RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 2 wasn’t just the best reality competition show of the year. It was one of the smartest and most entertaining shows on television, period.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider this: Logo’s most popular series stars a variety of professional drag queens, whose jobs include being their own makeup artists, costume designers, comedy writers, and performance coaches. On any given week, the show looks something like Project Runway divided by The Voice multiplied by the power of larger-than-life personalities with even bigger wigs. Also, legendary “supermodel of the world” RuPaul is the host — for which he recently won an Emmy.
All Stars 2 was an especially strong season of Drag Race, thanks to the fact that it ... well, starred all-stars. This season — a sequel to the first All Stars experiment in 2012 — featured 10 memorable queens from several different seasons of Drag Race, including laconic eventual winner Alaska Thunderfuck, proudly bizarre, lip-smacking whirlwind Alyssa Edwards, and eccentric Soviet fave Katya Zamolodchikova. They competed not just to win the title they missed out on the first time around but to show new sides of themselves to the audience, and gain valuable new fans to bolster their own careers.
The season was far more self-aware than usual, with every participating queen all too conscious of exactly what the fans thought of her outside the show. And that’s understandable: The show has fostered a devoted, vocal community. Fans swarm Drag Race alums at their shows worldwide; over the past two years, tens of thousands attended RuPaul’s “Drag Con” convention in Los Angeles.
All Stars 2 also upped the stakes more than usual: Where typical seasons of Drag Race see RuPaul sending home a queen each week after watching the bottom two contestants lip-sync for their lives, All Stars 2 threw in the twist of letting each week’s challenge winner make that decision instead. It was a splashy season brimming over with drama — and, more importantly, incredible talent.
I talked to Alaska the day after her win was aired on Logo — but more than a year since they actually shot the season — about how much Drag Race means to her, her “WikiLeaks data dump” of a new music video, and what the fans could be doing instead of bombarding her with snake emojis for sending their faves home.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Congratulations on your win (a year later)! What’s it been like having to sit on that for so long, to watch and wait?
Well, it was hard, but I got pretty good at lying. For a while I was saying, “Yeah, I don’t know what’s going to happen, I have to go in on Thursday and film it live.” Shockingly, a lot of people believed me.
But it’s just part of [being on the show]. I believe in Drag Race like I believe in Santa Claus. I don’t want to spoil anything; I don’t want to give away any secrets. So it’s just part of maintaining the magic of it.
Especially for something like All Stars 2. You could tell from the first episode that it was going to be a different kind of season, because you all were so aware of the reputation outside the show and how the show works. How did that affect the season as you were shooting it?
Logo and World of Wonder [the production company behind Drag Race] are very aware of the phenomenon that this competition has become. They’re on their toes about it. We were shooting in a studio in Hollywood, but the hotel was really far away — and we still had fans trying to stake us out in the hotel parking lot!
It’s intense. But I mean, that’s just a testament of how much the show means to people, and it’s so exciting. I’m just really glad I get to be a part of it.
What did you personally want to get out of this season?
I wanted to Bianca Del Rio the fuck out of it. I wanted to win every challenge: every mini challenge, every lip sync. Any opportunity to win, I wanted to do it.
That kind of worked for a while, and then I fell down pretty hard. But looking back on it, my journey had it all. It had really high highs and really low lows. I wouldn’t change a thing. It was dramatic, it was exciting, it was great.
And you did win a ton of challenges [four of seven]. Was there any win that meant more to you than the others?
Snatch Game. I mean, that’s a very select group of people, and I’m really glad I get to be in the company of that group now.
Was Mae West always the person you wanted to play?
Well ... I’m obsessed with The Golden Girls. I wanted to do Blanche, but she’s not a real person. You can’t do a character; you have to do a real person. So Mae West is basically Blanche without a Southern accent. It was a natural progression.
The new All Stars elimination process really threw off what we knew about the show and how it functions. At first, all the queens were like, “We’re going to eliminate who we think the judges would,” but at some point, were you thinking more about strategy? Because you did get to eliminate the most queens, having won the most challenges.
[Laughs] Yeah, I know! Winning was not winning, really.
I can honestly say for myself that I didn’t make any decisions there based on malice or trying to hurt anybody, or trying to undercut somebody or fuck anybody over. I took the information I had, and I made the best decisions I could. I think we all did that.
But watching it back — if I was able to watch the episodes and then make the decisions, I would probably make different decisions.
So I watched your new music video, which takes on a lot of the controversy surrounding the season. When did you tape “The T”? I was wondering if you were aware while shooting of the stories that were going to be a big part of the season, and what you’d want to respond to.
I mean, I didn’t realize how many snake emojis the fans were going to bring into my consciousness at the time [of shooting the season]...
The song itself happened in a unique period of time when we had filmed All Stars but it hadn’t aired. So it was all of the conflict and drama that I was feeling internally. I just wanted to write a song that was like a WikiLeaks data dump that was just everything that I’ve been thinking and worrying about. So it’s like a snapshot in time.
There are so many Drag Race fans that take their passion online...
Sure! It means a lot to them, and it means a lot to me, so I totally get it.
But I think they should use that energy they’re using to put the snakes in my inbox toward, like, I don’t know, supporting Black Lives Matter or equal pay for women. Let’s elect Hillary this time, and then in four years, maybe Bernie. Like, let’s work on that stuff. It’s a better use of our energy.
The reunion episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 2 airs on Logo and VH1 on October 27 at 8 pm.