On this episode of the Behind the Drag podcast, we talk to three legendary alums of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Violet Chachki, Alaska and BenDeLaCreme, about how they’ve managed to carve out successful drag careers both onstage and on-screen.
Violet Chachki is an LA-based “international drag superstar and self-proclaimed fashion icon,” who is best known for winning season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Violet has always been characterized by their unique aesthetic and signature rebellious persona.
“For me drag has always been about rebellion and also escapism,” they told In the Know. “Even when I was coming up in the drag scene, I was known as sort of the rule breaker, the rebel, the bad girl.”
Violet first started watching Drag Race in 2009, and applied to be on season 6, but didn’t get on. But the next season, Violet applied again, got accepted, and ended up winning the season, changing the trajectory of their career.
“Drag Race is a huge opportunity for us to elevate drag culture [and] tell our stories,” said Violet. “It really is a career-maker.”
Violet is also appreciative of the opportunities and connections that come with being on Drag Race.
“I’ve gotten to work with some of my biggest inspirations that are really iconic people,” they said. “It’s incredible.”
Violet has had a career that most drag performers could only dream about, but for them, drag is about much more than just a way to make a living.
“[Drag] provides a form of escape. It provides a form of creativity. It’s definitely an outlet for me, it’s a community for me, it’s not even just a job, it’s much more than that,” said the drag superstar.
“It’s exactly where I want to be, it’s what I want to be doing right now,” they shared with In the Know. “I feel like I’ve made my little notch in history.”
Alaska, otherwise known as Justin Andrew Honard, is a California-based drag queen who was the runner-up on season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and also the winner of season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars.
Alaska is a drag superstar in every sense of the word, but that hasn’t stopped her from approaching her celebrity with a constant sense of humor.
“Basically my job is pretending to be a famous woman,” said Alaska. “It’s all fake. The hair, the fingers, the eyeballs, the body… Everything the light touches is fake. It’s like having a suit of armor on.”
A talented artist, Alaska has always found creative ways to express herself. As a kid, Alaska would draw as a means of expression. When she got to college, she fell in love with drag and took advantage of the opportunities, both creatively and socially, that the drag world presented.
Obviously, once Alaska got cast on Drag Race, drag became a lot more than just a creative outlet. But Drag Race wasn’t just a groundbreaking moment for her career, according to Alaska. The show’s popularity also had an everlasting impact on how the world views the drag community.
“There’s life before Drag Race and then there’s life after,” Alaska told In the Know. “The world of drag has changed a lot because when I first started you had to be insane to do drag. Now, largely because of Drag Race, people know what drag is. They see it as a viable career option,” said Alaska, with a slight tone of disbelief.
Alaska’s success has taken her around the globe, but she maintains a strong sense of community with her fellow queens.
“If I’m traveling the world and jetlagged and exhausted, the thing that makes me instantly come back to life is walking into the dressing room to find all the other drag queens,” said Alaska. “I feel at home when [I’m in] the company of drag queens. I love them.”
Alaska’s message for any aspiring drag queens out there?
“Take those things that you had about yourself and put them in the spotlight,” said the Drag Race star. “That’s what makes you special.”
BenDeLaCreme is a highly influential drag queen who was a contestant on season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars.
BenDeLaCreme, who is the stage persona of Ben Putnam, first started doing drag as a way to overcome childhood trauma and loss. Ben’s mom passed away when he was 15, which caused Ben to spiral into some difficult times.
It was these experiences that helped shape his performances as BenDeLaCreme. As a performer, he sees drag as much more than just a form of entertainment. “I do consider [drag to be] something spiritual and something sacred,” Ben told In the Know.
As BenDeLaCreme, Ben seeks to connect with audiences on a deeper level than most other drag performers. Through his performances, he hopes to encourage the audience to explore what makes them vulnerable, and take on emotions that they wouldn’t normally come across at a drag performance.
“As a writer and as an art maker I get to use this character who is optimistic and upbeat, almost to a fault, where she doesn’t want to look at the negative,” said Ben. “And I get to use her as a way to make the audience look at more difficult things.”
While BenDeLaCreme has seen enormous success, due in part to appearing on Drag Race, Ben still has a level of disbelief when it comes to his day-to-day life.
“I can’t believe the life that I get to live, and when I think about going back in time and telling that 13-year-old me ‘My god if you stick it out, this is the life you’re gonna get,’” said Ben. “Now I get the opportunity to say that to a generation of 13-year-old boys.”
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