Yep, we can EXCLUSIVELY confirm that we at GAY TIMES are still shedding a Tia over the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season two. On the sixth episode, the series’ reigning “camp cow”, confessional queen and lip-sync “meh-sassin” Tia Kofi was bing, bang bong’d from the competition after failing to impress the judges for the franchise’s staple maxi-challenge, Snatch Game.
While she didn’t make it as far as we hoped – we all stan a Jinkx Monsoon-esque underdog storyline, don’t we? – the star’s wit and self-awareness won unanimous praise from viewers, and her Alan Turing runway was inducted into Gay Twitter’s hall of (gif) fame. “People seem to really enjoy me saying words, as I do, just out of my brain!” Tia tells GAY TIMES. “I absolutely love the reaction everyone’s had.”
Here, we speak with Tia Kofi about all of the gag-worthy “twists and turns” of Drag Race UK season two, including the critiques from the judges and cast about her aesthetic, sashaying away from the series due to COVID and that “terrifying” encounter with RuPaul on the main stage. Tia also issues a warning to all of the drag queens out there who ‘pester’ alumni for T(ia). Matt, you know who you fucking are.
Before we start this interview, I would like to inform everywhere out there that Tia Kofi’s debut single Outside In is now available on iTunes and all streaming platforms.
[Holds up vinyl of single cover] What, this?
That artwork is gorgeous!
Prepared at all times!
You and I spoke last week about the single, and you gave nothing away about your elimination. I had zero indication…
Surprise, it’s me!
What was going through your mind as you sashayed away?
When you get there, your biggest fear is being in the bottom two. We’ve done that twice. Then once you’ve done that, your biggest fear is hearing “sashay away” and then I heard it, and I sort of went, ‘I’m still alive and everything’s fine?! The world is still turning? That’s great. I’ve heard what I thought was the worst possible thing to hear, and I’m absolutely okay.’ It put a lot of things in context for me, and as I walked to the back of the stage, my main thought was, ‘I know that we’re getting Wagamama’s tonight, what do I want to order? Probably a Chicken John Dory.’ That was my main thought in that moment.
The way you left the series summed up Tia Kofi, really. In past seasons, if RuPaul tells a queen to sashay away and they reply, it’s always, ‘Thank you for this opportunity, you’ve changed my life,’ but for you it was, “Are you sure?”
[Laughs] I was just having a camp time at that moment. It’s kind of that feeling of like, ‘It’s done. She’s said sashay away, that’s the moment you dread, and it’s happened,’ so I had a sigh of relief. I was just myself in that moment, and that’s what I wanted to say, so that’s what I said to RuPaul Charles herself. She found it funny, which I love – I love the fact that RuPaul is truly a camp cow. Good to know!
Were you shocked to leave when you did, or did you feel like it was the right time for your journey to end?
I was shocked to leave when I did because I fully thought Asttina [Mandella] was going to send me home in episode three, so I was like, ‘Good for me! We got through that bit!’ Yeah, it did feel like it was the right time in that moment because it was so hard taking critiques, it was just really difficult. We had that seven month break and everyone sort of focused on the idea of, ‘You’ve got seven months to step everything up and you should be working on it!’ but also like, I don’t think people are fully taking into account the personal issues that people might have had. We’re all going through this lockdown and this global panettone, delicious, and the mental health stress put on everyone is huge. Veronica [Green] mentioned it in the special. She didn’t leave her bed for 12 weeks. So, having that break and feeling the stress, everyone experiences it in different ways, and then going back into it, it was really difficult. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world. What a gorgeous pink room I spent a lot of time in, it was lovely.
Throughout the series, you constantly faced scrutiny for your aesthetic, although you were praised by the judges and your fellow contestants for your talent. Did this come as a surprise to you?
I think this season, we’ve really stepped the fashion up. There are look queens left, right and centre cracking out these amazing things. So, it did come as a bit of a shock because I didn’t see anyone tweeting aggressive things when Baga [Chipz] wore an upside down umbrella with a rubber duck in it on her head last season. It was camp, it was fun! I think the way people have reacted is as a result of the way that the cast, as a whole, present themselves quite differently to a lot of the people on season one. So, it was a tiny bit of a shock, but the thing that was a shock for me was that people seem to really enjoy me saying words, as I do, just out of my brain! I absolutely love the reaction everyone’s had. It’s been gorgeous.
You’ve made history as the first queen to survive two lip-syncs on Drag Race – how does it feel to be the reigning lip-sync assassin?
