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Drag Race UK vs The World’s Tia Kofi on championing causes and being ‘the Dua Lipa of drag’

Exclusive: "I feel like we could all be using our platforms a little more than just sharing an Instagram post that something's come up or saying one thing on a particular day," Tia has told Attitude

By Alastair James

Tia Kofi
Tia Kofi after being crowned the winner of RuPaul's Drag Race UK vs The World (Image: BBC)

After her win on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World Tia Kofi is aiming for the stars.

Having first competed on Drag Race UK series two where she was rated ‘Baroness Basic’ by her fellow queens, Tia came back to the competition with a revamped wardrobe and a greater sense of confidence.

Her win is herstory marking. Tia is the first person of colour to win a crown in the UK. The same day she was crowned Queen of the Mothertucking World Tia also released her debut album Read My Lips.

In an exclusive interview with Attitude following her win, Tia discusses making herstory, what causes she wants to champion (and why she thinks other queens could be doing the same), and why she is “the Dua Lipa of drag.”

Tia Kofi and Blu Hydrangea
Tia Kofi and Blu Hydrangea (Image: BBC)

How does it feel to have won?

It feels wonderful as the first person of colour to achieve the win in the United Kingdom. It feels like a wonderful opportunity to represent diversity, equality, and inclusion in this country.

There’s a video of you and Hannah watching the result be announced. Can you share what you said to each other then?

Hannah said she’s really proud of me. That’s what I remember. I can’t remember because it was all a blur, but in the video, I definitely see myself go ‘What the f***!?’ It was pure disbelief to be totally honest. I felt really confident when we filmed it a year ago and the more I watched and viewed socials I felt less confident. It felt like it was a hope against the odds, but it happened.

How was the rest of the night?

Ask someone who remembers. It was wonderful. I performed on stage and I did my own song, ‘Read My Lips’ from my debut album of the same name and then a mashup of ‘Sissy That Walk’ and ‘Outside In’ just to hammer home the Drag Race of it all. Then Hannah and I did Kylie’s ‘Your Disco Needs You’ together. It was lovely to be with Hannah that night. She’s really special, really kind and that’s probably one of my favourite things that’s come out of this season, my friendship with Hannah Conda.

Have you had lots of Drag Race sisters get in touch?

Yeah, loads have messaged which has been really wonderful. I think a lot of them have seen the negativity and wanted to counterbalance that. Jimbo messaged, Vivacious [messaged] who is an icon. Jinkx. Willam. Lovely messages of support and love from people, particularly past winners. It’s very bizarre having them talk to me like I’m on a level.

Drag Race UK vs The World
Tia Kofi on Drag Race UK vs The World (Image: BBC)

As well as the positive reaction there’s also been some negative reaction from parts of the Drag Race fandom. What do you make of that?

It’s really interesting because people create a narrative and it takes a small minority of loud voices to gain momentum. I was there and the other queens were there and I do not perceive that [narrative] to be true. There was a season of Drag Race where RuPaul goes up to Gigi Goode and says, ‘Do you really want to do that character for Snatch Game?’ And Gigi says ‘I understand your concerns and I do not share them.’ And then she wins. That’s the energy I’m trying to channel at this moment in time. All the nice things my actual friends in the real world have said to me in person. That’s the most important bit to me.

Is there a past Drag Race winner that has inspired you in terms of what to do with your win? Is there a cause you want to get behind?

I was having a conversation today where I was like, obviously drag pageants and Drag Race in general mirror the Miss Universe-style pageants. I haven’t seen many people take on a platform or take on a cause for the time of their reign. And I feel like that’s something I really want to do. I feel like we could all be using our platforms a little more than just sharing an Instagram post that something’s come up or saying one thing on a particular day. Championing a cause and being the Princess Di of drag feels very much in my wheelhouse and something I would be very passionate about. But secondary to that serious answer, Jinkx Monsoon because she got to be on Doctor Who. Russell [T. Davies], give me the call.

Do you have any idea what cause(s) you might support?

No, there are so many things that we should be passionate about at the moment. And as the first winner of colour diversity, equality and inclusion is something I’m very passionate about. Trans Day of Visibility was just the other day so that’s something that comes to my mind. Being a person of colour in the UK, there are obvious charities to do with that that I might want to help lift the voice of. I think more queens could be doing things like that. Elektra Fence is such a good example. She’s running the marathon and she’s done so much amazing work and been to Parliament to speak on issues that are very personal to her. That’s really inspiring. F*** the winners! Elektra Fence is my inspiration!

Tia Kofi and Hannah Conda
Tia Kofi and Hannah Conda (Image: BBC)

Before the final, we talked about your journey from ‘Baroness Basic’ to now. Does that feel like a big vindication?

It felt a lot safer being ‘Baroness Basic,’ I can’t lie. It does feel like a vindication because these decisions about who gets picked for seasons, All Stars, and who wins are down to RuPaul, who is the pinnacle of drag globally. There isn’t anyone who surpasses her in terms of longevity and diversity in terms of her body of work, and also platforming drag on the scale that she has done. So, for Ru to have picked me is wild.

Was it expensive getting ready for Drag Race UK vs The World?

Absolutely. And probably me more so than other people because allegedly the only thing holding me back in my first season were the runways. So, I did commit financially quite heavily in terms of the looks and the runways. Even down to the lip sync looks just in case I made it into the top. I had new things made for that as well. So, I did really commit to it, but I also wanted to do it in a way that was truthful to me. I didn’t want to come out and suddenly be offering looks that weren’t thought through or were silhouettes that I’ve never worn.

You got to represent Cherry Valentine on the show. What was that like for you?

It was really emotional. Before I even got the phone call, I’d had a conversation with Lawrence Chaney about what would happen if I actually got called back and we agreed a memorial runway to Cherry was completely appropriate and necessary because it’s important to represent her legacy. She worked extremely hard to not only showcase herself, but platform things like mental health and LGBTQ travellers. It would have been remiss not to remember her in that way. It was really important and I’m glad that I got to do that on behalf of the season two queens and remind everyone about Cherry’s legacy.

Your debut album came out on Friday. What’s the response been like?

It was a slay! It was in the iTunes chart. How weird is that? And it’s available on vinyl. Someone posted an image with Trixie [Mattel] and Priyanka’s vinyls. And mine’s there as well. I’m literally the first UK queen to have a vinyl. And, I think, the first to do an album at all. That’s kind of amazing. I feel like the Dua Lipa of drag because she also can’t dance.

Are you planning your next album or are we chilling?

Listen, my love, let me have a little nap. But I am back in the studio on Monday, so not that much of a nap.

Having won Drag Race and released an album, what’s the next dream?

Maybe I’ll have a world record for something. That would be fun. How about the first UK queen to win an all-winner season? Let’s go for that.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World is streaming on the BBC iPlayer now.