After the mainstream explosion of the award-winning reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, the art of drag has become a phenomenon that’s taken over the world like never before. So, when a show like the Heels of Hell tour featuring some of favourite Drag Race queen’s heads to Bristol’s O2 Academy, you know it’s going to be a memorable night for all drag fans.
Nitelife were lucky to grab a quick few words with Season 4 winner, Halloween queen Sharon Needles and Allstars 2 winner Alaska Thunderfuck just before they hit the stage for The Heels of Hell show. Not only were our minds blown by the sheer beauty of these iconic queens up close, but by the end of it, our sides were hurting from laughter too.
As we huddled in a stairwell back stage of the O2 Academy, Alaska and Sharon Needles warmly welcomed Nitelife with air kisses, and opened up about what their highlights had been on the Heels of Hell tour so far:
‘We don’t know where we are or where we’re going next on tours like these, but what we do know is that we look beautiful doing it’ Sharon admitted, as she perched on the stairs sipping a bottle of Corona.
‘On the tour bus, the only entertainment we have is the DVD player, so we managed to get our hands on a box set of The Nanny and Frasier. We’re driving everybody nuts from watching episode upon episode.’ That’s a great highlight for us on this tour, laughed Alaska as she adjusted her witches’ hat.
‘And for your readers at home, a DVD player is what we used to use to watch movies and shows,’ Sharon chipped in.
‘To be honest, I like the camaraderie that we all have as a sisterhood on tours like these,’ Sharon continued. ‘We have people who are older, younger, black queens, white queens, big queens, small queens, we have everybody. At the end of the day, the one thing we all have in common is that we’ve shared this amazing experience of being on a little game show you may have heard of, called Rupaul’s Drag Race. I really enjoy all of our different backgrounds coming together for a collective of beauty, alcoholism and showmanship.’
coming together for a collective of beauty, alcoholism and showmanship
Since finding fame on the reality tv show, the Rupaul’s Drag Race queens or ‘dolls’, as they are also known, tour across the globe, including the UK like never before. Sharon compares her home crowd to the UK:
‘In America, they really like you fresh off the shelf, so to speak. But in the UK, they seem to really love and worship girls as far back as my season. And not just Rupaul’s Drag Race too, also queens from the reality TV show Dragula, like Biqtch Puddin’ who’s with us on the Heels of Hell tour’.’
‘I love the UK’, Alaska continued. ‘In fact, the Race Chase the podcast that I do with Willam is coming to the UK this November for a tour. This will be the first time we’ve brought this specific show over here, so it’s going to be special.’
Both queens have launched successful music careers since appearing on the hit show, with Sharon Needles recently releasing Halloween-themed EP Spoopy, and Alaska’s latest and most empowering album to date, Vagina, released earlier this year.
‘Spoopy will be my fourth studio record’ exclaimed Sharon. ‘It wasn’t labour intensive, it was more a Halloween present to my fans who have been with me for eight long years. I chose my eight favourite Halloween inspired songs from the 60s through to the 80s.’
The motivation behind Alaska’s latest release was somewhat stronger, she explains, as she details the process of its creation: ‘I like to write whatever I’ve been thinking about and what’s going on in my mind. So much has happened with women’s empowerment recently, like the Women’s March and the Me Too movement, and so that was what was going on in my mind at the time of writing.
‘It is important to state that not all women have vaginas and not all men have dicks, but the word vagina grabs your attention. Some people think it’s a bad word, but personally I think it is an empowering, beautiful and fierce word.’
‘And I am one of the few people on this tour that can confirm that Alaska does have a dick’, Sharon quickly added.
I think it is an empowering, beautiful and fierce word
There’s no denying the fact both Alaska and Sharon Needles left their legacy on Rupaul’s Drag Race in their own respectful right. Whether it be Sharon’s spooky persona that encapsulated audiences with her out of this world drag and quick wit, or Alaska’s infectious sense of humour, both queens share their advice to new queens who are just starting out or considering auditioning for Drag Race.
‘I’ll tell new queens to retire, I need the work!’ cackled Sharon Needles with her iconic laugh. My true advice would be for new queens though, be the best flawed you, not a perfected duplication. When we first started doing drag, we took the real risk of alienating yourself sexually, socially and fucking economically. We were wearing $200 a night whilst we were only earning $35.’
We were wearing $200 a night whilst we were only earning $35
‘Now, drag has exploded so much. You can’t open your Instagram without seeing a 19-year old boy who’s prettier than you.’
‘I think a lot of people, when they are making their audition tape or when they get there, they are sort of trying to think ahead – well at least I did this anyway’ Alaska admitted – ‘I was trying to think of what they wanted and tried to be that. Really, the best contestants who make the most impact are themselves. I mean, you take one look at Bagga Chipz on Drag Race UK and that is exactly how she is in the dressing room, and she’s killing it! She’s doing really amazingly. So be yourself, basically. It’s old advice, but it’s good advice.’
be yourself, basically. It’s old advice, but it’s good advice
‘Faking is exhausting’, Sharon confirmed. ‘If you’re more than just a look queen, then who you really are is what people fall in love with… Get a lot of plastic surgery, get famous, get you rich, sell your soul and become a mannequin – you’ve also got to make people laugh.’
The explosion of drag worldwide is showing no sign of slowing, with Drag Race UK recently crowning its first winner, The Vivienne.
‘So long as this game show is on TV, we are still working’ says Sharon. ‘If this show ends, all we will have to look forward to is nostalgia. We will have to wait a decade until we become classics, before we can become vintage and before we can come back in vogue.
‘The fact this show is still going is huge. It just shows how powerful it is by having people continue to watch it on repeat. It wasn’t considered for huge awards until its 8th or 9th season. That’s unheard of for a show to be applauded almost a decade after it being on – that just goes to show the world is catching up with us!’
the world is catching up with us!
Alaska added, ‘I love drag and I love the art form of drag, so the fact this is happening all around the world is great because drag is fucking everywhere. It gives queens chance to go on and do their thing.’
‘The truth is we’re all going to die early. We’re here for a good time, not a long time. We all have skeletons of 90-year-olds’ Sharon laughed.
Photos (Alaska) by TomShot Photography