Words: Thomas Stitchbury; Photography: Jordan Rossi
Ever since they bing, bang, bonged their way to the finale of series two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, coming this close to snatching the crown and sceptre, Bimini Bon Boulashi's post-show success seems to have made losing the new winning.
They've conquered the worlds of music (debut single 'God Save This Queen' reigned supreme), publishing (Bimini’s book Release the Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide to Life is out on 14 October) and fashion (they walked their first LFW runway in September).
The cherry on top, obvs, is bagging the Attitude Style Award at the 2021 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar. Whether they are going for super-glam, high-voltage punk or, as you do, amoeba realness, everyone’s favourite vegan sure knows how to turn an eyeball grabbing look.
“I do like to switch it up as much as I can,” Bimini says in the Attitude Awards issue - out now to download and to order globally. “Like pulling references [for the photo shoot] today, OK, let’s Megan Fox it. I’ve always been obsessed with femininity and women that exert their femininity; Pamela Anderson was a huge one, Megan was a huge one, and yet they’re so different in their aesthetics.
Bimini wears dress by Moschino, and gloves by Anastasia Bull for the Attitude Awards issue. (Photography by Jordan Rossi; Photography assistants Sam Lort, Jed Barnes, Chelsea Nawanga; Hair Assistant: Nick Rose; Fashion: Joseph Kocharian; Professional fashion assistant: Sacha Dance; Hair by Ross Kwan using Bumble & Bumble makeup and nails; Byron London using Smashbox Cosmetics UK and nails by Killer Queen Klaws)
"Growing up as a queer kid and struggling with my own identity and how I felt attractive – or, like, my physical attractiveness wasn’t what I wanted it to be – playing into what makes me feel good and sexy [also] makes me feel powerful.”
Kate Moss is their number one, as Bimini flashes a Mossy-inspired tattoo of an anchor on their forearm that they got when they were 15: “What draws me to Kate is, we’re the same height. She was short for fashion and wasn’t someone that [the industry] expected and it inspired me. I thought, well, I can go and do that, and this past year, I have taken up space in fashion, which I never thought I would.”
Bimini adds: "She [Kate] was doing charity work for a brand called Sight Savers and she sent me a hoodie and it had a print of her eye on it. There was a note that said, 'To Bimini, thanks for all your support, love Kate.'
"Whether it was her that did it, I don’t know – I’m going to say it was. I’ve worked with so many makeup artists who have worked with Kate, and they always say she’s so nice to be around."
Bimini wears suit by Balmain at Selfridges, earrings by Givenchy (Photography: Jordan Rossi)
Identifying as non-binary, Bimini, aka Tommy Hibbitts, uses she/her pronouns in drag, and they/them out of it. Revisiting their childhood in Great Yarmouth, they share that they were never comfortable with the gender expectations placed upon them.
“We shouldn’t assume that people are just born cis or straight. We should allow people to flourish and be who they want to be on their own terms. I remember being a kid and going to playgroup and wearing a dress and not thinking there [was] an issue with that. That’s what I wanted to do, and my mum was very supportive,” they begin.
“As I got older, even a couple of years, I became more self-aware. I realised that wasn’t the norm, that wasn’t what was happening. It was, like, I can’t be doing that if I want to be seen as ‘normal’ – whatever the fuck that is. That is something we need to get rid of, this idea of what normal is, because if you assume your child is weird or strange for being non-conforming, you’re assuming that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s not. It’s about allowing them to be themselves. That’s the most beautiful thing anyone can be.”
A fixture on east London’s colourful queer scene, Bimini didn’t have any issues ‘coming out’ as non-binary. “I got into drag and it was an easy way – a lot of the time I feel like what I do isn’t necessarily drag; it’s an extension of who I am, my reference points and everything. Drag was a way to get into that and explore my own creativity, femininity, masculinity, androgyny, all of that,” they explain.
“My family got it, they were very open and understood. I never felt like I had to come out as non-binary because the scene I’m in, in east London, they defy gender stereotypes rather than reinforce them. [But] I’m very understanding of the fact that I’m lucky to be in London and have that.
"For someone in a smaller town, it’s not accessible. We are in a bubble; it’s a metropolitan elite. No matter what we say, our view of the world is different to someone up north, or someone in a different place [elsewhere], and we have to take that into consideration."
Bimini wears bodysuit leggings, tiara and jewellery, all by DSquared2 (Photography: Jordan Rossi)
Bimini, who studied journalism, regularly sticks their head above the parapet to express their political views, call out injustice or simply spark a conversation that might lift marginalised communities. Case in point is their touching heart-to-heart with fellow non-binary queen Ginny Lemon on Drag Race UK, which proved to be an enlightening and, indeed, educational TV moment, shining a light on a subject that is too often reduced to a tabloid-fodder talking point.
“That conversation happened a year or 10 months before the show came out. I remember them [the producers] saying it was going to happen [make the cut] and feeling slightly nervous. The response I got from people, even in their 60s, saying that it resonated with them and that’s how they’ve always felt, but they didn’t have the words to say it – for me, it’s crazy because I’m not someone that’s like, I know all the answers, I’m the professor of gender.
"I have no idea. I’m making it up as I go along. I’m talking from my experience, and if that resonates with anyone, then that’s amazing. The fact that it did with people… it was one of the first times in the media in the UK where that conversation happened without certain people sat there with an agenda,” they reflect.
"Non-binary is for anyone gender non-conforming," Bimini explains. "It could be anyone who is fluid. There is no right or wrong way to look or identify or be. My most important thing is, do what the fuck makes you happy. As long as you are kind to people, as long as you are nice, it doesn’t matter what you wear, how you want to identify, or how you view yourself.”
Naturally, the passionate LGBTQ advocate is critical of the LGB Alliance. “It upsets me that there is even that demographic of people going against the community, because it is a minority, as much as what the media will try to spin, or give them platforms to talk, or give them charity status," they say.
"You can’t be exclusionary of people like that, especially when you know the history of how we’ve got here today. We probably wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for trans people or gender non-conforming people or drag kings. You can’t stand on the shoulders of those people and then exclude them.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude Awards issue, which is out now.