TV

Tia Kofi: Hogwarts Has Nothing on the Magic of “Drag Race U.K.”

"RuPaul is the Dumbledore that we all wanted," says the London queen.

RuPaul has taken his Kofi to go.

From gag-worthy self-eliminations to a pandemic pause mid-production, the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. has proven to be one of the most dramatic in the franchise’s herstory. This season’s crop of queens has been stellar, so fans have had to say goodbye to a legend every week. The past episode was no different when Tia Kofi was forced to flap her pterodactyl wings and fly away.

The London-based queen kept it kooky but couture on the runway, dressed as everything from a giant ice cream cone to a dinosaur and historic LGBTQ icon Alan Turing. Even though she made it to Snatch Game, Tia never won a maxi challenge, and she eventually landed in the bottom two three times, with her third lip-sync — to Cathy Dennis’ “Touch Me” — sending her packing.

Tia spoke with NewNowNext about her original Snatch Game character, which Eurovision song she would have loved to lip-sync to, and how she went to from being in a Harry Potter movie to sashaying into the Drag Race workroom.
 

So, my first question is: UK, Hun?

No, I’m terrible. No, I’m great. How are you? You okay, hun?

I’m doing okay, except that song has been in my head since that episode aired! Was it in your head during filming?

But the United Kingdoll version, right?

No, both versions! Was that song stuck in your head during filming?

To be honest, no, because I then immediately had to learn a different song to lip-sync. I managed to eradicate it from my mind almost instantly because of the sheer panic of having to learn “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”

Congrats on making it to Snatch Game. Do you wish you had gone with Shirley Bassey, or did you have another back-up aside from Shirley?

I had a moment where I thought I should be Tiffany Pollard, because Gemma Collins was iconically on Celebrity Big Brother U.K. with Tiffany Pollard and they had the biggest argument about shoes. It was so good. I can probably quote every single bit of that episode, line for line, word for word. So I was like, do I risk it? Do I give Tiffany Pollard in front of Gemma Collins? Do I shout, “Oh bitch, you want your shoes back” at Gemma Collins? I’ve decided against it because I was being respectful to the G.C. I kind of wish I had done Shirley, but you never know. There’s no point in trying to change the past, it’s happened now.
 

Did you have a different character in mind before lockdown, or did it change between filming resuming?

I actually did change my character to Shirley Bassey, because my original choice was to do Mel B. And then I changed it to Shirley Bassey because she had just launched a new album, and there were all these iconic shots of her wearing a gold dress with a gold face mask. Just looking like the most expensive woman of all time — just think her gorgeous wild strut. And so I got really inspired and worked on it quite hard during the lockdown, to get singing over my top voice and learn all the facts about Monte Carlo where she lives. I really did like it, but I immediately changed it in a panic, so that was months of work just thrown out of the window. If Ru doesn’t like it, then you should listen.

Yeah, you should always listen to Ru. What was that day like, when you’re on set and they tell you that production is being shut down because of COVID-19? What was going on that day, and did you think that filming maybe wouldn’t resume?

Obviously we don’t have a lot of time to catch up on the news [during filming]. We don’t have any of our devices or access to social media. So when we left, corona was not really a thing. We just happened to disappear in the two-week period where it kicked off and took over the world. Then to hear the word pandemic — not in a scary horror film about zombies was weird because I don’t think I’ve ever really heard anyone sort of talk about that kind of thing in real life — it sort of shook everyone. To hear that this had been happening, and we also instinctively wanted to check in on friends and family immediately and just make sure they were all okay. So yeah, that really shook us and we did only think it was going to be a couple of weeks.

I want to talk about your lip-sync. This was your third time, did you think that it was your time to go?

Yeah. Third time’s a charm, it made sense. It was me and Lawrence in the bottom, and it was three badges against the three bottom-twos person, so the math spoke for itself. So Tia, you need to go home and order some Thai food and settle into bed and think about what you’ve done.

I love “Touch Me,” but weren’t you sad that you didn’t get to do a Jessie Ware song since she was there?

No, cause she didn’t like my Snatch Game! Absolutely not!

So you didn’t want to do a Jessie Ware song?

No. I wish that we’d got to do a Eurovision song on the Eurovision episode though because I’m such a massive Eurovision fan. That would’ve been an absolute highlight.

Which Eurovision song?

Oh, good question. Wouldn’t “Euphoria” have made an amazing lip sync song? Very dance-heavy, but I think for me and Joe, it probably should have been “Toy” by Netta, because it’s just fun and camp.
 

You were dressed as a pterodactyl. Were you worried about dancing with that beak on your head? I think I saw it fall off, right?

It elegantly was removed by choice from my head, that wasn’t accidental. I didn’t notice it had fallen off. If you watch it back, I go to check and it’s not there anymore. It’s already happened. So yeah, I think the worst thing about the pterodactyl was the fact that the way the sleeves were cut meant that I couldn’t raise my hand, wave my arms above shoulder level. So, Lawrence and I could have cracked out about windmill, slick kick, the drag queen eight count, the one that every drag queen knows. We could have been lovely to do lip-sync, but unfortunately we couldn’t move our arms. I would start flapping like a fat pigeon, as Alan said.

How’s it feel to be the lip-sync assassin of Season 2?

I can’t legitimately take that title after watching so many iconic lip-syncs on the Eurovision. What would Brooke Lynn Hytes and Yvie Oddly say if I started going around claiming to be a lip-sync assassin? I couldn’t possibly. I did the roly-poly on the floor, dressed as an ice cream cone. I don’t think that’s better than an assassin.

You were in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan, right?

I was a background non-featured, non-speaking extra in a Harry Potter film, yeah.

What’s more magical, Hogwarts or the Drag Race Workroom?

Oh, that is such a good question. I think the magic of watching the film is sort of taken away by seeing that the ceiling is a giant green screen [during filming]. And also having to pretend the food has just appeared in front of you, but there’s no food. So I think walking in the workroom is absolutely the more magical experience. RuPaul is the Dumbledore that we all wanted.

I love that. If Ru invited you to have a cup of tea with him, what would you want to ask him?

What would I ask Ru? My first question would be, “When you going to do a U.K. All Stars?” I think I’ll just probably ask Ru more about what inspired him to get into drag, because I think all of us heard the stories about the punk days and singing in the bands and all those kinds of things. And also whether it’s weird for Ru that a platform that has been given to all these queens — I don’t think any of us realize how much we’re emulating everything that Ru’s done before. Whether you’re a Violet Chachki and you go into the fashion and the modeling, Ru’s done that. Whether you’re an Adore Delano and you go into the music, Ru did that. Whether you’re a Tayce and you appear in a Dua Lipa music video, Ru did that with the B-52s. It must be very surreal for Ru to just watch every single one of us emulating Ru’s career.

In the episode, Michelle was saying how it seemed like you were still figuring out who you were as a queen. I was wondering, how did being on Drag Race change your drag?

I think it gave me the opportunity to watch myself from the outside and sort of review everything. I feel the actual thing is that I maybe panicked going into Drag Race and tried to do things that I thought were right, rather than things that weren’t necessarily faithful to me. I do not have a fear of having my very long legs out and about, but for some reason I decided to disguise them at every possible opportunity. Very strange. So yeah, I feel if I could sort of go back in time in Doctor Who’s TARDIS and say “don’t dress as an ice cream cone,” I absolutely would.

RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. is available on WOW Presents Plus.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer