Bimini Bon Boulash has taken the world by storm since they sashay-ed onto our screens in January 2021 with the words, “I’m vegan.” A witty, striking, and utterly creative plant-based queen, Bimini won the Snatch Game on Season 2 of Drag Race UK with a perfect impersonation of Katie Price, did the splits up and down the stage, and had the whole of the UK singing “gender-bender, cis-tem offender” in their heads for weeks – or for even longer if our Spotify Wrapped’s are to be believed.
Bimini provided honest on-screen representation for non-binary people at a time when trans communities are facing an extremely hostile media climate in the UK, having a heart-to-heart with fellow Drag Race contestant Ginny Lemon, where they explained that being non-binary is not a new thing, just a new term. They added: “We’re like square pegs in a circle and how we want to self-identify isn’t up to anyone else… to have a debate about it.” A truly fluid beauty, Bon Boulash can command a runway as acne and a bacteria, just as well as they can pull off a DIY Vivienne Westwood-inspired look – their multifaceted identity knows no bounds.
Since Drag Race, Bimini has walked for the iconic British fashion favourite Richard Quinn, released a Britpop-inspired track, ‘God Save This Queen’, and published Release the Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide to Life – an exploratory, political, and hilarious memoir that offers advice on transforming your life through lessons from drag. They’ve death-dropped across the country, graced the red carpets at countless prestigious events, and collaborated with some of the most exciting creatives – all while maintaining a truly authentic, yet innovative, sense of personhood. It could even be said that this has been the Year of Bimini. Not a joke, just a fact.
Looking towards the new year, Bimini and BRICKS are releasing an exclusive 2022 Bimini Bon Boulash calendar, available from our online store now, with a portion of the proceeds donated to Mermaids UK. To celebrate the launch, we sat down with Bimini to discuss identity, fashion, activism, and their hopes and dreams for the future.
Prishita: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me from Cardiff, especially while you’re performing all over the country! From the outside, it looks like this year has been absolutely fantastic for you. But what has been your favourite moment of the past year and why?
Bimini: My favourite performance this year would be Manchester Pride. That was the first time that I’d performed my own music along with covers, and the energy was incredible – it was electric. Other than that, walking the Richard Quinn show in London Fashion Week and going to the parties. It’s a world that I was always obsessed with from afar, so to be welcomed into taking up those spaces has been amazing. But in 2022 I’ve got music coming out that I’ve been focussing on for a bit, so I’m very excited for that world.
Prishita: The Richard Quinn show was incredible! Yes, your music has been such a wonderful addition to your plethora of work this year. What is it about musical creativity as a means of expressing yourself that appeals to you?
Bimini: I enjoy writing and being able to tell a story, and music is another creative outlet to use to connect with people and express yourself. That’s what I love about fashion as well – being able to express yourself in that way. So linking the two together is going to be amazing!
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Prishita: Definitely, and I think creativity can also act as a conduit to healing when it allows us to understand and express ourselves, but that only comes with space and time for yourself. Amongst the rollercoaster of events, shoots, and shows that you’ve been involved with this past year, how have you made time for yourself, and your own self-reflection and growth?
Bimini: There’s going to be a lot more healing to do and a lot more creativity to flourish – and I think they can really help each other. It’s been hard this year. Before Drag Race, I was a yoga teacher and I was working full-time, but this is a different world. I also did yoga every day – that was an ingrained part of me, but I’ve had to neglect it this year. I met Katherine Ryan on set for a TV show in the summer, and she told me that the first five months of your career will determine the next five years. So I’ve just kept working for the whole year. But my New Year’s resolution is to try and fit in as much time for myself as I can – because it’s important for all of us, especially in this world of toxic productivity. I’ve got some time off between Christmas and the first nine days of January, and I feel guilty about it.
Prishita: I definitely relate to that! Aside from wanting to make more time for yourself, what would you say are three other lessons that you’ll be taking forward with you from this past year?
Bimini: You can say no to things you don’t want to do. Always trust your gut. And don’t read the comments. That’s a very important one. I’ve been quite lucky, to be honest, but I know it’s not been the same for everyone.
You can say no to things you don’t want to do. Always trust your gut. And don’t read the comments.
Bimini Bon Boulash
Prishita: Unfortunately, some people feel better about themselves if they pull others down. But there are upsides and downsides of social media. I feel like the past year and a half – with more time to explore our identities and increased access to conversations on social media – has allowed more people to explore their own queerness and gender identity. Do you feel like it’s shifting the ways in which we understand and navigate societal constructs on a broader scale?
Bimini: I think so. We’ve been able to take a step back and think about what’s important – whether that’s for ourselves, for the planet, or in terms of what’s going on in politics and in society. We’ve had time to think about our own happiness and to do the things that feel the most authentic. I think that’s a positive thing that has come out of this awful year. I always say, do what you want as long as you do it with kindness. You don’t have to follow society’s rules or expectations, or feel any guilt and shame for being who you want to be, as long as you’re kind to people.
