9 December 2021

“You have to measure your success with the mentality of the past” – Tia Kofi talks Drag Race, beauty, and her music career

After featuring in HUNGER's Beauty Issue, we sat down with Tia Kofi to discuss how life has changed over the past year, what beauty means in her eyes, and the problem with drag nowadays. 

Probably one of the most worrying things about participating in reality TV shows is that it can often feel, if you don’t win, as if your moment comes and goes. One minute you’re the talk of Twitter, the next you’re back to square one. But for drag star Tia Kofi, who took part in season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, the artist has managed to keep her head well above the dangers of grinding to a halt. 

For Tia Kofi, RuPaul’s Drag Race wasn’t necessarily the start for the queen, it was more of an accelerator. She’s been doing this a while, for much longer than a lot of other queens can say they’ve been doing drag. And fresh off the show, Tia was a fan favourite. She was funny, inspired, and didn’t take herself too seriously but still wanted to win, and she was even told to sashay away whilst wearing a pterodactyl-esque look. 

But now, a lot has changed for her. There were no glimpses of stumbling back to square one. Since leaving the show, the multi-hyphenate says she has become more confident in many ways, she’s got her mind set on a serious music career (but wouldn’t say no to representing the UK at Eurovision) and, most importantly, she’s at a time in her life now where things feel comfortable. The queen is no longer trying to make it as a successful drag artist, she is a successful drag artist. However, Tia Kofi admits that success is something you never really grasp firmly in your hands, it’s always something just about slipping through your fingertips. 

After featuring in HUNGER’s recent Beauty Issue, we sat down with the queen to discuss her career up to now, what beauty means to her, and what she has to say about the drag world…

Tia Kofi wears BYREDO Fêtes Noires Eyeshadow Colours and BYREDO Eyeshadow 5 Colours in Syren and BYREDO Bhoora Bhoora Crayon Kajal on eyes. BYREDO Space Black Mascara on lashes. BYREDO Bhoora Bhoora Crayon Kajal on the cheeks as a contour. BYREDO Mad Red Lipstick on lips. BYREDO Bal d’Afrique Body Lotion on body.

Tia Kofi wears BYREDO Fêtes Noires Eyeshadow Colours and BYREDO Eyeshadow 5 Colours in Syren and BYREDO Bhoora Bhoora Crayon Kajal on eyes. BYREDO Space Black Mascara on lashes. BYREDO Bhoora Bhoora Crayon Kajal on cheeks as a contour. BYREDO Mad Red Lipstick on lips, cheeks and eyes. BYREDO Bal d’Afrique Body Lotion on body. BYREDO Suede Hand Cream on hands.

What does beauty mean to you? 

That’s a difficult one because obviously beauty is traditionally purely aesthetic, it’s quite a superficial thing, and that’s something that I always struggle with personally. Not to sound stereotypical but it’s definitely more than skin deep. There’s a moment in Doctor Who where Amy Pond says that when you get to know someone and get to realise how amazing they are you can sort of see it on their faces and they become more beautiful to you and I think that’s really true. When you get to know someone, you can almost see it on their face. 

What influence does drag have on your perceptions of beauty? 

Drag’s an odd one because obviously there are trends and things, as there would be with any makeup or anything in that beauty industry. As I’ve got better at it, it’s given me a superpower, an ability to be my best self. But it does have an impact on perceptions of things. I would say I’m more aware of my flaws in drag than I am out of drag, because obviously you spend hours looking at yourself in a mirror close up so it makes me a little bit more like that scene in Mean Girls: “my pores suck!”

Is there anything about the world of drag that you’d like to change? 

I think everyone should have to struggle their way up and pay their dues, because I think it’s become one of those things like, “oh my god you’re pretty, you can have a gig,” as a result of Drag Race and things like that. I don’t agree with that. I think everyone should have to do years of ten minute guest spots with 70-year-old drag queens who have been doing it for half their lives because I think that’s an important part of learning about not only performance and audiences, but learning about your own community. If you come out of the womb with a human hair wig, jumping into a split, and that’s all you know about drag – what RuPaul’s told you by watching a tv show – then you have no idea. 

What would you say was your most memorable performance and why? 

Getting eliminated [from Drag Race] dressed as a pterodactyl… probably.  

What are you most excited about to go on tour with the other cast members of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2?

Yes, almost everyone. I’m excited to go on tour with the people from the cast that I talk to…the nice ones. 

