Image courtesy of Tynomi Banks
When you think of performance art, what comes to mind? An artist moving their body to bring a space to life? A painter creating in real time? Maybe a musician? From the make-up chair through to the stage, Drag performers combine all these elements and more into a unique and expressive art form unlike any other.
To get a better idea of how all these elements come together, we kikied with Tynomi Banks, a legendary Toronto Drag Performer and Queen on the upcoming TV series Canada’s Drag Race.
AGO: How did you get started doing Drag in Toronto?
Banks: I’ve been doing Drag for almost 14 years. I started because a friend needed help organizing a show and asked me to be a backup dancer. I told him I would do it once, and that turned into 14 years!
AGO: What is your favourite component of Drag as an art form?
Banks: My favourite is movement. When my body moves it helps tell the story of the song I’m performing and what I’m feeling.
AGO: Do you think your Drag persona allows you to explore a deeper, more expressive version of yourself?
Banks: Yes, definitely. When I’m feeling a certain way (negative or positive), my Drag is a conduit and outlet for these feelings. It can help me deal with stress and even personal issues. It doesn’t let me escape, but Tynomi does help me channel it into something positive.
AGO: Some see Drag as a political statement. Does it hold political significance for you?
Banks: Yes, it does. A lot of young Queens deal with self-identity issues and the Drag characters we get to create are purely your own vision. It allows us to be seen on our terms. I know that the younger generation is looking to belong, just as I did. And as a more experienced Queen, I want them to know that I am here to help them. I also know that I have a huge platform and I want to use it to share information and start important conversations.
AGO: Drag has given a platform to many BIPOC and trans performers. What do you think needs to happen for more BIPOC and trans voices to be seen and heard in mainstream culture?
Banks: What we lack is understanding, compassion and patience. We all have to open up to each other and learn. How will anyone learn if they don’t have a diverse friend group? Even I recognize that I need to expand my friendships and learn more. The community needs to learn from each other and not take anything for granted.
AGO: How can people support Drag in their local communities?
Banks: It’s very easy. SHOW UP. Donate to important charities that help our community. Volunteer. Go to a show. Just show up and beautiful things will happen.
AGO: How has the Drag scene in Toronto evolved over the years?
Banks: The Drag scene has definitely become more inclusive and way more diverse. The younger generation has such fresh energy, creativity, and new ideas and they have created their own spaces and stages [outside of The Village] which expands our reach.
AGO: As a contestant on the upcoming (and much anticipated) first season of Canada’s Drag Race, how has the popularity of Drag Reality TV changed the art form?
Banks: The Drag Race franchise has made Drag more mainstream and acceptable to people who wouldn’t normally come out to The Village to watch a show. Now they can watch it in the comfort of their own home and find out what it’s all about.
AGO: Has it changed your Drag in particular?
Banks: My Drag started the old fashion way – listening to my Drag mother and copying her makeup. When Ru-Paul’s Drag Race exploded, I saw different types of Drag from Queens of all different cultures and my well of artistic creation and knowledge expanded. I was able to tweak Tynomi as she grew up.
AGO: With COVID forcing the cancellation of so many festivals and events, how did you celebrate Pride?
Banks: Along with my Canada’s Drag Race sisters, I performed on June 27 at the Drag Ball Presented by Crave. It’s now available on YouTube, so tune in and a sneak peek at the show! New engagements are always popping up so follow me @tynomibanks for the latest on where you can see me perform.
Catch Tynomi Banks and her fellow performers showcasing the art of Drag in the new series Canada’s Drag Race, premiering July 2nd.
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