Tynomi Banks was already a Toronto drag legend when she found herself competing on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race last year. While she sashayed away after just four episodes, she has kept up her screen time with recent roles in a Wealthsimple Super Bowl ad (playing Medusa) and the newly released Canadian film Jump, Darling. Now, with a fall tour of the United Kingdom and Europe in the works (pandemic permitting), Banks is perfecting her packing: “I always want options to dress for the crowd. I bring two pairs of heels – short boots, so I can dance, and an open–toe pair because it feels like a slipper. And then I pack two really extra, showstopping outfits.”
The Toronto–based queen and star of Canada’s Drag Race on virtual shows, playing Medusa in a Super Bowl commercial and what she packs when performing around the world.
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.
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.
What’s in Tynomi’s Bag?
Wig — Depending on the wig, I like to bring a Styrofoam head to put it on so I don’t ruin the style. I also put the whole thing in a breathable silk bag – and then pray to the Lord that nothing crushes it!
Roots Salt & Pepper Sweat Suit This was a gift from Canada’s Drag Race and it’s so snug and comfy. It reminds me of my time on the show with my sisters. We all have one.
Ella Mode Nails — I love this young Calgary–based nail queen’s hustle – I don’t know if she’s even old enough to be at the club, yet she’s created her own custom nail line! I wear the nail gloves when I want to attract extra attention.
Candy — My mom used to get mad at us for eating candy when we were kids, so I think it’s a rebellion thing. No one can stop me from having gummy watermelon and Haribo now.
Peter Thomas Roth Mask — Sometimes gigs go super–late, but I have to make sure I always look rested and ready. This keeps the puffiness down and makes me look energetic even when I’m not feeling it.