Former Fairbanks resident competing in season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A former resident of Fairbanks is currently competing on season 13 of the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race under the drag name “Denali.”
Cordero Zuckerman, aka “Denali,” moved to Fairbanks from Texas at age 1 because of his father’s work as a radiologist. “He visited Fairbanks for a work opportunity and fell in love with it.”
Zuckerman attended Joy Elementary, Tanana Middle and two years at Lathrop High School. “Fairbanks means a lot to me, and Alaska in general means a lot to my artistry and my drag, so I’m really, really grateful to have grown up there.”
He lived off of Farmers Loop Road with his parents and two older siblings until age 16, when he left the state to pursue a figure-skating career. “I trained at the Big Dipper Ice Arena across from the hospital where my father worked.”
After training for competitive figure-skating in Salt Lake City, Zuckerman decided to pursue the endeavor professionally. “This is the Disney on Ice, the cruise ships, the performing for money rather than competing, so I worked in a professional figure-skating circuit for about five years,” he said.
According to Zuckerman, it was while working on cruise ships where he was first exposed to RuPaul’s Drag Race. “I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the art of drag, and when I was exposed to it is when I really realized how adjacent the two worlds are, figure-skating and drag.”
At age 25, Zuckerman moved to Chicago to pursue a career in drag. “I loved the Chicago drag scene, and I just took a huge leap of faith. I met the most amazing crew of people here that really believed in me and lifted me up and helped me kind of get to where I am today.”
Zuckerman said he received a number of raised eyebrows when he decided to transition into drag, but “when I truly got to just show them who I was as a performer and how it’s literally just another form of expression and performance, they totally understood. They were like, ‘Oh, this is just like skating, it’s just in a different costume and it’s just for a different audience.’”
He auditioned for the show in November of 2019. “It’s a pretty extensive process,” Zuckerman said, adding, “You basically have to show everything... everything that you have as a drag performer.”
Filming began during the summer of last year. “Every girl wants to go to the Olympics. It is every little drag queen’s dream, and RuPaul’s Drag Race is the Olympics of drag.”
In addition to his drag name, “Denali,” Zuckerman incorporates much of his Alaskan upbringing into his drag identity. “A lot of my drag is inspired by being raised in an untouched land as Alaska,” he explained, adding, “I put a lot of natural aspects into my drag. I incorporate a lot of the elements, I incorporate a lot of the mountains, the snow, the ice, the cold, the beauty of summertime in Alaska, forget-me-nots, and animals, and things that are just very much of my upbringing.”
He sees drag queens as representing a pillar of the LGBTQ community. “It’s really cool to feel like we have a responsibility besides just entertaining people. We have a responsibility to educate. We have a responsibility to get word out about movements that we believe in, and fighting for disenfranchised communities, fighting for people that don’t have equal rights, just making sure that we use our voices and our platforms to educate and inform.”
To those looking to explore the world of drag, Zuckerman advises, “Take your time, be patient and understand that everyone around you is going to come around to it eventually. It just might take them a little more time than it took you. But I got your back, and know that it’s possible and it’s beautiful.”
Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag race aired its first episode on January 1st and will continue until April 16th.
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