Bimini: “To walk out onstage in a 40-inch wig, a high-rise thong, and f*cking perform Prodigy feels great”

Ahead of making her Download Festival debut this weekend, Bimini Bon Boulash talks recruiting an all-queer band, why Princess Diana is punk, and how Green Day inspired her old email address…

Bimini: “To walk out onstage in a 40-inch wig, a high-rise thong, and f*cking perform Prodigy feels great”
Zoya Raza-Sheikh

“I always read Kerrang! as a teenager,” Bimini grins. Reeling off band names from A Day To Remember to My Chemical Romance, it’s clear the drag queen knows her stuff (and her style). And the unapologetic, unfiltered and unfazed star is ready to take this attitude to Castle Donington for the first time this weekend, as she makes her Download Festival debut.

Hailing from east England, Thomas Bibbits – who goes by the fabulous stage name Bimini Bon Boulash – rose to fame on the raging hit RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Taking their candid humour and upfront attitude to the small screen, fans flocked to their relatable, edgy image – something that will inevitably shine bright from the Dogtooth Stage on Sunday afternoon.

“Ultimately you want to do what you feel is right. We've got to go into everything with good intentions,” she tells K! today on how her principles have helped her navigate her full-throttle career. At the heart of it, Bimini just wanted to be “comfortable”, even if it meant quite literally rejecting traditional labels. “I always remember saying to my mum that I don't want labels and she was like, 'The world is full of labels, you're gonna have to get used to it.’ But I was like, ‘No, I don’t.’ I've always known and I didn't have the right language to kind of navigate it at the time.”

And refusing to subscribe to the norm is exactly what has got Bimini where she is today. Here, we sit down with the star to find out her story so far, and what she’s got planned for Download (spoiler: she’s got Britney and The Prodigy on the brain)…

You’ve achieved a lot in your incredible career as a drag queen, author and activist. For those not familiar with your work, though, who is Bimini?
“Bimini is someone that likes to take a risk and defy expectations. I like to prove people wrong. Bimini is a bit of a daredevil.”

How has drag, fashion and music enabled you to navigate your identity and express yourself?
“Going into the world of drag and using that for expressing yourself has taught me a lot about myself day to day. It's given me a lot more confidence. I feel like I don't give a fuck and I don't care about what people think and that's a great place to be. I hope everyone gets there. Sometimes, obviously, it can be difficult. At the end of the day, you've got to move forward and do the best that you can. People want to talk and they'll talk whether you do bad or good, so let them talk.

“Fashion and music are something I've always looked to. I've always felt like an outsider. When I was in my hometown, I wasn't dressing the same as the people that were there and you don't really know your identity or style when you're younger. We're always learning and that's what life is. So I've started to use fashion for myself and I love it. It allows me to be expressive and creative. As a kid, I was always told that I wasn't artistic which can really get in your head and make you feel a bit like shit. Everyone should be able to flourish and be nurtured creatively.”

How would you describe your connection to the alternative scene?
“Music is another outlet that I've been able to do that with as well, which I've been working on. I put out one song last year [God Save This Queen]. I thought it was going to be song after song as I've been in the studio since February 2021. We've made music and I'm excited for people to finally hear it. I'm incorporating both fashion and music in my Download set, so it's really exciting. I’ve always wanted to do this, and as the opportunities have risen, I’ve grabbed them. We've got my single and four original tracks in my longest setlist. I'm really excited for people to hear it. I don't know what people expect so that kind of turns me on a little bit!

“This summer is all about music, the performance, the festivals, and the band. We've got a live band together and we're all queer. It feels a bit anarchist having this queer band in the music industry and we're a bit like 'fuck you' to anyone that has not allowed that, because it's quite rare to have a fully queer band that's getting to do Download or the stages that I'm doing, so I feel very lucky. I feel very proud of what the band have done so far and what we're hoping to do, and I'm excited for people to expect the unexpected.”

What sound are you going for with your band?
“Depression with a beat. We've really toyed with a lot of different genres to find this sound. Right now, I feel like it's sad bangers. Someone described it as Mike Skinner meets Robyn which is quite interesting. I think the Mike Skinner elements are really cool, though, because they're very British and very straight heterosexual males. So when I'm compared to people like that, it does make me laugh because, obviously, I can be very feminine, but then I'll sound like a right geezer.”

