When New York City queen Tina Burner was cast on season 13 of "RuPaul’s Drag Race," longtime fans of this dazzling and hilarious performer knew that they would be getting scorching looks and tons of personality from this superstar.
We saw not just the Tina Burner that we have come to love, but a Tina Burner who was evolved and vulnerable, but still found the time to slay the runway many times. While her run on Drag Race has ended, Burner has plenty more planned for her fans. I caught up with this New York City dynamo to chat about her Drag Race experience, when she knew that she was truly “funny,” and what New York City queens she thinks would slay the Drag Race game on a future season.
Michael Cook: You were one of the queens who every year, seemed to be buzzed about as being part of the cast of "RuPaul’s Drag Race." Now that your experience on season 13 has ended, how do you look back on it?
Tina Burner: I look at it with love; with so much love. We were in the middle of a pandemic and to be able to be with people … I look back on it as one of the hardest things I ever had to get ready for, but it also is one of the most amazing, if not the most amazing experience that I ever had.
MC: For all of you, it must have been especially challenging to prepare your looks and what you wanted to bring when in the midst of a pandemic, many Garment District shops for example, were shut down.
TB: Yes, it was shut down; everything was shut. New York City was one of the first places to lock its doors. It was truly “where do I pull this from, how do I this, this is coming from this place and this hasn’t arrived and this doesn’t fit” you know? Normally you would be going to fittings and now you are just being sent stuff. Ninety percent of what I put on for the runway challenges was putting it on for the first time when I got there. It was a fight to the finish.
MC: Tina Burner is synonymous with New York City’s nightlife scene. The critiques you received in your final episode though, were mainly about how you were relying on what you have always been doing as a performer. Since that has seemed to work for you career-wise, did it throw you to hear that on the main stage?
TB: I don't know that it threw me as much as it gave me a chance to step out of my body and say “you know what, maybe I am doing that and maybe I need to amp it up." As for the criticism, of course maybe I am relying on it, but I don't look like to look at it as “relying on it.” Drag is who the character is, I’m sorry. Maybe I was relying on it and maybe it is time to step outside of my comfort zone and that is what I have been doing since I’ve been back; I started to step outside of my comfort zone. With makeup and certain other things. It’s a shake; it's like “girl come on!”
MC: You are a National Miss Comedy Queen titleholder and are known as one of the funniest queens in the game. When did you truly realize that you were funny?
TB: I would always make my mom laugh. She has not had the easiest go at life, so I would always try to make her laugh. If you can come from something so dark and so painful and you can make someone laugh, you can change the person.
MC: Making your mother laugh is probably truly one of the best feelings anyone could have, wouldn’t you say?
TB: Yes! Or trying to get RuPaul to laugh, but that is still a puzzle to me (laughs).
MC: The Drag Race fandom is always vocal about their feelings, but this time they focused on your past personal life, specifically when you dated RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. judge and talk-show host Graham Norton. What was it like having your personal life reviewed the same way your runway looks were on the main stage?
TB: You know, everyone has something to say. I don't look at it as fandom, I look at it as viewers. The internet is not real; you know what, it gave me a chance to look at my life, and say “wow I really was a wild child then.” Poor Graham (laughs)! I was in my 20s and a wild child, but it gives you a chance to look back at your life. Sometimes it is negative what people want to say, but the negativity never gets to me; it's just not real. Here’s the thing: you don't have to like me, that the beauty of democracy and we all have our own vote. It gives you an opportunity to teach people lessons also. I will talk to people online and they will try to come at me and if you take the time to talk to someone, you can literally change it. I will talk to people and they will realize that something was offensive and apologize. Not all the time, but you can flip the script. You have to be patient and smart about it.
MC: Having New York City sisters like Kandy Muse, Olivia Lux, and Rosé as part of your cast must have been interesting, as your careers didn't intersect too much despite all being New York queens, and now you come out of the competition and you have a sisterhood. That must be very trippy.
TB: It is very trippy because we didn't know each other before, we all came from very different walks of life. It was great to share such an experience with girls from your hometown. When you are there, you meet people from all different walks of life but now we’re back and you can go meet up with them since they’re so close. We’re like a little wolf pack, the New York crew.
MC: There truly is a talent to spare in New York City’s drag scene. Who in your opinion do you think would really slay the game on Drag Race?
TB: Well it’s hard because you know first off, I am going to go with my “orphanage;” Holly Box Springs, Egypt, and Yasmin, that is my crew and of course I am going to say them first. Chelsea Piers and Kari Kerning also. Kari is one of my closest friends, and she is so weird at drag and I am always so fascinated by it. If you take a moment, she is brilliant, like scary brilliant, like a mastermind. I would love to see that happen, just from my own personal enjoyment. I would love to see Brenda Dharling, because I would love to see her spin for a few minutes and Kizha Carr is wild! Pixie Aventura definitely, there are just so many amazing performers in New York City, and I would just love to see them on.
MC: What is next for Tina Burner?
TB: I am excited, I released two new covers, some actually belt my face out, Broadway stuff. I want to show people and remind them that I can sing my face off and act the house down! I am releasing two covers "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line and "Proud Of Your Boy" from Aladdin for my mom. I want to take some of the proceeds and put it into The Actors Fund because I think they were hit the hardest here. As for New York, I want to perform. I am looking forward to Fire Island. They have an amazing outdoor space there and the love is so real there, it is such a legacy. If you know me from Fire Island, I have jumped into that bay, jumped into a kayak (laughs) ... I am just looking forward to seeing people!
MC: How have you stayed creatively fueled and inspired during this past year when it has been challenging for so many to find inspiration?
TB: Even during this past year I was performing in my living room with backdrops you know? It gives you a huge opportunity to spend some time with yourself and I think a lot of us haven’t done that. I learned a lot about patience and perseverance; lessons that I can take with me now and apply to my new life.
Follow Tina Burner on Instagram @thetinaburner.
Check out the other interviews on the "RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 13 homepage.