Any comments on Drag Race Season 3? 

I mean it was boring, but that’s not the fault of the cast. You’re not gonna turn it down and say you’re not gonna do it. It wasn’t the most exciting season of the show, but it’s not their fault. I don’t know, maybe I should say something nice. It was a difficult time, wasn’t it? Getting all of that stuff together, during a pandemic, during lockdown laws – I know how hard that is. You can’t go for fittings and stuff. It is a bit of a shame, but it had its moments. I’m sure Kitty Scott-Claus’ back is aching from carrying the season.

Looking back on the past year since being on the show, how would you say your life has changed?

It’s changed massively. I can afford to eat now, which is nice, which I couldn’t do before. I was going through stuff, preparing for taxes, I literally cried when I went through the lockdown period. I honestly could not have afforded dust during that time. People said, ‘why didn’t you improve your looks during lockdown?,’ and I’m like, ‘I will release my tax records and you can see…’ because I earned about £40 in seven months. That’s definitely something that’s changed. I can feel a bit more comfortable and a bit more confident. I’m slowly learning to also treat myself and be nice to myself. Also, the response has been really nice. It’s given me a lot more confidence, and in many ways taken a lot of confidence away from me. I’m more confident that I can be myself, because that’s what everyone likes. But then obviously I feel a little bit less confident in the aesthetics of my drag and things like that.

Having just released your own festive track, Jingle Bell Rock, when would you say is the best time at Christmas to listen to the single? 

From the moment you wake up on the 1st of December to the moment you go to sleep on the 31st of December on a loop, on Spotify, on iTunes, listen to it constantly. It is just jolly and festive and really silly. The music I’ve been trying to do so far, I’ve been trying to really focus on legitimate pop music and the 80s vibe I love. And this is just silly, festive and camp, more what you’d expect from someone from Drag Race, so I’m really happy I get to team up with The Vivienne (who won). 

What’s your favourite festive hit? 

Can it be a hymn, is that really boring? We Three Kings… I love that. I was going to say Once in Royal David’s City, but I’m not convinced I actually know how that goes. 

Any New Year’s resolutions you’d like to share?

To spend more time with boys who actually want to spend time with me, rather than want to spend time with the concept of me. That’s something that’s changed since being on the show… I don’t understand how dating works anymore. I’ll go on… certain applications: Grindr. And all the messages I get are like, ‘I love Outside In,’ ‘you were my favourite on the show,’ ‘ooh, confessional queen,’ and I’m like, this app is literally for dick, please calm down. So I find it impossible. Also, I was cheated on by my previous boyfriend literally while we were filming, so I don’t trust anyone anymore. Yeah, that’s a massive challenge. So my New Year’s resolution is to work on myself, so I can place trust in other humans that I find attractive.  

 How do you want to be seen as a musician and drag icon? 

As a musician, I want to be seen as a legitimate artist. I guess it’s like the Eurovision effect. People in the UK look at Eurovision like it’s a joke and then people in Europe look at our entries as a joke, but that’s not the case because there are legitimate musicians and pop stars, people who have been working in the industry for years, who write those songs or who go on it. It’s really important to people. That’s what I want. I don’t want it to be the case of: it’s a drag queen doing silly drag music and it’s probably all parody or not serious. I really enjoy writing and performing music, and I would love for it to be taken seriously in not just the LGBTQ+ community who maybe get it, I think, but also further afield. 

What’s your barometer for success as a creative? 

It sounds awful, but I don’t think it ever comes, and you have to remind yourself of that. Something I always say to friends and drag daughters is that you have to remember your goal posts constantly shift, so you have to put yourself in the mindset of who you were before. To me, it sort of feels like this isn’t enough, I’ve done my first EP, and I need to do the 2nd one and work harder on it and perfect the sound. But I forget that the concept of me putting an EP out there is absolutely ludicrous a year ago. You have to measure your success with the mentality of the past. If you are the kind of person who is trying to achieve things for non-selfish reasons, generally speaking, you will constantly keep striving. It’s a hideous existence, but that’s just the way it is, isn’t it?

  • Photographer Rankin
  • Beauty Editor Marco Antonio using BYREDO
  • Hair Stylist Johanna Cree Brown at Gary Represents
  • Manicurist Jessica Thompson at Eighteen Management using Byredo
  • Photography Assistants Manny Owusu-Afram, Doma Dovgialo, Jed Barnes
  • Producer Kay Riley

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