GEN V: Katerina Tannenbaum

They may be young, but their creative energy knows no bounds. Meet Generation V.

This article appears in the pages of V124: Generation V, available for purchase now at

Actress Katerina Tannenbaum speaks her mind with rare candor and insight, whether pooh-poohing her book club’s latest pick or the 2020 Oscar nominations’ disappointing lack of diversity. But when the topic of her role in RuPaul Netflix vehicle AJ and the Queen leads to the question of her hypothetical drag alias, Tannenbaum is momentarily mum.“You caught me off guard with this!” she exclaims, with a laugh. As the young, in-recovery mother of the show’s titular 10-year-old, Tannenbaum supplies the show’s rough-around-the-edges heart. It follows, then, that her research for the role was less Drag Race marathons and more addiction-themed memoirs. “I dove into all that stuff,” she explains. “I wanted [to portray] a person, not a caricature.”Tannenbaum was right at home amid the show’s mothertucking brilliance, having developed her show-woman’s instincts early as one of seven kids. And as a longtime theater buff, she’d honed her taste for heaviness dusted with sugar and spice. “Rent tackles real shit but in a fun and sparkly way,” she says of the seminal hit musical. “That really attracted me. I was like, ‘Someday, I’m gonna play [exotic dancer] Mimi!’”

After making her way from Portland, Oregon to New York’s prestigious Stella Adler acting school, Tannenbaum soon found captive audiences— small ones at first, when she waited tables and babysat to make ends meet. Then came modeling gigs with brands like Opening Ceremony and Adidas, followed by buzz-generating turns in TV shows like Sweetbitter and The Bold.

Type, playing a queer girl who seduces Kat (Aisha Dee) on the latter. “The more visibility we [give to] alternative love stories, the more opportunity people will have to live out their reality,” she says. Next up for Tannenbaum is Betty, a series spun off from director Crystal Moselle’s film Skate Kitchen, coming to HBO this spring, and a starring role in indie rom-com Love-40.

“I know how lucky I am to call myself a working actor,” Tannenbaum reflects. “There must be something wrong with my brain because I never wanted to give up.” So when she’s put on the spot about her would-be drag title, Tannenbaum of course lands on her feet: “The Kat’s Meow!” she declares.

“It’s punchy.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Katerina wears
shirt Amiri
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