Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
From the moment she first set foot on the runway, Tia inspired the series’ first huge meme with her homage to Alan Turing, later dazzling in Rats: The Rusical and taking serious heat from RuPaul about her seaside-inspired look.
Speaking to HuffPost UK the morning after her exit, Tia has reflected on her Snatch Game performance and shared an important message for her online detractors...
How are you feeling this morning after your elimination has finally aired?
It’s actually quite a freeing feeling, because obviously this is something that’s been kept under my wig for a little while. And it’s lovely that people have seen it now and the reaction has just been like the most gorgeous thing in the world, honestly… I’m getting really emotional again, it’s been absolutely wonderful, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better response.
Are you disappointed that Snatch Game was the challenge you ended up going home after, or are you just happy to have made it as far as you did?
I’m really proud to have made it to the Snatch Game, it’s the most iconic moment every season. Everyone waits for the Snatch Game and looks forward to it.
And do you know what you remember from Snatch Game? You remember the good ones… but you also remember the terrible ones. So I’m pleased that at least it was memorable. Not in the way that I wanted it to be memorable, but memorable nonetheless.
You’d originally planned to play Shirley Bassey, and then RuPaul talked you into Mel B. Do you think things might have gone differently had you stuck to your guns?
I feel like a lot of it was me getting into my head. Mel B was actually, realistically, a character that I was more comfortable with, I just hadn’t sort of prepared it too much for that moment. So, I think either way, I might have been in trouble. But I think at least a moment of having Dame Shirley Bassey on the Snatch Game of RuPaul’s Drag Race would have been quite camp.
How do you think you did in the Snatch Game?
I definitely thought it could have gone better. You watched it, I think we were all thinking, “I thought she’d do better than that”. This is the thing – usually if you’re a comedy queen or a performing queen, you’re ready, and you can launch into the moment and do the improv and all of that. But Lawrence and I had a full seven months of lockdown to focus on the one thing that we were both preparing to be really good at… so I think maybe it’s a case of overthinking.
I did think there was a chance that I might have been safe. The whole Snatch Game, it’s a lot longer than it appears on the show, so I was sort of fighting for a space. But it wasn’t to be, and I think the judgement was pretty fair that episode.
Were there any big moments in the Snatch Game that ended up being cut for time?
Yeah! Ru actually performed an erotic socially distanced lapdance for me… no that didn’t happen. Nothing like that, what you see is just a condensed version of the true reality of the situation.
Watching it back were you surprised at how anyone else performed?
I knew Bimini had the absolute power talent and wit to crack out a stunning Snatch Game performance, but it was Tayce that surprised me at the time – Tayce was funny, who saw that coming?
Do you have any regrets about how the Snatch Game played out?
I don’t think there’s much point in living your life with regret. I’m just really genuinely happy to have been on the Snatch Game. And I hope Mel B doesn’t hate me… I have a signed copy of her autobiography, true story.
Going back to the very first week, you inspired this series’ first big meme with your Alan Turing runway. How did that feel?
That was such an interesting moment, because for the first few days, everyone was mad about it. Everyone was like, “she did not look like Alan, she has failed”, and then it became a whole moment, and people started to switch and be like, “actually this Alan guy seems pretty cool”. And also the meme was hilarious, so that was good.
I’m just glad I was able to highlight an absolute queer historical legend that I kind of thought more people would know about? I really thought everyone knew who Alan Turing was, but it turns out, not so much. And that’s the reasoning behind doing someone like that, to be able to highlight someone who’s had those kinds of achievements and things, and get people talking about him.
Also – the brief was not cosplay as your favourite gay icon. The brief was a look inspired by them. So… I did the job.
At the time you tweeted about how you’d taken some of the criticism about that runway on social media to heart. Is that something you’ve learned to deal with and rise above, or are online comments still a struggle?
I think the key thing that I don’t think a lot of tweet-happy 14-year-olds realise is that the better thing to do is go and uplift the person you are supporting. Like, no one needs the energy of “rah, you should have gone home”, “your ice cream cone was terrible”. It’s an item of clothing, if you feel that passionately about it you need to calm down and go and revise for your GCSE Maths.
That’s really not the mood that we’re about right now. Go and tell Bimini she looked gorgeous, go and compliment someone else if you’re feeling that passionately about it. Use that energy to uplift people, rather than tear people down. It’s really that easy.
We’re still in the midst of a global panettone – as I’ve started calling it, because it sounds more delicious. And while this is all happening, everyone really is underestimating the sheer weight and toll that all of these things are taking on people, especially in terms of mental health and things like that. So I think now is the time for people to be a little kinder and more considerate about maybe how they might make other people feel.
