We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.
Such is the gospel according to RuPaul, the drag queen icon whose eponymous reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” brought the art of drag from gay clubs into the livings rooms of mainstream America (the hit cable TV reality show won the Best Reality Competition award Sunday night at the MTV Movie and TV Awards).
Sasha Soprano’s Drag Queens of Comedy
When: 7 and 10 p.m. May 12
Where: Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
Tickets: $37 – $57 (13 +over)
Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre will be hosting a drag supergroup in “Sasha Soprano’s Drag Queens of Comedy” on May 12. The cabaret showcase stars “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season eight winner Bob the Drag Queen (aka Christopher Caldwell) and Alaska 5000 (aka Justin Andrew Honard, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2” winner). They’ll be joined by emerging superstars and industry icons for an evening of dance, stand-up, lip synching and fabulous (as they say in the biz) lewks.
We caught up with Sasha (aka John-Thomas Guiral), Bob and Alaska to get the latest on their art, activism and life after Ru. Here are highlights:
Q. Why is “RuPaul’s Drag Race” such a cross-over success?
Alaska : Because people are fed up with b——, and drag is like this one, true thing. It’s so fake it’s real. The show doesn’t hide the transformations, or the artists before they make it. There’s an honesty to that. Plus, the show is funny. And so smart. It’s like drops of water in the desert to a person absolutely dying of thirst.
Q. Speaking of the art of illusion on a fundamental level, what’s more difficult, tucking or padding?
Sasha: All of it. Getting into drag is torturous. I wear peplum so I don’t have to tuck. It’s too painful, plus I’m lazy. I’m also 6’3, 220 pounds. I don’t add padding to all that. Some people might want to clock me on that. I’m fine with it.
Q. You’re traveling the country with a dozen or so drag queens. Do you ever worry about safety?
Sasha: It happens. Sometimes you’re in an airport in the middle of nowhere and a girl still has her nails glued on from the night before or something. And somebody will say something. Which is one reason I like being my size, because I can shut that [stuff] down. But since the election, and since the  murders at [Orlando’s LGBTQ nightclub] Pulse, we do travel with security. We have human security with us all the time. That’s the new reality.
Q. Is a drag queen’s annual wig budget in the five-figures?
Bob: Wigs alone are – well I’ll just say this. To do drag once – one night, one show – really well, you’re going to spend about $1,000 on hair, a gown and accessories. If you’re a pageant girl and need a crazy bananas special gown to win Miss Continental, that’s going to cost you at least $8,000.
Q. How did you spend your $100,000 “Drag Race” prize money?
Alaska: Once you pay taxes on prize money in California, you’re kind of like, “Oh. There’s not a lot here.” But it wasn’t about the money for me so much. I wanted that crown. Not really the actual crown. The idea of the crown. It’s a symbolic thing.
Bob: It all goes right back into drag.
Q. Has your life changed since winning the ‘Drag Race” competition?
Alaska: Trixie Mattel put it well when she said “Drag Race” takes your career from being on TV to being on IMAX. I’m still making music and doing drag, but things have opened up more.
Bob: I auditioned four times to just get on the show, so it’s been a long journey. Mostly, winning gave me a larger platform [from which] to be heard.
Q. What do you want people to hear?
Bob: I’ve always advocated for different shelters and queer youth issues. And for LGBTQ rights. I was arrested in drag in 2011, with [LGBTQ activist group] Queer Rising. We garnered national attention for marriage equality by blocking New York City traffic during rush hour. It actually wasn’t traumatic. It was liberating. I was part of something bigger than me.
Since winning, I’m in a place where I can help lift other people up so they can compete with the Donald Trumps of the world. But here’s the thing: For people of color, this isn’t the first time we’ve had someone in office who was against us. It is maybe the first time that white people have joined us in going “oh my god, this [president] is not working for my best interests.”
Q. Do you find people have misconceptions about drag? Do people still confuse it with being trans, or being gay in general?
Alaska: “Drag Race” has shown a lot of people the difference between the two. Obviously you can be trans without doing drag and you can do drag without being trans. Or you can be both. As Monica Beverly Hillz put it, “Trans is who I am. Drag is what I do.” You can’t “be” drag. It’s something you put on.
Q. So we’re about halfway through season 9 of “RPDR.” Who is going to win?
Bob: Fans are obsessed with Valentina. I am partial to my New York City sister, Peppermint. And Sasha Velour is incredible.
Alaska: I’m watching like a rabid superfan. Also, I’m not making predictions.
Sasha: RuPaul is the winner. People always think they’re going to be instantly famous if they do “RPDR.” But you’re going to be replaced by the next cast. People will forget you. Ru is always the real winner.
Catey Sullivan is a local freelance writer.