Alaska Thunderfuck knows the power of a catchphrase. She answers the phone with a nasal, drawn-out “hieeee,” her hashtag-ready greeting from the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since finishing as runner-up in 2013, Alaska (real name Justin Andrew Honard) has become glamazon royalty, touring with RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons, showing up on other queens’ singles, and working as a spokesmodel for American Apparel.
For Drag Race stars, albums are almost embarrassingly inevitable—and sometimes just embarrassing. (No shade!) It’s a little surprising, then, that Alaska waited more than two years to release her debut album, Anus (Sidecar Records & Producer Entertainment Group), which came out last month. Alaska gives us glamor reflected in a funhouse mirror: everything is a little too much, from her oversize wigs and acrylic talons to her grating whine of a voice. Anus is dance music a la John Waters: catchy, campy, and hilariously self-aware. Its 14 songs include the minimalist EDM of “This Is My Hair” and the trap beats of “Gimme All Your Money,” and if you’re into the drag scene, you’ll love the endless in-jokes, references, and queen cameos. If you’re not, you’ll just want to dance.
“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap, darling,” she drawls in the first track—not just a nod to Dolly Parton but also a sideways acknowledgment of the charisma, nerve, and talent behind every fierce queen. Alaska performs the full album at Roscoe’s on Tuesday, July 28, with appearances from Drag Race alums Laganja Estranja and Chicago’s own Gia Gunn.
Your album dropped a few weeks ago. What’s the reception been like?
It’s been really good. People like it! We hit number one on the iTunes dance charts, and we hit number three on the Billboard dance charts the week it came out. I’m really happy with that. I get notes and tweets from people saying what their favorite song is, or that it’s their summer jam. So it’s been really great. I’m glad people are connecting with it.
A lot of Drag Race queens release albums directly after their season, or even while their season airs. You were runner-up more than two years ago. Why the gap?
I don’t know! I was too busy, I guess. I was on the road so much immediately following that I had time to put out singles here and there, but the timing wasn’t right until now. My manager asked me, “Hey, what do you think about doing an album?” And I was like, “Sure, I’ve been writing music and coming up with ideas for songs all the time anyway.” It was great to have a place to put all that stuff.
What do you hope listeners take away from Anus?
I hope that they have a personal relationship with it. I’m the type of person who listens to an album that I like over and over. It takes you on a journey; it tells a story. So I hope that people think back on this summer whenever they hear it.
You’re performing the album in its entirety at Roscoe’s on July 28. You’ve performed in Chicago before, yeah?
Oh, many times. They were one of the first places to book me after Drag Race.
How does the Chicago drag scene compare to other places?
I love Chicago. It’s amazing. [Season six Drag Race star] Gia Gunn is from there—enough said.
That leads right into my next question! Are there any Chicago queens we should keep an eye on?
I really love Trannika. I really love Kim Chi. I really love Gia Gunn, of course, and my sister Monica Beverly Hillz, and Jade. All these queens are really amazing and they’re really talented, but they’re also really fun to hang out with.
How would you describe a drag show to someone who’s never been before?
I certainly welcome people who are drag-show virgins. I’m completely open to devirginizing people. There’s a lot fewer rules and a lot less manners at a drag show. You can really let loose and be wild. Even straight people! I’ve had a lot of straight people meet their significant others at a drag show. Everyone’s sort of letting their guard down and having a really good time.
What are you favorite songs off of Anus to perform?
Oh my goodness. I love performing “Anus.” I love performing “This Is My Hair,” especially if there’s a wind machine. Actually I got to do “The Shade of It All” with Courtney [Act] and Willam [Belli] in New York City, and that was super fun to perform.
Do you have a drag philosophy?
Lately I’ve been adopting Adore Delano’s philosophy, which I heard her say in an interview. And it is, “Drag should be fun, first.” I believe that it should be fun. I believe it shouldn’t be about rules and trying to look like somebody else or trying to do it right. It’s more about having fun and calling out all these crazy things that we do on a regular basis just to, like, form our identity.
You have a theater background.
When you were in school, did you plan on doing drag?
No, not at all. When I was in college, I went to the University of Pittsburgh and I studied theater arts. After college I moved to Los Angeles, and I just planned on being an actor. But once I got out there I realized I hated head shots and I hated auditions. The whole idea of it was really repellent to me. So I just did drag for fun, and then I ended up getting a job because of it.
Did you work any day jobs while you were coming up in drag?
Girl, I’ve worked every day job you can imagine. I made coffee, I waited tables, I bussed tables. I worked in a porn store. I’ve done just about everything.
I washed dishes for one night, and I was so bad at it that I didn’t get asked back. I knocked over a giant pile of plates. I’d stacked them too high and they fell over and they broke! Like a hundred plates!
That’s like the one thing you’re not supposed to do!
Girl! I was real bad at washing dishes!
What’s up next for you?
We’re doing the show at Roscoe’s—we’re doing the entire album. I’ve never performed the entire album. Most of these songs I haven’t even performed before. So I’m really excited. I’m going to be incorporating a lot of special guests, so there will be a bunch of Chicago queens in the show and a couple of special surprise guests that you should definitely be on the lookout for.
I wanna wrap up with a Drag Race question. Who in the world would you most like to see as a guest judge?
Oh my goodness. My ideal guest judge. I would love to see Mariah Carey. I think that she’s really dedicated to her work. She’s really opinionated about it, and she really cares about what she looks like. I would love to just have her lay into some drag queens. I think it’d be stunning.
Those are all my questions! Is there anything I didn’t ask about?
I don’t think so! I guess just mention the album, Anus, is available at iTunes. And if you want to see where I’m going next you can go to alaskathunderfuck.com.