I like to call myself the ‘lip-sync meh-sassin’ because we got to a third lip-sync, but didn’t push through it! It’s absolutely wild because in my drag, the way that I do it, I don’t lip-sync. That’s not what I do. To quote Charlie Hides, “99% of drag queens in London sing live.” I think I would go as far to say that my first lip-sync performance may have been against Asttina Mandella in episode three. We’ve had a lip-sync moment on stage at the Two Brewers every once in a while, for lols, but that’s after about 17 Jägerbombs and I don’t remember it the next day. So, I’m not sure if that counts! It was kind of amazing to have that moment to perform, because that’s what I really enjoy doing. Does she have the most iconic dance moves of all time? No. Can she do a roly-poly dressed as an ice cream? Yes!
You looked visibly shocked when you sent Asttina home.
Yeah. Yes. That. I remember looking over at Asttina as Ru said he made his decision and I was trying to say like, ‘It’s okay. Don’t worry about me, it’s alright,’ and then she said, “Tia Kofi, shantay you stay.” The shock and awe was real! It was just unbelievable. Then me, crying at the back in my mind just going, ‘It has to be a double shantay. It has to be both of us,’ as I’m on Ellie Diamond’s giant shoulder, weeping away. That was a genuine gag-worthy moment. We were all gagged at the first two eliminations, but I felt like that one… No one saw it coming. Even my drag friends were like, ‘How did you do that? We’ve all seen Asttina perform, she’s incredible!’ And she is, and she will continue to be.
We then had Ginny Lemon’s elimination… What has it been like, navigating social media throughout all of this, knowing that some of the most gag-worthy moments in herstory were about to take place?
I mean… It was pretty intense because there’s always a rumour mill, isn’t there? The worst thing for me has been people who I know, who come to a lot of the quizzes or shows I’ve done, slipping into the DM’s like, ‘Is it true that Ginny Lemon walks off the stage?’ and me having to be like, ‘I’ve told you once! Stop asking me questions about the show, I will not tell you again Matt.’ Just pop that in, I’m talking about Matt.
Fuck you, Matt!
Yeah, legit! The number of times I’ve had to be like, ‘I’m obviously not gonna say anything. What part of BBC NDA do you think means I’m gonna tell everyone everything that has happened on the show, because it doesn’t!’ It means I’m very frightened at the power and might of the BBC and will never slip up at any point, thank you very much!
What was your favourite rumour that turned out to be untrue?
For a long period of time, when we got back after filming, I had a lot of messages from people asking me if I had recovered from COVID. In a way, that was kind of heartbreaking because every time someone mentioned it to me, it reminded me that the person I was closest to in the competition did not get to come back. I knew the whole time it was Veronica Green, but sort of having to be like, ‘I’m not entirely sure what you’re referring to, but yes you’re right, this global pandemic is serious and we should all keep ourselves safe.’ Knowing that it was actually Veronica, it was really difficult to have people be like, ‘Is it you? Are you the secret COVID queen?’ I was like, ‘No! I’m the one that Michelle [Visage] accidentally put out on her Nando’s eight months ago.’ Do you remember that? That was camp!
Nando’s of all places…
That was a difficult one to have people mention occasionally. But also, for future reference, if you do drag and you’re messaging drag performers that you think are on the season – don’t! Don’t do it! You should know, you applied for the show. You know that you shouldn’t be doing that. You’re making everyone’s life harder by pestering people for T. Even though T is in my name – we don’t spill it. My entrance line was a lie! It’s not time to spill the Tia! It’s time to sign an NDA and keep your mouth shut.
Speaking of Veronica, you had each other’s backs throughout the series. It was so lovely to see you both stand up each other. What was it like to not have that support after coming back from the seven month break?
It was really hard. After that break, it was difficult to pick up where you left off. I was like, ‘At least I’ve got Veronica, she’s been supporting me against this barrage of basic that I’ve been told.’ Don’t know if you’ve noticed. Did anyone mention it on the show? Did anyone call me basic at any point? Didn’t really come up, did it? No kidding, it was constant! But, Veronica was there to support and defend. When she wasn’t there, it was genuinely a heartbreaking moment. But don’t worry, because my good friend Joe Black came back into the competition. I was like, ‘Awh, at least I’ve got Joe! Oh wait, now we’re in the bottom two against each other…’ It was very that.
Well, you’re anything but Baroness Basic in the preview for your music video… There’s a waist!
There’s a waist, there’s leg, everything! All of the things Ru wanted, it’s right there!
We have to talk about that moment with RuPaul.
Which moment do you mean? [Holds up mug with the words, “I don’t want to see any fucking H&M.”]
I need that mug. Because of your aesthetic that week, and Joe’s passion for high-street retailer H&M, you witnessed one of the most iconic moments on Drag Race. Cast your mind back to when you were stood on that stage. What was that moment like?