On the other hand, people did end up living for that Alan Turing runway, and that kind of sums up your Drag Race journey. You’ve ended up being such a fan favourite, why do you think that is?
That’s actually really nice to hear. It’s probably down to the whole thing that Veronica said, when she confronted the cast and said, “if you’re still going on about this, look a little deeper”. And I think the audience had that opportunity to really see people for who they are. And that was gorgeous for me, because maybe my aesthetics weren’t as polished as some other people’s, but it was just lovely to sort of have those moments in the confessionals to chat away and be myself.
And to hear people enjoy that… that’s just me saying shit that’s come into my head, there’s nothing planned or prepared or anything about those moments, it was just genuine and heartfelt, and that’s the best thing about the show, it really does have that heart. So I’m glad people have got on board the Tia train. Choo choo.
We have to talk about last week, when yourself and Joe Black faced a lot of criticism from RuPaul. For many viewers, it was the most shocking things to ever happen on Drag Race… that can’t have been easy to stand there and take?
Mmm… no it wasn’t. It was kind of like getting told off by a teacher. It was very that kind of vibe, but as Ru said, it came from a place of being very passionate about making sure that we’re hitting the level and being our best. I totally get it, and I was really trying to push through and delivery my best on the runway.
But do you want to know a fun fact? The next day, it was quite cold, so I was wearing my green jacket. And only now have I realised – because someone pointed it out on Twitter – that was an H&M jacket. So after that rant about “no H&M”, I fully sat and spoke about Shirley Bassey and Mel B wither, while wearing H&M. Why didn’t I think it through?! It’s classic me to do something like that completely by accident.
When RuPaul was doing that speech, did it go on any longer than we saw on TV? Was anything else said?
I think it was about three years. She’s still doing it now, actually. She’s on speakerphone in the other room. No – what you see is pretty much how things went down. But reliving it was quite camp, I watched it as like an out-of-body experience, like, “this is so good”, and then I was like, “wait, that’s me, this isn’t good”. But wasn’t it camp? Everyone’s going to go back and watch that one.
You were criticised a few times for your aesthetic, do you think those comments were fair?
Erm! Erm… I mean. Erm! Erm! Erm! Yeah?? Hmmm. Can those noises be my response to this question? In the context of what the other contestants were delivering, with their high-fashion runway aesthetics, then I totally get it. In the context that I watched the first series, and Baga Chipz was safe for hot-gluing Brillo pads onto a corset… I was confused that we’d suddenly stepped up to such an extent.
I mean, the step-up in terms of the looks and stuff from season one to season two is crazy. But if you edited my runways into the first season, they would not look awful, in the context of people having incredibly expensive outfits and all that kind of thing, mine wasn’t quite there. I do see it. So in answer to your question: yes.
Was any part of you relieved when you were told to sashay away?
Oh god, 100%, yes, absolutely. Obviously I wanted to fight my way to the final and be there and do all of that kind of thing. And in your mind, hearing “sashay away” is the worst possible thing that could happen, and when you hear Ru say it, and you haven’t been unplugged from the Matrix and everything’s still fine, it’s such a sense of relief. It’s like, “I thought this was the worst thing that could possibly happen, and actually, the world is still turning, and I’m fine”. So it’s OK!
I think for anyone who’s going on the show in the future, I hope they can take that with them. Because I get quite distressed when watching people who are really disappointed in themselves. You shouldn’t be, because you got on the show! You did it! That’s already incredible. Nothing has changed, you have not ended the world, everything’s fine.
What was your proudest moment of being on Drag Race?
I think honestly, this is such a boring answer, but casting the Rusical. Because I think I pretty much couldn’t imagine a better way to cast it – me tooting my own horn, “I’m so good at casting” – but I think I gave everyone exactly the right roles for them. Cherry Valentine might disagree with that statement… but I just don’t think it would have worked any other way. And I honestly can’t wait for the West End run of Rats: The Rusical. Sheridan Smith as Specimen One.
Was there anything you were disappointed not to be able to do on the show?
I think my aim for that roly-poly in my lip sync was to land it in a squat, and then jump up again. But due to the oncoming collision of Joe Black, I was unable to do so. And I regret not being able to achieve the full fantasy of the forward roll you learn to do when you’re five years old in PE.
Who are you rooting for now there are just six queens left?
For me, it’s a toss-up between Graham Norton and Sister Sister’s new teeth. Those are the two frontrunners at this point.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK continues on Thursday at 7pm on BBC Three.