Her one-woman show may be called “Help Me, I’m Dying,” but Katya Zamolodchikova, aka Katya, aka Brian McCook is doing just fine, thank you.
The RuPaul‘s Drag Race season 7 and Drag Race All-Stars season 2 standout has had a wild ride, from coming up in the Boston drag scene to finding a massive audience through TV and an ever-expanding one with the success UNHhhh, her web series with Trixie Matell. UNHhhh was later picked up by Vice for television as The Trixie and Katya Show for one season, and now the pair are back to producing UNHhhh.
Along the way, McCook took time off from the series, and from drag, to focus on mental health, and his willingness to be open about the process was a welcomed dose of honest realness.
It’s easy to scroll through Instagram and convince yourself that people are living the ‘dream,’ but we all have work to do throughout our lives. As queer people, some of that work can be especially challenging to unravel.
The good news? Katya is back and on a world tour, baby! “Help Me, I’m Dying” is set to make its way across Europe, Canada and the US. Head here for tickets and info.
Queerty’s Dan Tracer caught up with Katya to talk about dreams, drag names, shapeshifting, and more.
Yeah, I’m in bed still.
OK perfect. Actually last night I had sleep paralysis! Do you know what that is?
I got it a lot as a kid. I’d start to fall asleep and then I’d feel like I’m being attacked. The one that happened last night, I was on my side and I felt like there were two people, one on my back and one facing me, that were trying to attack and I was trying to scream “Help!” And I couldn’t get anything out of my mouth.
It’s horrible, yeah. But there were two sleep monsters this time. Usually, there’s only one.
Yeah it’s really cool. It invariably goes sexual.
Because I’m in a dream and I can do whatever I want.
[Laughs] Oh that’s funny.
Oh shapeshifting for sure.
Right but it would be so much easier to just do it at the drop of a hat.
I’d call my mom. Or… maybe Barak Obama.
Yeah they’re amazing.
Nope. They think I work for UPS.
I have a really wonderful family, an older brother and a younger sister. They’re great.
Well we used to have wig parties.
And he just had a child. So I’m an uncle now, and I’m looking forward to procuring some child wigs.
Gosh I can’t even remember… There was Sigourney Beaver. She was in the mix at some point.
Ohh that’s like a double-whammy.
So there’s Katya the Russian character, so I go through her origin story, and then I come out as another character called Trish, who’s like a junkie/townie from the suburbs of Boston. And then I come out as me, like, without any character, just me in drag, which is slightly confusing.
Probably the Russian one. I just get into the accent and the origin story, which changes all the time. And I love that about it. It’s like, “Now I’m going to tell the truth,” and it’s never the truth.
Yeah, it changes all the time. In Singapore, I actually had another performer come up who I used to perform with in Boston, join me on stage, and we did a duet — we did Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion’s “Tell Him,” which is a song about a woman in love — she’s so in love with this guy but she’s too afraid to let him know how she feels, and the audience member we brought up was really not up for it. He was this straight dude who was probably dragged there by his girlfriend, and the song is really long, so he was just tortured for probably like, ten minutes. It was hysterical.
Oh they loved it.
Yeah it was amazing to watch and probably harrowing for him to experience.
Yeah, or maybe not!
It hasn’t been so bad! And we’re actually on a bus starting next month, which I’m very excited about.
I don’t think so.
That’s too much gay, I think I’m going to be homophobic by the end of that.
Well, it’ll probably look like Atlantis because we’re going to be underwater. But one of the things I find encouraging is that young people these days, their conception of sexuality is much more fluid and less defined, which I really like. On the one hand, Gay Pride is great, but I also love this kind of like… ‘it doesn’t matter’ sort of attitude about it. You’re interested in who you’re interested in, it’s the blurring of the boundaries of sexual identity.
Identity changes. I think it would be better if there were more consensus on larger, broader issues like compassion, non-violence.
Ohh… in the Benjamin Button one. Oh gosh. Sharon Stone.
Sharon Stone, yeah. Just like the actress.
No, she’d be something else.
I’d just be Sharon Stone with a dick and that would be the huge gag in Basic Instinct.
“Help Me, I’m Dying” is currently touring across Europe, Canada and the US. Head here for tickets and info.
Dan Tracer is a queer writer, noisemaker, and amateur astral projector. Find him on Instagram.