Help Me I’m Dying a testament to drag queen Katya’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent

“Everything’s kind of a blur, to be honest.”

So says Katya Zamolodchikova (your dad just calls her Katya), RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni, star of both her own video series UNHhhh with good pal Trixie Mattel, and podcast Whimsically Volatile with Craig MacNeil, and, finally, her own one-woman show, Help Me I’m Dying which she began touring in early March, hitting Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall Wednesday, July 3.

If it seems as if the entertainment landscape has seen an explosion of drag queen entertainment in recent years, well, it’s because it has. With the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race worldwide, appetites for live performances, for getting close to your favourite drag star, have increased, and so, too, has the need for diversity and that certain, oh, edge that will place a drag queen apart from the rest. 

“It’s so tough these days, you really gotta have something to stand out,” explains Katya, “because there’s so many girls and … so many blonde girls, it’s crazy. You need to have some sort of unique factor or else you get lost in the shuffle.” 

Katya’s edge is her vibrant personality and her off-beat, dark sense of humour, which has endeared fans to her from day one and earned her a fiercely loyal following, both from the hit TV show and from her other projects. These days, however, it seems as if just doing drag isn’t enough anymore, that there’s been a shift where these performers are evolving into full-blown, all-around entertainers that you see daily on stages and screens worldwide.

Katya recognizes this shift. “Yeah, that’s the gig nowadays, it’s crazy. I don’t really do anything that I used to do before (Drag Race), it’s all just  sort of been meshed into the Hollywood media landscape, which didn’t really have drag in it before, you know what I mean? It’s sort of a foreign territory for it, but now we’re all over the damn place!”

Being all over the damn place isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The exposure from Drag Race has not only catapulted the careers of the queens who have been on the show, it has helped to garner respect and attention to the art and talents of drag queens across the board.

“I feel like the success and the mainstreaming and the exposure that Drag Race has allowed for drag queens is incredible,” says Katya. “And it doesn’t really take the spotlight from anybody, it just sort of makes the spotlight bigger, and now everybody has the chance to get in on this global giant phenomenon … You can be a Lady Bunny, somebody who doesn’t rely on the show, (but) uses the run-off exposure from the show to bolster your own success.” 

Speaking of success, Help Me I’m Dying, Katya’s one-woman comedy show, has seen her perform on a few continents already just three months in. It seems the time was right, considering the number of drag queens who are currently touring their shows as well, but Katya has been planning this for some time.

“I wanted to do a one-woman show pretty much since forever, and it was time. I probably wanted to do it, like, 10 years ago, but then it was like, now’s the time. It’s so nice to be in the theatres and have people sit down and to just be able to do whatever I want – it’s such a luxury, a wonderful thing. I mean, the show is crazy, people are like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ But hopefully they come in with an open mind, so usually it goes off pretty good, but sometimes people don’t actually catch on to what the hell’s going on, and that’s always fun …”

Regardless of whether or not people catch on, it’s no secret that Katya fans are die-hard. And what’s it like being able to draw sold-out crowds to your first solo show? “I still don’t get it!” she says, “I’m so, ‘What the fuck? A beautiful theatre? Me? How?’ Yeah it’s totally crazy.”

It’s a show that is quintessentially Katya — a bit out there and very funny, but it’s also undergone a bit of an evolution since it began. “(The show) has changed a lot actually – we’ve added videos, taken away some videos, it’s actually a totally different show … I just can’t do the same things over and over so I switch it up. It’s in a good place – I feel like I’ve hit my stride.”

Help Me I’m Dying might wrap up in September, but Katya has other projects in the works aside from UNHhhh and Whimsically Volatile. “Me and Trixie are writing a book! It’s going to be so great, it’s sort of like a lifestyle and etiquette book about how to be a human being for the young contemporary woman and it’s going to be so funny.”

Of course it is, how could it not be? 

Gratuitous lightning round questions

Favourite ice cream flavour? “Coffee.”

Best band or musician of all time? “Oof! Tiny Tim.”

GOT – best death scene of the series? “I’m going to have to say Prince Oberyn by the Mountain. Yeah, that was pretty amazing.”

Favourite moment or scene in the film Contact? “When she says, ‘I’m OK to go,’ and the blind guy’s like, ‘Wait guys, I think she’s saying something’ and that’s right before she goes into the wormhole. I just love that so much, I don’t know why!”

Favourite episode of UNHhhh? “The Halloween one where I’m on the mountain bike.”

The person that makes you laugh the hardest? “Probably Tammie Brown.”

(Photo courtesy Dylan Austin.)

Katya will be at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in all of her glory on July 3. 

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and continues to work within the Calgary arts & culture scene to promote the city’s numerous and varied events. Contact her at