On July 18, 2016, Kim Kardashian shared a now-infamous series of videos that appeared to show Taylor Swift had lied about a conversation between the singer and Kim's husband, Kanye West. The clips launched the hashtag #KimExposedTaylorParty and people around the internet filled Swift's Instagram comments and Twitter replies with an unfathomable amount of snake emojis in response.
In the months since those events, Swift has significantly reduced her public appearances and online presence — until last week when her social media accounts were completely wiped clean of all content. On Monday and Tuesday, Swift uploaded distorted footage of what looks like a snake, in a cheeky reference to the comment swarms. It's a pretty clear attempt — days before she reportedly will drop a new single — to reclaim a symbol designed to shame her as her own, which is straight from the media playbook of popular drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck.
After eliminating several fan favorite contestants during her run on RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, fans of the show gave Alaska the Swift treatment and began harassing her with the snake emoji, too. But unlike Swift, who responded to the hate with a tersely worded statement, Alaska immediately integrated snakes and her villain narrative into her wardrobe and brand. She released a YouTube video almost immediately after where she faux-copped to loving everything about snakes, while wearing a gown with a cobra-like collar.
Alaska's efforts were a successful diversion for fans of Drag Race — who can be insanely abusive towards contestants of the show — and the public wave of hate against her quickly dissipated.
In a quick email chat, Alaska explained why she handled the situation that way, what she learned from it, and her advice for Taylor Swift, as she attempts to reclaim the snake symbol in the exact same way.
After fans swarmed your comments with the snake emoji, you began using it yourself, wearing snake jewelry, mentioning it a bunch — basically reclaiming it. What was your thinking in doing that?
You have to take the tragic and turn it to magic. People used to call me a horse face. Then I adopted the horse as my spirit animal. Something that brought me pain and anguish ended up bringing me strength and joy. So when I got bombarded with snakes I got a new spirit animal. Lucky me.
Do you think it was a successful strategy to diffuse the situation?
It's really all you can do. Go through the pain and embarrassment until you get to the other side. Otherwise you spend your life hiding from it, constantly reminded of it whenever you see it, and going to pieces over it time and again. If people are laughing at you, you might as well be in on the joke.
Were you surprised to see Taylor Swift basically doing the same thing? Do you have any advice for her as someone who has essentially flipped a 'villain narrative'?
Straight people love to steal from drag queens. It happens all the time. But luckily I love to inspire young artists.
The truth is, people who have longevity are able to be aware of their public perception and take it and use it and make it work for them. So bravo to Taylor. I never stopped liking her and I still do. But if she thinks she's the Queen of Snakes, she is terribly mistaken.