Not a joke, just a fact.
Glasgow’s Lawrence Chaney made Drag Race history as the first Scottish Queen on the UK Drag Race final this week. But after a certain runner-up served us a haunted amoeba look on the runway, an unforgettable Katie Price snatch game performance, and iconic corset-clad Cossack dancing in the final lip sync, many fans took to Twitter to declare a Bimini Bon Burglary.
What is it about the self-proclaimed inventor of veganism, East London’s bendiest bitch Bimini Bon Boulash that the UK (yes I am talking about myself) is so enamoured by?
Firstly, it has to be said that we all love a dark horse. Bimini is the first queen in the entire Drag Race franchise to rise from the ashes of the first episode’s bottom two to go on to win four challenges. After a somewhat wobbly start to the season, The Boulash returned with a vengeance from the seven-month lockdown-enforced interval and became a leading fan favourite. In fact, they are now the most followed UK queen to date. As I write this, Bimini has a screenshot of their follower count on their Instagram story, alerting us to their newly amassed army of 603k followers (the story is captioned ‘GAGGED’, which is a fair response).
Throughout the season, judges continuously praised Bimini for their tendency to push boundaries. Citing Pamela Anderson and Vivienne Westwood as their two major fashion influences, they continuously subvert the archetypal ‘drag’ aesthetic. With the help of best friend and creative partner Ella Lynch, Bimini served us look after look on Ru Paul’s runway that added a layer of grit to the received notion of what a drag queen should look like. One of the reasons they were so popular is because they eclipse the wide-eyed, sparkly, hyper-feminine drag caricature. Don’t get me wrong, they served sparkles aplenty throughout the season, but it was only a fraction of their clever, editorial allure. Bimini’s runway looks gave us uniquely androgynous, heroin-chic slutty realness. A kaleidoscope of gender and genre.
This boundary-pushing is true of Bimini’s humour as well as their looks. In the comedy challenges throughout the season, Bimini strayed from the over-the-top, hypersexual campery that other comedy queens leaned towards. Instead, they often opted for witty and political punchlines. Poking fun not only at their fellow queens but at millennial culture, Brexit, and of course, the patriarchy, gave Bimini a creative and intelligent edge which won them more Ru-Peter badges than any of their competitors.
And please, we must address the literary genius of Miss Boulash.
“Gender bender, cis-tem offender, I like it rough but my lentils tender.”
Poetry. Forget the Hollywood mini-series, get this queen a Grammy.
The force of Team Bimini is, however, about more than just their impressive Drag Race trajectory. Bimini was one of this season’s two non-binary competitors, and in Episode 4 engaged in a heartfelt conversation about queer gender identity with fellow cis-tem offender Ginny Lemon. During this conversation, Bimini admitted that “it’s always a difficult conversation to have, especially when some people don’t understand- some people don’t quite get it”. Discussions about the queens’ sexuality and gender identity may be familiar to US Drag Race viewers, but this is only the second season of Drag Race UK, and it is pertinent to remember that in the UK, the show is broadcast on the BBC.
We needn’t underestimate the impact of a candid conversation about gender fluidity, neutrality and non-conformity on the BBC, let alone a non-binary queen winning the heart of the nation. It is also striking that in a show which values melodrama as much as it does campery, the producers never harnessed Bimini’s non-binary gender identity as the ‘sob story’ trope that it could easily become. Whilst Bimini acknowledged the everyday struggles of being non-binary, for them the liminality of gender ultimately functions as a vehicle of empowerment. In-between spaces of masculinity and femininity inform so much of the Boulash high-fashion British punk aesthetic. For reference, see their ‘Stoned on the Runway’ look from Episode 8, which featured an acne-speckled power suit, a corset belt, a bleach blonde mullet which they termed “greasy, Shirley from EastEnders hair”, and ankle-tie Perspex heels. Try putting that in a box.
Now that the finale has aired, Bimini is looking forward to performing for a bigger Team Bimini than ever in a post-lockdown world. In the words of The Boulash herself: "These days are gonna pass, raise your glass and shake your arse”. It won’t be too long before we can queue up to see that iconic Cossack sequence in real life.
Bimini Bon Boulash may have finished as a runner-up, but it’s safe to say they have earned the title of Britain’s favourite boundary-breaking bacteria cell. Chin up Bim, I don’t know how well the vegan-punk-amoeba vibe would have fared in Hollywood anyway.
Words by Alice Graham