Tamisha Iman, mother of the House of Iman, is a nothing short of a drag legend. It’s not often we get to see a queen with thirty years of drag under her belt on the hallowed mainstage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Tamisha Iman’s performance in season 13 did not disappoint.
Despite struggles with her health, Tamisha delivered dynamite lip syncs, and turned some chic looks this season, before she was sent home last Friday in episode 6.
Daniel Trainor and Sam Stone caught up with Tamisha to chat about her time on the show, the hula hoop that nearly brought her down, and our responsibility to keep queer history alive.
Daniel Trainor: Tamisha Iman what an honor to be here with you! How are you doing?
Tamisha Iman: I am well! how y’all doing?
Sam Stone: We’re great!
Daniel: I want to start by getting into this disco challenge, because I am telling you if I was up there doing that choreography and then they said you also have to use a damn hula hoop I would have said I don’t think so! What was going through your head when they handed you the hula hoop you were going to have use for this challenge?
Tamisha: The hula hoop wasn’t the problem. The problem was the hula hoop that we were first working with was an aerobic hula hoop. So therefore it was heavy. It was heavier than your normal hula hoop. You know, you can pick up a hula hoop and put it on and work it, but this hula hoop was extremely large and extremely heavy. So it was like what the hell? What am I supposed to do with this?
Sam: It was an impressive performance, despite the weight of the hula hoop. Another thing that I was so impressed with was all the garments that we got to see this season from you. I know you made all your own garments — can you talk about why you choose to sew your own looks instead of collaborating with a designer or a creative partner which is pretty common in the Drag Race world?
Tamisha: Starting out in the industry, I’ve given a lot of people opportunities to sew for me, and I’ve never cared for it. I know me best. I know what I want to present. And it just costs so much less! I’ve always been a designer at heart. Over the years my skills have been perfected. I’ve gotten better, and better, and better.
Daniel: During this episode, Tamisha, you revealed how intense your health struggles were while filming. Going into the season, you must’ve known you weren’t going to be able to give your full, one hundred percent to the competition. Was that a consideration before entering? Did you think about maybe waiting a year until you were healthier, or were you just so eager to take your shot?
Tamisha: Season 12, when I was selected, my goal was to win. For season 13, my goal was to just…show up. The big difference is, season 12 I was full of life. Life was going fine. Season 13 I almost lost my life. When I did end up going, it was, let me just go. I know I’m not a hundred percent, nevertheless I have been doing drag for thirty years and I think my experience carried me as far as it did in the competition. I was like on autopilot, but there came a time where my body was like, you know what? We’re really not one hundred percent to take on the tasks that are needed. But, I’m such a professional, when I take that stage — oftentimes a professional, when you’re doing your job, it’s like second nature. That’s what it was for me. That has been my job, that has been my career for thirty years. So, regardless of me not being one hundred percent, I would not change the experience for anything in the world.
Sam: Tamisha, it must be sort of scary to be dealing with those health issues in the Drag Race environment, and to your credit, all we saw was you having fun and digging into your performances. Was there a part of you that was scared? Or was it one hundred percent I’m here to do this?
Tamisha: The only thing that I was scared about was the fact that I was hiding a secret. That’s just how bad I wanted to be there. I wasn’t scared about the challenges or anything like that, and I was having fun. That was the moment in my life where I could really sit back and enjoy — to me this was a pageant. This is how I viewed it — enjoy the pageant without having to be that perfect contestant. I was able to just coexist and enjoy the ride, and I was happy. The thing about it is, I knew with me having the health issues that I was having that I probably wouldn’t be the winner, nevertheless I enjoyed the ride with girls.
Daniel: I think that’s really powerful, and it really came across how important and special it was for you to be there. A handful of times this season, when RuPaul was walking around the Werk Room, she would ask some of the girls to list some items of pop culture; whether that be tell me your top three Cher songs, or what are your favorite disco records, and most of the girls struggled to do so. Do you worry about the origins of drag being lost with these younger queens, and if this younger generation lacks the proper gay history to understand what has brought them to this moment?
Tamisha: I think as long as the generation that comes before them keeps explaining it and keeps being available they will get it. You can’t charge a person for something they don’t know if it’s not being presented to them. As pillars of the community and older people we have to reiterate the foundations of drag and it has to be available. RuPaul is amazing, but RuPaul is one person, and RuPaul can’t reach everybody that we would like to. So we created these little pods called the Ru Girls. It’s up to us to stay visible for the community so they can see and learn from us. You can’t just go and win and have the experience and be a part of it. You have to be a teacher as well.
Sam: Has your experience on Drag Race changed the way you think about drag at all, and will it change the way that you perform or create art?
Tamisha: No, because I’ve always been an open minded type of person, so therefore I never categorize drag one way or the other. I’ve always allowed it to be open and individual.
Daniel: In closing Tamisha because you are such an icon, what is one piece of advice that you would give to any girl just getting into drag?
Tamisha: Be yourself. Know that there is enough room in this community for you to be you. You don’t have to become something you’re not, or something that someone else is. Be yourself. There’s enough room for everyone’s own identity, their own fingerprint — put yours on the industry. Put yours on the community. We won’t know if it’s yours unless you be yourself.
Daniel: Tamisha, such a pleasure watching you this season. Thank you for your time, and we look forward to big things to come for Miss Tamisha Iman!
Tamisha: Thank you!