I remember, in that exact moment, briefly thinking that I hated gay culture.
The second time I met Alaska was in my apartment in Richmond last July, when an utter lack of a social life led me to start (finally) watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” full time. On weekday afternoons, I’d make a run out to get coffee and Chipotle and settle in somewhere to watch a few episodes before work. I met Violet and Pearl, and Bianca and Courtney. I was mesmerized by their confidence, wit and passion. But it was Alaska who made me fall in love with drag. And, truthfully, it was Alaska who made me fall in love with being queer.
When I was back at UNC one night last semester, some friends and I went out to a party and started talking about which queen from “Drag Race” we’d each be. I was unanimously voted the “Alaska” of the group — which, if you know my friends, is likely the most sincere thing they have ever said to me.
But in truth, I’ve always personally felt a connection with Alaska, especially in her near-sweeping return in season two of “All Stars” last fall. Every moment on camera was perfectly calculated. Her jokes were intelligent, and her timing was flawless. Her runway looks were breathtaking. She stomped through the season with a perfect balance of quirkiness and robotic perfectionism.
It was palpable how badly she knew she deserved to win it. And, in her pursuit of her victory, she eventually cracked and spiraled into what is probably the most notorious meltdown in “Drag Race” history. The details don’t matter, but it wasn’t cute — and it was broadcast to thousands of fans who irreparably changed their opinions of her.
To that whole situation, I have two things to say: 1) My Chris Crocker-style, “LEAVE ALASKA ALONE” video rant is forthcoming. And 2) Alaska, girl, I feel that. I feel that so, so hard.
Everything she does, from auditioning for “Drag Race” five times to sneaking in a prosthetic leg to throw at the “All Stars” reunion, is done with painstaking and impeccable passion. And to see everything you’ve accomplished and poured your soul into come crashing down because of one misstep — that’s one of the most gut-wrenching, heartbreaking feelings in the world.
Which is why getting to watch Alaska bounce back from the drag world’s biggest breakup, a complicated history with alcohol and her loss in Season 5 to single-handedly snatch the All Stars crown — it’s an affirmation to me that the draining work I’ve put in over the last six years of exams, competitive grades and sleepless nights in newsrooms are getting me where I deserve to be.
Alaska inspires me to be the best — and to know it’s OK to want to be the best.