Alaska 5000 Seizes the Day—and the Dance Floor—on Red 4 Filth

by Britt Stephens

Alaska 5000 wearing a red feather boa with matching red hair
Photograph by Albert Sanchez

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 comes from a galaxy in which lipstick is always smeared and garbage bags can easily become gowns. The 37-year-old performer, author, and podcast host took the zeitgeist by storm with her subversive, gender-bending drag—first as RuPaul’s Drag Race season five runner-up, then by winning the All Stars crown in 2016—and is one of many multitalented queens making life on this burning planet more bearable. Alaska’s fourth album, Red 4 Filth, drops Sept. 23— and she will soon embark on a headlining tour across North America. Red 4 Filth consists of unapologetic late ’90s pop: she channels iconic groups like Spice Girls and Aqua, covers the Ace of Base hit “All That She Wants,” and peppers in lyrics with references to flip phones and JNCO jeans. Alaska sings like Britney on “XOXOY2K”; spits like TLC on “I Am Her (She Is Me);” and strips like Christina on the pared-down “22.”

“It’s the Drag Race episode where RuPaul holds up a picture of the queen as a child,” Alaska tells me of the heartfelt track over Zoom. Even out of drag, the face is snatched, the hair carefully coiffed. “What would I say to my younger self who didn't feel like I made sense as a queer kid in Erie, Pennsylvania? I discovered drag on my 22nd birthday and it was like, ‘Oh, I actually have a purpose. I have a place where I belong.’ The song is a letter saying: ‘Hold on and keep going; eventually, you’ll find cross-dressing.’”

Below, Alaska opens up about Y2K nostalgia and being a magnet for Geminis.

I commend you for making an album that sounds straight from 1999. What is it about that era?

It was a time when I was always listening to music, so we were like, “Let’s go there.” There was an innocence before the explosion of technology and phones and social media. Can you imagine a time when you would carry a camera out to the club?

On my wrist.

On a wristband! We can also look back at that time with more perspective, and with the awareness we have now about society and sexualization. It’s satisfying.

You have Ts Madison and Stephanie's Child on Red 4 Filth. How did those collabs come together?

I’ve been obsessed with Ts Madison for a long time. Finally, there was this song about empowerment and seeing your journey mirrored in someone else, and I thought she would be perfect. I only wanted her to do the hook on it and she came in like, “I wrote a verse, by the way.” Her energy is really inspiring.

With Stephanie’s Child, I;ve known these girls forever and we do shows together in New York. They haven't done anything as a girl group in a minute. I sort of forced them to reunite for this.

What does the color red evoke for you?

With this album, I’ve become Tina Burner. Everything has to be red. In terms of the song and the story that I want to tell on tour: red is heart chakra, love energy, vitality, artistic creation. I’m singing about love and desire and attraction and friendship. That’s new territory for me.

Your tour starts in October. What track are you most excited to perform?

“Without Your Love” immediately comes to mind because I get to wear a head mic; it’s very Britney, *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys. All of the music is really fun and challenging for me, and I have to keep my voice in proper condition because I'm not just speaking loudly over a techno beat like most of my music. I’m really looking forward to singing.

On to the Culture Diet questions. What's the first thing you read when you wake up?

This Louise Hay inspirational daily quote calendar. I was out of town for a month, so I had to read 30 of them. So much motivation!

What books are on your bedside table right now?

A copy of Dirty Blonde, the script from a one-woman show about Mae West.

Which TV shows have been keeping you up at night?

Below Deck Mediterranean is really heating up. And Real Housewives, every single one.

What was the last movie you saw in theaters?

Elvis. The clothes are fucking amazing.

What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?

I'm actually really frightened. [checks phone] Oh, I was trying to find this Golden Girls quote where Blanche is talking about non-representational art. I took a picture of myself in front of a painting and wanted it as the caption.

What albums or playlists are you listening to on repeat right now?

Renaissance has me in a chokehold. I’ve also been listening to my own music because I’m working on the tour and trying to get visuals.

You host podcasts, but do you listen to podcasts? If so, which are your favorites?

Every Monday morning, I tune into Very Delta, which is just Delta Work talking about mundane things that annoy her. She's wonderful.

Do you believe in astrology, and what’s your Zodiac sign?

I’m a Pisces and a lot of my friends are Geminis. I don’t know that I fully believe in it, but there is something to that: why are all the closest people in my life born around the same time?

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

I watch The Simpsons. I’ve seen every episode, but just the first three minutes and then I’m out. Honey, it works better than NyQuil.