Katya Zamolodchikova – winner of Miss Congeniality on RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 7 and a finalist on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars – is a Boston‑born, Russian‑identifying queen who has been a fan favourite since her debut in 2015. Last year, she toured her one‑woman comedy show, Katya: Help Me, I’m Dying, which is currently available on Air Canada’s new streaming platform exclusive to Aeroplan members, care of OUTtv. We caught up with Zamolodchikova to discuss her new book Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Womanhood (co‑written by fellow queen Trixie Mattel), navigating anxiety and why she loves watching sad movies at 35,000 feet.
Drag Queen Katya Zamolodchikova Cries on Planes, Too
“She’s the bright red scare with the long blonde hair, always keeps ‘em coming back for more.”*
enRoute What inspired you to do drag?
Katya Zamolodchikova I put on a wig when I was three. I’d make one out of a T‑shirt and prance around. So, the seed was planted quite early.
ER Your new book is a guide to beauty and homemaking in the style of old‑school etiquette books for women. What was your approach to writing the book with Trixie?
KZ Being a woman is a fulltime job, so Trixie and I thought, what better way for women to learn how to do that than from a couple of gay men? It takes the piss out of how to be. The underlying message is that if you’re really struggling to find your identity, then hopefully the first thing you’ll figure out is that it’s all BS anyway. It was a way for us to translate our different approaches to comedy and drag into a book. The final product ended up being good, surprisingly. I’m really proud of it.
ER You’re very open about your anxiety. How do you deal with it, especially while in quarantine?
KZ Quarantine is fantastic for my anxiety – I don’t have to leave the house! Typically, I’m terrified of interacting with people or starting a new job or going to the post office or whatever. But anxiety is a hamster wheel and quarantine certainly gives your brain time to churn out some terrifying tales. Thank god there’s plenty to distract you. These days there’s like, four billion things on Netflix alone. Also, yoga and deep breathing. Maybe my next book should be a yoga book.
ER Air Canada’s new streaming platform features your comedy special, Katya: Help Me, I’m Dying, which came out last year. What was it like touring that show?
KZ It was incredible. I got to go around the world and visit places I had never been to before: Hong Kong, the Philippines and all around the U.S., Canada and Australia.
ER You had some family at the recorded show in Boston, right?
KZ Yes! My Aunt Cathy drove down and scammed her way into the show and I’m so glad we caught it on tape. She is hysterical, and I swear to god, if I had her come on stage she would have done a 30‑minute set right on the spot. She’s just so funny. It’s wonderful to have a family that’s so supportive.
ER In the comedy special, you put your own spin on a famous scene from Mulholland Drive. Why were you inspired by this film?
KZ Mulholland Drive was my favourite movie theatre experience ever. I’ll never forget it: It was 2001 and I was in my first year of art school and a bunch of us went. It was electrifying. We went to a diner afterwards and talked about the movie for like, two hours. And funny enough, there’s another scene in that movie that I didn’t have budget to parody or recreate. It’s the scene in Club Silencio when Rebecca del Rio, the singer, comes out and does this acapella version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying in Spanish,” and it’s so gorgeous and haunting, and then she collapses halfway through and you realize she’s been lip syncing. That scene was literally the reason that I do drag.
ER What do you like to watch when you fly?
KZ I like sad stuff. I want to cry in an airplane. I think because I work in comedy, it’s tough for me to watch it. If something’s really funny, I’ll nod, or say to myself, “Oh, that was funny,” but I won’t laugh. But if something is really sad, I’ll just cry. And I love crying on an airplane because you make people around you uncomfortable. And that’s fun.
ER What makes you cry?
KZ The other day I was watching YouTube clips of Simone Biles, the American gymnast. I watch compilations of her floor routines and I literally sob because she’s perfect. It’s like getting to see the Mona Lisa or a legendary work of art – she’s a modern‑day Michelangelo when it comes to sports.
ER How would you describe the journey Katya has taken from your first appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race to the Katya of today?
KZ It would be a transition from the nervous, plucky young intern who transformed into a grizzled old‑hag veteran.
*From the song “Read U Wrote U,” performed by Katya and her fellow queens during season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.
Dream seatmate Julia Roberts. I want to talk to her about how her relationship with her husband is going, playing Mahjong on Tuesdays with their friends and how Phinn and Hazel are.
First travel memory Getting on a plane to Portugal and my ears popping severely. But I don’t get that now; it’s easy breezy.
Last trip I was in Italy on vacation. I did a few gigs, but then the lockdown happened and we escaped from Rome with literally hours to spare.