It was a lot, but it was definitely something to listen to because people don’t go off like that for no reason. There was obviously a motivating factor and reason behind it, which I think, ultimately, is Ru’s genuine passion for making sure that we deliver the best, not just for the show, but for ourselves, which definitely came across to me. The other half of my brain was going, ‘This is terrifying… What’s going on? I’m frightened right now!’ Looking back at it, it was quite camp to be honest. I was like, ‘Yaaas! Go off Ru,’ and then I realised that it was me and my friends that she was yelling at.
I don’t think you should have been in the bottom that week, personally. You killed the rap in UK Hun!
Well, I don’t disagree… We just aren’t fans of oversized ice cream cones. Although on Fashion Photo RuView, Raja and The Vivienne did give it a toot – just saying. I felt like I did really well in the challenge. I heard ‘Eurovision’ and I heard ‘girl group’. I’m in a drag girl group called The Vixens and I am literally such a Eurovision fan, it’s unbelievable. I’ve hosted Eurovision viewing parties with previous winners, shout out to Emmelie de Forest, previous UK acts – that sort of thing. When those things came together I was like, ‘Hahahaha! You all better try really hard because this is my moment!’ Then gag, it was not my moment because I was dressed as an ice cream. You win some, you lose some.
That leads me onto my next question: is there anything you would change about your time on the series?
Erm… the clothes. Yep, that’s the whole answer. The answer is: all of my outfits. Actually, that’s not true. People were really iffy on the Alan Turing moment at the start, but I completely stand by that runway! Was the category ‘cosplay and dress up as your favourite gay icon’? No, it wasn’t! It was perfectly within the rules and regulations of the competition to do an interpretation. So for anyone on social media who was like, ‘Joe Black gets told he didn’t give enough Bowie and this…’ Joe was trying to look like Bowie, I wasn’t. Different things, apples and oranges, let’s not compare. I completely stand by the rainbow binary code, it spelt out the word ‘love’. I was like, ‘We’re doing a thing, we’re having a moment, we’re really passionate about the LGBTQ+ community and history.’ I felt very good about that, particularly that outfit.
It’s now one of the most used gifs now in history. C’mon Tia, give me a little bit of the keyboard…
[Reenacts the now-iconic keyboard gif] It’s called a runway presentation, so you’re supposed to present something. In my head I was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to walk and give them fashion,’ but because I’m me, anytime there’s even a blip of panic or stress in a moment, I end up doing something ridiculous. For example, that moment or a forwards roll dressed as an ice cream cone, or asking Ru if she’s sure she wants to send me home. I can’t help it! I got to the end of that runway and I thought I’d really stomped it out. Looking back, she didn’t. I thought I served it, got to the end and was like, ‘What now?’
Classic Tia Kofi.
‘What is she like?! Classic Tia!’
You had a little bit of conflict with A’Whora at the start of the series, and then you formed a bond after the talk show challenge. What is that relationship like now?
We’re all a cast together, who have been through something that no other cast has gone through. I think that bond is going to persist, regardless, so I think that’s a relationship and something that we will have in common forever, no matter what people go on to do. We are unified by that experience of probably being the season of Drag Race that took the longest to film, in the whole of history! No one will ever take that away from us. It was lovely to see everyone’s reaction to that bonding moment.
I wanted to see more of Tia and A’Whora together!
It’s good that people had an opportunity to see that maybe judging people, the way that we all do, isn’t a good thing. Remember when we were kids and everyone was like, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!’ and then everyone forgets that because social media exists? Maybe that’s a little refreshers course for everyone, that we shouldn’t be so judgemental about each other. People have struggles. People are going through things. You never know what’s behind it. I think that’s part of the reason when people might have perceived that she was being on the attack of me for no reason, I didn’t really rise to it. I was like, ‘Something’s going on here, it isn’t about me.’
Over this moment, we need a little snippet from the chorus of Outside In.
True. Exactly that!
Finally, who would you like to take home the crown?
Ooh. I would say… The person that I think really deserves the crown this season is probably Graham Norton, to be honest. Serving looks, absolute icon, very nice, hilarious – Graham’s got the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent that I think that it takes to be the true winner of Drag Race UK. Good for Graham! Graham to win! Hashtag Graham Norton for season three!
In the words of Tia Kofi, “Are you sure?”
Are you sure?! You never know. Ginny Lemon might have just walked off the stage, but she’s actually just been standing behind the wall the whole time, so she might come back and take it. You don’t know! There are so many twists and turns this season, anything could happen!
To hear our thoughts on the brand new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, subscribe to Snatched! an original podcast from GAY TIMES. Each week, we dissect all of the drama and conflama of the latest episode and chat with the eliminated queen, who spills all the T on their exit and time on the series. Snatched! is now available on all streaming services including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.