A number of RuPaul’s Drag Race dolls are known to become “lip sync assassins” but Tia Kofi is the first “lip sync meh-sassin”. It’s that acute self awareness and strong sense of humor that made her a darling of the fans (and of RuPaul) throughout her RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. run. While she has sashayed away from the competition, this accomplished singer-songwriter is taking the momentary pause to work on her own “glow up”. I spoke with Tia following her elimination & we chatted about her run on Drag Race U.K., what lessons she takes from the experience, and why knowing much of our community’s rich history is crucial to “know where we’re going”.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on a phenomenal season on RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. So first off, have we decided if you are an official ‘lip sync assassin’?
Tia Kofi: Thank you so much, it’s been fun! I have been referring to myself as a ‘meh-sassin’; we made it through two (laughs)!
MC: What has the entire Drag Race experience been like so far for you?
TK: It has been a wild ride. It’s called RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K., but you don’t realize that people are literally watching it everywhere. I am having all of these interactions from America, Brazil, Holland, all over the place. It has been a lot to digest, but it has been absolutely incredible. it is very strange to watch yourself back, that is for sure.
MC: This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. has truly rocketed the franchise to new heights and it seems like almost every single episode is trending on Twitter. What do you attribute that to?
TK: I think it is a combination of things. Not only as a cast have we stepped up the fashion, the fights and the funny, it has come at a time when it is so needed. We have all been experiencing what is going on across the world with COVID, and it has come at a time when people really need that glamour, color, fun, and energy every week. I think people have been using it as a release every single week.
MC: Having a seven month break right in the middle of filming is something that has never happened before. What was it like leaving and then coming back?
TK: It was hard, people have sort of experienced things in different ways. Some people have the ability to sew and were able to buy new things, that sort of thing. Drag is my full time job so there was nothing available to me to fall back on financially. That took up a lot of my focus; as much as I was spending time rhinestone-ing and glittering, I had the mental struggle of making ends meet during this time. It was really difficult, and there were also some other personal struggles happening during that time as well. It made it really difficult for me to get that courage to go back in. When I walk back in, to find out that the one person who had been cheering me on and keeping me going wasn’t able to return, it just completely broke my spirit that Veronica (Green) was not able to come back.
MC: Returning to the workroom after the break without Veronica was without a doubt a challenge for you, but RuPaul herself seemed to definitely take an interest in you, both in the workroom and on the main stage. How did that feel?
TK: You know, I am able to see that so clearly watching it back. At the time, it was the pressure and the panic was a lot to deal with. I don’t know if you noticed, but I am quite an anxious person, so I probably wasn’t able to be ‘in the moment’ much. Looking back, realizing that Ru was telling me to achieve the best that I could. Not even subtly, and I just didn’t pick up on it, it was pretty obvious. It was just amazing to look back and see that this was encouragement, it wasnt a critique; it was cheering me on to succeed. It was incredible to look at it and see that Ru really wanted me to do well. If only she had lent me her team of fifty (laughs)!
MC: What do you think you have learned the most about yourself?
TK: I think that I have definitely learned to believe a lot in myself more. Because it was sort of really difficult at that time. My expectation, no offense to Season 1, was that I would be up against a bit of a knees up, jolly time, slightly rough around the edges…but enough about Baga (Chipz) (laughs)! I came into this season and saw some of the most polished and fashion forward performers that I had ever seen in my life. Ahora, Taste, Lawrence, Bimini, all of the energy and looks that they were bringing into it was so intimidating to me. It is just not what I am used to in the kind of scene that I work and perform in.
MC: Watching queens that you have come up with in the U.K. on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K., it must have been truly surreal.
TK: It was surreal but it was amazing. I am really good friends with (Season 1 contestants) Sum Ting Wong & Vinegar Strokes and when I went to see that Season One tour, just to be in a room full of people cheering and screaming for people who have literally slept on my sofa for as long as I can remember was just incredible. I think the thing about British drag, or maybe just British people in general, is that you go into it with a sense of pride and admiration; there is no sort of sense of jealousy in it at all. It is just amazing to see people that you are friends with and have worked with to succeed in that way. Also on that tour, I wrote both of Vinegar and Sum Ting’s songs that they released so I was standing there say “I wrote this, how do all of these people know the words, I wrote them on the back of a napkin three weeks ago?!”; it was wild.
MC: So are there any napkins left where you can write some music for yourself to release?
TK: I actually just dropped a single called ‘Outside In’ which is available on streaming platforms. it is absolutely incredible that I got to work with two amazing British songwriters called Tom Aspaul and Little Boots, who also are singer songwriters with their own incredible music. To be able to work with people that I have looked up to and listened to is absolutely incredible.
MC: How have you stayed inspired and creative during the past year that has been truly remarkable for so many of us in so many ways?
TK: You can’t really leave the house so I spent a lot of time writing, spent some time doing things like makeup and having that sort of ‘glow-up moment’ which I hope has been translating on my Instagram. I have been focusing on acquiring some of the skills that I didn’t have as much as other people did and acquiring skills just for my own drag and working on them.
I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix also, I can recommend WandaVision, it’s very good! It’s A Sin is one of the best shows I have ever watched; I mean, Russell T Davies!! LGBTQ history is something that is very important to me. Everyone has to watch that show; you may think that you know what the 80’s was like for this community, but until you watch that and you hear things, like if you admitted you were gay you couldn’t get a mortgage, it is madness. I am so appreciative that I can watch things like that and I have my drag mothers like Rose Garden who have taught me that I might be complaining about this or that, but you don’t know how good you have it; it really puts things in perspective. If you don’t now where you’ve been you have no idea where you are going. If you don’t know what people fought for before you, I don’t think you fully know how long and difficult this struggle has been for the community; so let’s all support each other!
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