RELEASE THE BEAST

Bimini! Bon! Boulash! (That’s the Headline)

Courtesy of BBC3/World of Wonder

The rise of Bimini Bon Boulash, like almost every critical cultural story of the past year, is one tied up in the pandemic. Boulash was one of twelve contestants picked to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 2, the BBC3-produced offshoot of the American original, and was off to a bumpy start. She was nearly sent home the first week for a soccer jersey-cum-bikini outfit the judges didn’t fully understand. That she survived a lip-sync elimination against the more established cabaret drag star Joe Black was a shock in and of itself. She seemed destined to be a “filler queen,” the dreaded term for a contestant who is sent home whenever it best suits the storyline with no real shot at a win.

Then came the coronavirus lockdown. After shooting four episodes, the remaining contestants were sent back home and told to wait. Seven long months—an eternity in the fast-paced production schedule of reality TV—went by before production could begin again with the American contingent on the show’s judging panel (Michelle Visage and RuPaul herself) safely back in the country.

Bimini returned and announced her plan was to keep a “PMA.” “The fuck’s that?” asked fellow contestant Lawrence Chaney. “A positive mental attitude,” Bimini explained. Cheney’s response: a playful “Get fucked.”

Turns out that “PMA” worked wonders, because in the five episodes that have aired since the lockdown break, Bimini emerged as not only a frontrunner for the crown (to be awarded tonight) but a full-fledged cultural force in the United Kingdom—who may also become a global fashion darling.

To recap, here’s (almost) everything Boulash has accomplished since episode five aired on February 11th:

  • Scored a literal top 40 hit single with three of her castmates in the form of “UK Hun?” There’s little question Bimini’s verse is the standout (“Release the beast!”).
  • Won the show’s famed “Snatch Game” challenge playing Katie Price (the closest analog England has to a homegrown Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian) and garnered the approval of Pricey herself.
  • Became the most followed contestant on Instagram out of all the queens who have competed in Drag Race UK’s two seasons.
  • Walked both in drag and out for buzzy British label Art School during London Fashion Week.
  • Appeared in an official lip sync video for pop star Ava Max’s global hit “My Head and My Heart.”
  • Starred in a fashion film for another young London designer, Dylan Joel.
  • Appeared on the Instagrams of a slew of major British fashion mags including Dazed, i-D, and, oh right, British Vogue.
  • She’s also scored her first editorial for Dazed, and appeared on the cover of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine with her fellow contestants.
  • She’s also won four out of the show’s five most recent episodes.

It’s likely just the beginning for Boulash.

A large part of her appeal lies in her undeniable cheer, charisma, and charmingly thick Norwich accent. Though, it’s her execution of drag that makes her a true standout. While many queens have a fixed drag template they don’t stray too far from, Boulash’s approach is more of a spectrum. On one end is her affinity for over-the-top camp glamour—where a breastplate, fake lashes, and big blonde wigs render her looking like something of a Page 3 model (for Americans: think Playboy bunny). On the other is a tendency toward punk rock androgyny. Even out of drag (whatever that really means), she wouldn’t look out of place in a lineup of models for Gucci or Balenciaga (save for her height) or as a member of hyperpop duo 100 gecs (the 101st gec?).

Boulash is also among the first wave of non-binary contestants to compete openly in the franchise. When she discussed the matter with fellow non-binary contestant Ginny Lemon in an earlier episode, it left many viewers in happy tears. “How nice was it to hear two gender non-conforming people discuss identity politics without Piers Morgan?” she wrote afterward on Twitter.

Even as the Drag Race industrial complex has churned out more than 150 queens across the world (with more to come), Boulash has the potential to become a lasting figure in both British culture and the wider world of fashion too. We’ve likely not seen the last of her on a runway or in the pages of a magazine. It’s amazing what a little “PMA” can do, innit babes?