Strength in Drag: How Former Users Reclaimed Their Lives
“You want to know the truth about drugs? You can only go one or two ways. You can go up, or you can go down. That’s it. After a certain point, though, no matter what you do, what you take, you don’t go anywhere, and that’s when you’ve got to sit down and face yourself.” ~ RuPaul
RuPaul Charles, sober for nearly two decades, mentors artists from all walks of life. Grateful recipients of his wisdom include more than one hundred drag queens chosen to participate on his show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, where he ends every episode with his famous quote, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
As it turns out, two of the most successful and beloved members of Drag Race alumni are in recovery themselves. Their strength and confidence gives hope to fans around the world struggling with their own addictions and self-esteem issues.
Meet Alaska 5000
Alaska entered the race in season five after her boyfriend won the competition one year prior. She made it to the finals and quickly became a fan favorite. Due to the “Royal Drag Couple’s” newfound fame, their relationship grew strained and unhealthy. The duo performed around the world in front of diehard fans in nightclubs, an atmosphere that encouraged binge drinking and drug use on a nightly basis.
The pair inevitably split, and that break ultimately led Alaska to seek help. Now clean, many consider Alaska the most improved queen in Drag Race history. She was invited back to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2, which she won to no surprise. During a makeover challenge on AS2, Alaska and her mother shared a moment discussing how clear-headed she is, and how it’s reflected in her work.
Alaska’s latest music video, What’s the T?, briefly pays homage to her sobriety in the most industrious way.
Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova, or simply Katya, is one of the first Drag Race contestants to talk about her substance abuse on television. During season seven, Katya had more than one year sober. She and fellow season seven castmember, Miss Fame, shared the most emotional scene of the season when Katya bravely reached out for support. Miss Fame, having a decade clean, offered her experience, strength, and hope, showing Katya that she wasn’t alone.
Despite her overwhelming anxiety and self-doubt, Katya was the clear-cut fan favorite, earning her the title of “Miss Congeniality” when no other contestant had a chance.
Katya is arguably the most vocal queen when it comes to talking about her past drug abuse and depression, as it has been a common topic of discussion on both Drag Race and her web series.
Like Alaska, Katya was invited back to participate in AS2, but this time she arrived with self-confidence and strong coping skills. Her hard work paid off, landing her in the finals, meaning two-thirds of the top three in long-term recovery.