What artists did you grow up listening to, and how have they influenced you?
“Well, my first email address was Green Day underscore Good Charlotte! I grew up with pop which has always been a big influence on me, but then I loved pop-punk. I loved bands like Bowling For Soup, A Day To Remember and My Chemical Romance. When I was 13, they were connecting to my soul on a deeper level. I was crying to The Black Parade in my bedroom. But my influences span everything. I love dance music and that is political. Amy Winehouse was a huge [influence] and I love bands like The Libertines, too. I feel like you can kind of hear that influence when you listen to our music.”

You’re making your Download debut this weekend. What have you got prepped for the stage?
“No-one's heard my music so I'm shitting myself. With the music, we've been able to curate songs people know and we've been quite smart with it. It's stuff that you'd expect. I've gone with The Prodigy – a huge dance-punk influence to me – and very straight as well. I love leaning into that area because people have an expectation of drag having to be feminine. So, to walk out onstage in a 40-inch wig, a high-rise thong, and fucking perform Prodigy feels great. I love it. It's what I'm meant to be doing. And then, it's mashing up Prodigy with Britney Spears…”

Can you give away another track?
“I'll tell you another cover. I'm doing Blondie's One Way Or Another, which is a great track. I'm absolutely obsessed with them. When I started learning it to perform, I realised that the lyrics are quite something. A bit of Chase & Status as well, and Peaches. We love a bit of Peaches.

“We're ready for Download. Download's my first festival, which is crazy because it's actually the first time that we're performing live as a band together. I'm not leaning into the nerves; I'm going with the excitement because it's been cool to work with the band. We had auditions and filmed the content and we're gonna be putting that out so people can see the journey. We've been working together on getting looks and, because they're queer, it's important to make sure they feel respected. I wanted to make sure they were happy with what they wanted. It's just so surreal that this is happening!”

How have you found the Download announcement has gone down with people?
“I was at an awards show recently and the booker of Download came over and was speaking to us and said that I'm the most searched artist on the Download line-up because no-one has a fucking clue who I am! They're like, 'Who the fuck is Bimini?' They said I was searched even more than Iron Maiden – well, obviously, because everyone knows who Iron Maiden are!”

Who's in your band, and does it have a cool name yet?
“The band is Tyler, Maxie and Kit. We've got Kit on guitar, Tyler on the bass and Maxie on the drums, and they're gonna kill it. People need to get ready for it. I tweeted it out asking 'What should I call the band?' and it was trending on Twitter! So many people were saying really funny stuff. It's funny because I'm the only blonde – well it's a wig – but everyone else in the band is all brunette so I thought Bimini And The Brunettes. Boy George said Bimini And The Boom and there have been loads like Bimini And The Boulashes.”

Since you’re kicking off with Download, do you see yourself as a drag queen rock star?
“Let's see what I set fire to onstage first! No, I'm joking. Punk is a feeling – it's not the way you look. I think punk is an attitude you have and the attitude you give. Punk is having good intentions and standing up for what you believe is right and what's right for the people around you. Punk isn't just a mohawk in a studded jacket. I know that was the era that was defined at that time, but punk was political and a social movement. It was going against the government and it was going against what was happening in the zeitgeist. You don't have to follow the rules that have been created to kind of put us in these boxes. Anyone that goes against society's expectations of them is punk.”

Being queer is punk, too!
“Queer and punk are very similar. [Being] queer is an attitude. I think being queer is the new punk, whether that's an evolution of what punk is and we're just using a different word now. Owning who you are, your identity, your sexuality, is punk as fuck, and that's what being queer is. Queer isn't the aesthetic and it isn't defined by a single sexuality. It's about finding the values of yourself and being that. Queer is punk and I'm glad that you're bringing it up.

“I got loads of shit for this: I said Princess Diana was punk because she went against the monarchy with what she did at the time. Like, listen, she going to where people had AIDS, during the AIDS epidemic, and hugging someone. Humanising them was the most punk thing ever – that's the punk attitude. That's saying ‘fuck you’ to what the world has said and that changed the relationship we have with AIDS now. She didn't have to do that, she was Princess Diana.”

Who do you think will be the next biggest LGBTQ+ punk icon?
“There is a really sick artist called July Jones, who are really good. They're really cool and have got great music. Their aesthetic is sick as well. On the other side of the spectrum there’s Kim Petras, who is taking up space in the music industry as a trans woman in the pop world which is really important. I think we need more queer voices everywhere and we need to kind of normalise that. I'm just excited for queer people to kind of get those opportunities because they've not always been there. A lot of the ways people have found themselves now is through what we looked to as kids. Rock stars like David Bowie and Boy George were always going against it and being quite queer and punk. I'm glad that we're in this kind of [queer] awakening.”

Download Festival takes place at Donington Park on June 10-12. Get your tickets now.

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