FULL LOOK RICHARD QUINN SHOES PLEASER BAG BIMBA Y LOLA
Prishita: I completely agree. But with conversations around kindness, there’s also often an expectation that marginalised people should approach those who systematically oppress them with kindness. But sometimes it’s more important to be heard. I know that you’re very passionate about the environment and an advocate for veganism. What are your thoughts on the climate movement and the protest tactics that are currently being used? Where do you see it going in the future?
Bimini: We can all protest at the bottom, but systemic change has to come from the top. The people in these big companies know that what they’ve been doing is wrong. But we are seeing some change happening now. For example, I’ve just worked with H&M. They’re a notorious high street brand, but they’ve launched the Innovation Collection, where they’re using sustainable measures. So I wore a dress that was made of upcycled plastic fibres. Things like this are only positive, and little changes everywhere can bring wider progress. Radical forms of creative activism are important – and they are necessary. Without radical activism, we might not have had HIV medication as quickly as we did, or not at all. It’s important to remember that there have been a lot of protests in the past, and they have got the results that they wanted at the time. So there’s definitely room for it, but I do think that change needs to come from the top.
Radical forms of creative activism are important – and they are necessary.
Bimini Bon Boulash
Prishita: It’s interesting to think about the impact of corporate brands that are generally harming the environment launching ‘green’ initiatives. For example, Burger King and McDonald’s have launched vegan products, but a lot of the profits from these may be causing further harm to the environment and to animals. Do you think that it’s overall a positive thing? Or do you think that it’s just greenwashing?
Bimini: I have such mixed ideas about it. Because, on one hand, we want there to be more access to vegan products in mainstream places like that. People see veganism as really expensive – it’s not as expensive anymore as it has been in the past, but people from lower-income or working-class backgrounds have felt left out from it. But you also have to understand that you’re still feeding into a massive industry that is responsible for a lot of the issues that we’re having environmentally and ethically. There’s no black and white answer.
Prishita: Yeah, I agree. It’s interesting to think about how we interact with these companies as consumers and the responsibilities we have, but you’re right that a lot more of the change has to come from the top. I’d love to chat about queerness a little more. I feel like, for me, a big part of being queer and non-binary is the acceptance that confusion is one of the most human experiences. I’m certain that I’m non-binary because uncertainty and fluidity is part of trying to express myself authentically despite the boundaries that have been placed around me. What does your non-binary identity mean to you?
Bimini: I grew up feeling confused because I was being mocked and ridiculed for expressing myself in a way that felt natural to me, whether that was through dancing or dressing up. But as I got older, I started getting more into the idea of fluidity because I realised that I didn’t have to wear ‘boy clothes’. Non-binary is obviously not a new thing, but the term is relatively new. I’d look at superstars that were fluid with their clothing and think, “why is it fine for them, but if I walk down the road in ripped fishnets and a fur coat, I get shouted at?” It’s just how society is, and anyone who rejects society like that is courageous and brave – and I have huge respect for them.
Prishita: Definitely. It’s interesting that you mention the discrepancy between how gender fluid superstars were treated and how you were treated walking down the street – I feel like this is still very much present to a large extent. Often, white male-presenting people receive a lot of credit and praise for doing the same thing that queer people, especially people of colour have been doing for a long time. How do you think we advocate for everyone being able to explore their gender expression, while also acknowledging that there is a historical basis to it in many post-colonial cultures?
Bimini: In the mainstream, people often disregard those who aren’t cis, white, and straight – you even see it in the drag world. There is a hierarchical social system that allows these people in the mainstream to do the bare minimum, and people lap it up. And that’s an issue because they don’t know the history of who has come before. For example, people always talk about Bowie, but I also think about Grace Jones. She was a massive pioneer for fluidity and androgyny, and wearing wherever you like and dressing however you want. But I don’t think people value Grace Jones as highly as they should, or as much as they do Bowie. We need more queer representation, especially for queer people of colour. Just more queers rocking up and fucking it up – and we are seeing it happen, which is what we need.
Prishita: 100%. And, hopefully, we’ll also see a breakdown of gendered fashion. It’s frustrating that a lot of ‘de-gendered’ clothing at the moment just looks like grey sacks, when fashion is a form of art – of creativity and expression that transcends those boundaries. With the fashion industry also upholding a lot of harmful rhetoric around beauty and bodies, how do you hope to see this conversation progress going forward?
Bimini: It’s trickling through slightly, but I really hope that we’ll see everyone walking down the runway. That it won’t just be one or two token people – but all different types of bodies, skin tones, and beauty. There’s no one ideal standard for beauty. I definitely think fashion can change people’s minds. If I saw a queer person taking up space in magazines when I used to read them [growing up], it would have made me feel so good. You need visibility for younger people, and fashion is a beautiful tool for that.
Prishita: Yeah, definitely. I know that fashion magazines were such a source of solace for a lot of my queer friends, who would hide away and read them as a way to explore themselves and their interests in a world that felt unsafe and scary.
Bimini: My mum opened a hair salon, and I would read Vogue and Elle there. And then when I was 15 or 16, I remember reading my first iD and Dazed, and finding so much culture in their archives. I’d never seen anything like it in my hometown. It allowed me to know that there was more out there. So I came to London, obviously. I felt connected to people that I hadn’t even met but I knew were like me – it just made me feel like there was belonging. It’s so important to have that. Now we’ve got the internet as well – so people are more connected than ever – but there was always something special about magazines.
