Ask any long-time RuPaul's Drag Race fan, and they'll tell you Drag Race UK season two has been the best, most joyous, uplifting and educational series of all time (US series included). Not an exaggeration, just a fact. While season one brought us The Vivienne's disturbingly accurate Donald Trump Snatch Game, season two is just in another league entirely. And why is that? I'd argue it's largely down to the mere existence of Bimini Bon-Boulash, the series' lovable, authentic, sharp, articulate, non-binary, East London queen.
Ahead of the series finale, I had the honour of sitting down with Tommy Hibbitts - aka Bimini - to chat about *that* perpetual earworm, what their favourite moments of the show have been so far, and why they're so inspired by female celebrities who've been vilified by the society and the press.
What's been your favourite moment of the show so far?
"I love the conversations we've been able to have, I think they've been really important. And being able to be that representation for people without even really intentionally meaning to do it. It's just been so lovely that people watching have resonated with that. And obviously, 'UK, HUN?' ..."
Did you know 'UK, HUN?' was going to be such a big banger?
"I didn’t know! We don't really have time to digest it. Like, we were filming Snatch Game the next day. It was an earworm, and we kept singing it the whole time. But you don't think it's going to have that impact. I remember thinking the other team did so well and that we wouldn't be able to match it..."
Why do you do drag?
"To me, drag is political, it’s an act of defiance in itself and no matter how mainstream it gets, people should always remember where drag came from, and what it was created in aid of. It’s always stood for people that were segregated, or minorities in society, or people that didn't have the same opportunities. Drag has allowed people escapism. We’re meant to mock and parody what’s going on in the world, and to me, that’s what drag is. Drag is now reaching more people than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we should dilute the original message of what it is."
Did you have any idea you'd become a role model for trans and non-binary people?
"No. I've always looked to other trans and non-binary role models for inspiration. It was never an intention. For me, I think it's been a weird one with gender identity. When I first moved to London, these words that we're using now weren't really accessible, and the discussions weren't there. But there was kind of no need for the discussion, almost. Because with the people that I work with, it was like gender really wasn't a thing. It wasn't an issue. There were no labels. And so as these conversations got better and better, I was like, ‘Okay, I think that word works for me, that resonates with me'.
"Non-binary can be for anyone that feels that way. But I also feel like I'm very fluid with my gender. And it's almost like having those labels is kind of restrictive. And it's something that I've always wanted to push away. And so going onto the show and having those conversations, and having them broadcast is phenomenal. I'm not like rewriting the books on gender theory. I'm talking from my point of view.
"Munroe Bergdorf said something on a podcast I listened to the other day. She spoke about how she stands on the shoulders of the trans activists who stood before her. And what she wants to do is fight for more rights for the trans people that come after her. I think that was such a good analogy, because all we can do is keep pushing for that acceptance and hope that the next generation is better, and the generation after that."
Why do you think the chat you had with Ginny Lemon resonated so much with the audience?
"It was quite a simple explanation. It broke it down in an easy way for people to digest. And it was also coming from two people who experience it, as opposed to someone debating it or giving opposing views. We spoke about being non-binary, but we spoke about also feeling not accepted, and feeling a bit in the middle, or left out. You don't have to be non-binary to feel that. You can go through life and not feel that you fit in or feel like you've been excluded. I think it was also obvious I was just being myself and not playing into a character or anything, so I think people saw the vulnerability there."
How do you "embrace the femme"?
"I've not always been as confident with it. Now, I really do have my head higher, and I don't really care. You have a light, and you have how you feel. And if you're walking down the road and someone says a comment, it's these like little daggers into you that kind of slowly start to dim your light. So many queer people experience that.
"When I was young, I wasn’t into football, I was into dancing and dressing up and things that were seen as feminine. When I was young, it was cute. But as I was getting older, it wasn't. You start to realise quite quickly how you have to act to be accepted in society. And people start to repress [their true selves]. Young kids are so susceptible to everything, and they're open, they're learning these behaviours. So as soon as these kids start learning that it's wrong to dress up, they start to think, ‘Oh, I'm, I'm a weirdo’.
"For me, high school was just... high school. Show me a queer person that had a good experience. While I was always quite confident, I did start losing it over the years, because you do just try to kind of fit in a bit. But when I moved to London, that was really when I was like, ‘Gender is so fluid and it's okay to not fit in. Because there are people for you’. I came here and I kind of blossomed."
It felt like after the season break you came back with renewed strength. Is that right?
"I didn't change a single outfit. [In the first episode] I walked in with the big blonde hair and the pink outfit, saying ‘I'm vegan’. I wanted people to have a certain view of me immediately, and then I wanted to change that. I'm inspired by a lot of non-conforming celebrity figures who people do judge on their looks, but who actually do amazing activism. People don't take you seriously when you look a certain way. So I walked in under the intention that I wanted everyone to think, ‘Oh, she's a bimbo. She's not going to have anything to say’. And then completely change that. And it almost backfired. I almost went home and I was like, ‘God, if I'd have gone home, I would have just been remembered as the bimbo airhead’."
Why do you take inspiration from pop culture icons like Pamela Anderson and Katie Price who have been vilified by the media and society?
"I don't think people think deep enough about [why this happens]. It comes down to society's perceptions of femininity, and seeing it as weaker. Also, it's fine for the male gaze. But if it challenges a man, or if a woman is successful, then they start to try and tear that down. It's subtle, and it happens to only women. Think about Britney Spears, Princess Diana, Caroline Flack, all of these strong women who were at the top of their game. And then they get torn down by the media who are run by a majority of men. It's just wrong on so many levels. And I'm always inspired by women that stand on their own and just go for it. That's why I like to take inspiration from them."
What do you want to see in future series of Drag Race UK?
"I want to see more conversations happening. We've had conversations around HIV stigma and gender identity. Drag Race is a great platform because it's kind of bridging the gap between drag and the mainstream. It allows people to access things that maybe they wouldn't normally access. Coming from my hometown [Norwich, Norfolk], there's not a lot of queer people on TV. And after that conversation around non-binary, so many people accepted it. Suddenly, people were like, ‘I get it’. I was getting messages from teachers, mothers and fathers, and just people that were blown away by it almost because it was first time they’ve got it. Drag is always political and Drag Race have a really important platform to get those messages across in a way that people can relate to."
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