After the sashay: Tynomi Banks leaves the competition with her head up high

The Toronto sensation discusses the pressure of expectations and the value of the spotlight

The lip-sync assassin is dead. Long live the lip-sync assassin.

Going into the competition, Toronto queen Tynomi Banks was the odds-on favourite to win Canada’s Drag Race. Her reputation, however, seemed to inspire the judges to paint a target on her, and she ended up in the bottom two for three episodes in a row. And she had to compete yet again against one of her friends—this time, Ilona Verley—to survive. Tynomi encouraged Ilona to compete at her best. And she did. As did Tynomi. Suitably to Avril Lavigne’s hit “Girlfriend.” It was Can-con voguing at its finest.

We spoke with Tynomi about the judging, her reputation, friendship and why more people of colour should grab the spotlight.

What did you learn from your time on Canada’s Drag Race?

I learned to cry all the time. No, I want to do it again and do it better and come at a different angle. I think I just went in more serious and had the weight of wanting to impress everyone. And then, when it wasn’t working, it got really hard and I got hard on myself. I want to go at it again and be like, “All right, I’m going to kill this challenge. I want to do this.”

You are a Toronto legend. Do you think your reputation as an amazing performer hurt your chances to win the competition?

There was no way I could have thought that way. I was just grateful and proud that I made it on the show. And that’s the only thing that was in my mind at the time. Did I feel the pressure of that? Yeah, I definitely did.

Each episode we felt that the judges’ critiques really affected you. How did you feel when it seemed like they weren’t acknowledging your growth?

It was frustrating, and I kind of wanted to go outside and beat them up. But I can’t do that. You could see me physically eating my feelings and swallowing them back. And so, out of frustration, I cried, especially [during] the last challenge. I definitely think our group deserved better. We didn’t deserve the bottom for sure.

And you still gave us the experience of being Canada’s Drag Race‘s first “lip-sync assassin.” How do you feel about this title?

You know what? At least I walked away with something. I love performing and I love being on stage. And it showed in these battles. These girls, they’re very good. But there was just something—the fight in me. Every time, I looked defeated until I got my music and started playing, and then I’d tear up the other girl. Like who vogues to Avril Lavigne? I just found the beat. Jeffrey was just screaming. That’s literally never been done.


Speaking of the lip sync, we saw you encouraging Ilona to perform. What was going through your mind at the time?

After you have a good cry, it’s like you’re getting re-centred and you find a balance again. And then reality just strikes right there. At that moment, you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to get ready for this battle.” And then when I looked at [Ilona], she was literally losing it. And I was like, “Oh, no, no, no.” I think my motherly instincts just came in, and I was like, “Hey, hey, look. We signed up for this.” And she was just more worried about our friendship and everything. And I was like, “Honestly, we’re friends. We have to give the kids what they deserve and what they need, and you have to show, and I have to show, why we want it so bad.” And honestly—did you see? It was epic. I want gifs made of me. Oh my gosh, it was an incredible performance. [Ilona] should be proud of herself. I’m proud of myself. We literally killed it. We made history right there.

You have talked about how proud you are of your Jamaican roots. Why is it important to talk about this?

Because I don’t think there’s enough people of colour in the light, in the spotlight. And for me, before this, I always treated myself as the same as everyone. And as the social climate changed, you start to realize, you’re like, “Oh, maybe it’s not.” I saw this as an opportunity—and not just for myself personally—to show people, and especially people of colour, that we are here. We can do this. Priyanka is on the show and Anastarzia. It was the most diverse cast on the show. And it was just beautiful to see. And I’m going to use my platform to help people learn. It’s just important because there’s someone younger than me, like that new queen or a young boy who probably has self-doubt and can’t come out to their parents, and I just want them to know that you have family.

Looking back at your Drag Race journey, would you do something differently?

I would’ve just thrown all my cares out the door and just been like, “You know what? To hell with what people think, and putting this pressure on me.” Just have more fun with it.

What is next for you?

You saw the music episode. I think I’m going to try that out a little bit more. Working with Ralph was so… just like in drag, she just showed different skills. She was just telling us, “Hey, do this. Maybe change your voice like this. Have this attitude.” And I was like, “Oh, this is so fun.” And then the track was there. I was just obsessed. I thought it would be overwhelming and scary, but literally to make those lines and make it mean something to me and then get to perform it, was an experience of a lifetime.

If it can’t be you, which queen would you like to see win it all?

I’m going to be professional here and say it should have been me. And there are twists. I didn’t think I was going to be coming off the show. So I’m going to sit back and be a fan for these girls and actually watch it unfold. It could be anyone’s. Literally, the show has me on edge, and now I’m going to be on edge at my TV, like “Oh my God, oh my God. Girls!”

One word to describe your time on Canada’s Drag Race?

I’ll just say gorgeous.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The contributor photo for Gordon Bowness

Gordon Bowness (he/him) is the executive editor of Xtra. With a 30-year career covering the LGBTQ2S+ community, Gordon is also the founding editor of Go Big magazine and In Toronto (now In Magazine). He is an English speaker and lives in Toronto.

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