enRoute Do you remember the first time you saw a drag show?
Tynomi Banks I was going to college in Oshawa, Ontario, and my best friend picked me up one night and we drove to a Toronto gay bar. Around midnight all the lights went out and a spotlight hit the stage. I was heavily into superheroes at the time, and there was a door on the stage that looked like the one to Cerebro in X–Men. All of a sudden it opened, and smoke began to billow. Then, Sofonda Cox came out as Storm and all these fans turned on and her hair started flying everywhere. It was like I was at a Beyoncé concert.
ER When did you know you wanted to be a drag queen?
TB I always loved drag, and had danced backup for so many queens, but I
never saw myself as one. Then one of my friends asked me to help him
organize a show. So, I got someone to do my makeup, and everyone lent me
things. Honestly, I can’t describe the feeling I felt that day. It was like I was a different person. I was able to make people smile and laugh, and they were so engaged with me – I became obsessed with this type of love and attention.
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ER Has the drag community found new ways to connect and perform during the pandemic?
TB As performers we love connecting with audiences, so it was a real blow
when this was taken from us. The first online show I did was Digital Drag Fest. It was a very different experience – you’re so used to being at the club, where people can reach out and hug you. Thankfully, there’s the comments section. It takes up almost as much screen space as the performance, but you see all these people saying beautiful things. The love transfers over.
ER You played Medusa in a Wealthsimple commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. What was that like?
TB I couldn’t even dream of something like that happening. I was like, “Hold on! You want me in a football commercial?” It was an amazing experience. The script had no dialogue, just actions, and the director called me up out of the blue one night and asked me how I’d do it. I read my actions and then ad libbed. He was in tears.
ER You’ve been vocal in your support of Black Lives Matter and released a clothing line earlier this year. Why is it important for you to use your platform this way?
TB I didn’t realize I was living through a lot of these issues, but I was. I was pushing everything under the rug – you know, grin and bear it. In a way, I’m happy the pandemic came because it forced us to stop and literally open our eyes to what was being recorded. And I asked myself how I could get involved. Usually, I like to give back by volunteering or performing, but releasing this line felt like the best thing I could do – and the proceeds go to Black Lives Matter.
ER What are your favourite cities to perform in?
TB I love Montreal. It has a very European feel even though it’s only an hour–long flight away. The community is so supportive, and I like Montreal’s talent. My favourite place to perform is Cabaret Mado – Mado and I have been friends for years and I just love her. My number–two favourite place to perform is Twisted Element in Calgary. I like that I’m very out in Calgary. My hair will be green or pink and I’ll be walking through the mall and people will look at me – and I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s just different and I like the attention.
ER What’s your packing style?
TB Lately, I’ve been laying everything out first. I have a double suitcase with separate sides – one side is for boy clothes, the other is for my drag.
ER Do you pack in advance or last–minute?
TB Sometimes I take the whole day. It can be a science, because I try not to overpack.
ER Any travel hacks to share?
TB I love my lotions and would lose my mind if they had to be thrown out at TSA, which is why I put what I need into small travel containers.