Prishita: I think the internet is really important for building these communities, but I also think you also need in-person interaction with your community. A lot of queer people growing up in smaller towns, can feel excluded from an often very metropolitan city-centric queer experience, like I did until I moved to London. How do you think we can make more space for rural queers in our community and creative practice?
Bimini: This isn’t a judgement of rural places but, in my experience, there’s still a lot of homophobia present. It’s also there in London and in the bigger cities, but I think it’s even more prevalent in smaller towns. And they’re not as open or as accepting. Maybe because there aren’t as many queer people, or because of a lack of education around it. We need to learn that it’s okay to be open to and accept people whose opinions are different from ours – and this also comes down to the queer community. If we’re targeting each other, it allows the heteronormative world to point fingers as well. We should be coming together as a community and standing up for each other.
Prishita: Completely, and so much of this in-fighting, unfortunately, does look like transphobia. We were talking a little about representation, and it’s been so wonderful to see more non-binary and trans visibility recently. But it’s also clear to me that it’s not enough. What do you think we need to be doing to turn this increased awareness into action that actually supports people and saves lives?
Bimini: We need to be really loving to anyone that we know who is trans because the rhetoric is so scary right now – they’re going through what is essentially a witch hunt. It’s really sad and scary to see the tactics that are being used within the media. They ring back to how the media was targeting gay people by calling them a lot of hideous, unwarranted names and phrases. We need to come together as a community and call out transphobia when we see it, and offer love, kindness, and strength to our trans family. We need to be joining protests, sharing the work of trans artists, and showing the world that trans people have always existed and will always exist – and they’re not a threat to society.
Prishita: One of my favourite moments of this year was definitely Trans Pride. I loved seeing how much it has grown since the first year, and how many more people were showing up.
Bimini: It was really beautiful. It felt radical; it felt like a protest. It felt like what Pride was about.
I don’t want any more debates about trans people in 2022 – I want honest conversations with trans people about how they feel. How often do you actually have trans people sitting there discussing their lives?
Bimini Bon Boulash
Prishita: 100%! It’s so important for us to be uplifting the voices of trans and non-binary people directly, and that’s partly why it’s so awesome that you’ve written a book! I also love how the cover photo doesn’t shy away from the fact that you’re a fashion icon. I often think about the Madonna/Whore complex and the way it’s impacted me in my life. I know that when you wrote your book, a lot of people were surprised, despite the fact that you have a degree in journalism. D’you think you’ve experienced this in your life? And how have you navigated it, especially this year with the increased public exposure and scrutiny?
Bimini: I have a bit, but I don’t really care. I like reading books and magazines – and I like to dress up and wear what I want. I can feed into that Madonna/Whore dichotomy, or I can be more androgynous or alien. I do so much that there’s never one aesthetic that stands out. But I talk about this a lot in the book. Women are always told that they can’t do certain things, so I like to ask, “Why? Why can’t you?” I have always been a big fan of Pamela Anderson. She’s a very smart woman – she’s always stood up for social causes – but she was painted with a brush because of her image. Ruby Wax did a documentary and thought Pamela Anderson was just going to be this bimbo. But she said that she was one of the nicest, smartest, and funniest women that she’d ever met, and she completely took back that judgement that she had going into it. We shouldn’t be judging people based on how they look. We’re all humans – we all have our souls – and we should all be allowed to navigate that however we want. Bimbo was originally a word for a man, and then it got moved over to mean a silly, and not-very-smart woman. So I think that’s interesting in itself – how something that was made for a man got moved onto a woman.
DRESS ELIN MEIJER SHOES KIRA GOODEY
FULL LOOK GARETH PUGH NECKLACE BUTLER & WILSON SHOES PLEASER GLOVES ELISSA POPPY
Prishita: That’s really interesting. Yeah, ultimately we’re all complex people who can be beautiful and love fashion, but also be smart and care about the world. So, finally, I’d love to know – as we enter 2022, what’re your hopes for the coming year? What’re you most looking forward to? Both for yourself and for the wider queer community?
Bimini: For myself, I’m very excited about working on more music and putting new music out there in early 2022. For the queer community, I hope that these conversations keep happening, I hope transphobia declines, and I hope people are a lot more open, loving, and accepting of each other and the planet. I don’t want any more debates about trans people in 2022 – I want honest conversations with trans people about how they feel. How often do you actually have trans people sitting there discussing their lives? It’s always cis people having these conversations. I know that that’s not what the media wants – because the narrative right now is to attack and dehumanise trans people – but I hope that media outlets will allow trans people to just talk about their experiences. To talk about what they’ve been through, how they’ve been treated by society, how they’ve not had the same opportunities. I think most humans are inherently empathetic, and they listen to others when they hear their stories. But when there’s a ‘debate’, people put their guards up, especially when it comes to gender. The language is so academic that it excludes people. So I hope that, in 2022, we can see each other on more of a human level.
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