why it's different with RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE. [Maybe] it's different because it over-serves its community, and it really is made for this niche community. It's not because it's watered itself down and tried to appeal to a mainstream audience. It's because it has so richly provided for its core audience that it's kind of spilled over and people want to be a part of this community.

TF: If given the opportunity, would you want to come back as a guest judge, or would that be too stressful?

A: I would love to. Girl, I am happy to sit across the other side of the table (laughs).

TF: What else do you have coming up this year?

A: I'm really excited that [THE LAST SHARKNADO: IT'S ABOUT TIME] is coming out. It is the final installment of SHARKNADO, and I'm in it. I'm coming to Comic-Con in San Diego, and I'm going to be promoting the film, and I'm really excited about that.


Alaska & Jeremy: ON GOLDEN GIRLS returns to the Laurie Beechman Theatre from August 1-9. For tickets and information, visit www.westbankcafe.com.

Troy Frisby is an entertainment writer and digital news producer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @TroyFrisby.

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