Tina Burner is a hilarious RuPaul's Drag Race Happy Meal no one can extinguish
The queen tells EW about her boy band past, dating Graham Norton, and her infamous Rosé makeup.
Tina Burner's (red, yellow, and orange) flame has, unfortunately, dimmed.
Though her spirit and general aesthetic live on in McDonald's dining establishments across the globe, the New York City comedy queen's essence is forever scorched into RuPaul's Drag Race herstory, as Burner's infectiously campy approach to the craft (we'll never forget Rosé sashaying the runway in full Burner makeup) and brutally honest commentary made for entertaining TV each week.
When it came to personal branding, however, Burner lost her footing during Friday night's challenge, which asked the remaining queens to smear their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent over a beverage campaign modeled after their respective personalities. While she made a huge impression on the runway (her fuzzy-bear Frankenstein was the most daring thing she's done so far), dressing her soda in 1950s housewife drag did her in, and Burner was extinguished after a hilarious lip-sync (one of the best of the season) against Utica Queen.
Just before her Drag Race swan song, EW caught up with Burner for a deep dive into her time on the show and her hilariously diverse past, which includes dating Drag Race UK judge Graham Norton, singing in a boy band (yes, really), and where her penchant for the first three colors of the rainbow comes from. Read on for the full conversation, and tune in to the next new episode of RuPaul's Drag Race Friday at 8 p.m. on VH1.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Miss Tina! I'm so sad that you're leaving so early!
TINA BURNER: I mean, ma-ma!
That's the word of the season. If I hear "ma-ma" or "beh-bee" one more time…
"Beh-bee" is actually my fault. I'll take responsibility for that. I didn't think it was my fault until I was in an interview and I said it, and they were like, "Is this your fault?" Apparently I say it all the time.
Are you sure you want to take responsibility for that?
Rosé can have "beh-bee," and I'll take "babe," because Babe was a pig at the center of a feature film. So, you know what, I'm a star. A leading role. A pig!
The most burning question, obviously, I have to go back to episode 1 when you said that if you won the first lip-sync, you'd give up self-pleasure for a year, so how's that going in quarantine?
[Laughs] Funny enough, it's pretty accurate! Watching the show is stressful enough, but by the time I'm done watching it, I fall asleep! There's no time for anything else!
You're so fun, and it's so strange because so many people love you and you're so well respected in New York City, but it seemed like something didn't translate to Drag Race. What got in your way?
When you've been doing drag a little bit longer than a couple of people [Laughs] your expectations should be high. When I walked into the competition, I realized that we're all on the same playing field…. from day one, Michelle Visage reminded me of attention to detail. You can tell they were watching our every move. It's a compliment and a curse when you're in a competition, because you want to do the best, but you have to fight a little harder. You can't say it's not fair because you've been doing it for so long that you should know better, but you get in your head about it. Like, what am I doing wrong? I was giving 150 percent…. if they don't judge you harder, you're not doing your job. It's a compliment because they want the best for you. You can't take it personally. This journey has taught me more humility than I'll ever know. Especially not fighting with six-year-olds on the internet.
It's such a shame seeing what you guys have to go through online. We saw it especially bad with Lawrence Chaney last night. There's joking and shade that come with the territory, but…
In a perfect world, that's how it should be. I love to be shady! But, Lawrence is such a brilliant person and queen who represents good, old-fashioned drag.
You have a very big future ahead, but your past also interested a lot of people. Particularly the revelation that you were in a boy band.
Pop music with horrible highlights! It was at the end of that Backstreet Boys/NSYNC era. I think if it came out a few years earlier it would've been better. It was a great experience.
What's the name?
The name is 5th Ring, honey! Horrible, horrible name!
Is the music on the internet?
I think you can even ask Alexa to play it on Amazon. I'm surprised the internet was working when it was released…. We were on the cover of the Enquirer because the youngest one was Tom Jones' lovechild. It was this whole scandal. It's funny! You have to find my horrible CD cover. It was like, we're all in white shirts, and it was shot in a park.
Also, your time dating Graham Norton was brought up many times. How did you meet Graham and are you guys still in contact?
Of course! This is your exclusive: Graham wrote me a letter once, and he gave me the most important quote that I've carried with me throughout my career. He said, "Life is not a firework." He said you can't just light something and it becomes beautiful. You have to work and strive. In his writing, it's tattooed on my arm. I just got it as my 13th tattoo! Because 13 was my number at Nationals when I won National Comedy Queen, and season 13! I carry it with me. He's one of the most amazing men I've ever known. I was in my twenties and a wild child. He's a great guy and we still talk. I wouldn't change it for the world.
That's beautiful! Speaking of beautiful: We have to talk about Rosé's makeup from last week. Can you explain?
Isn't it the most amazing thing you've seen in your life? I don't think I've ever laughed as hard as I did. I saw Rosé the day after and I was crying. It hit me so good. First of all, I told Rosé, listen, to be fair, it's like painting The Croods 3. You have this huge brow bone, I don't know what to do with your face, you're so angular, you're lucky we got that far!
You're blaming it all on Rosé's face!?
Uh-huh! Not my makeup skills at all! [Laughs]. To be completely honest, it's been such a journey…. I didn't think about it a lot, I'd just smoke my eye out a lot, and it wasn't until I came back that I sat down with Chelsea Piers and we spent a few weeks refining it! I post all these pictures online and people are like, "Where's that face on Drag Race?" It's called a glow-up, honey!
We know this show is about being shady and funny, but did you ever take that online criticism to heart?
Not at all. It's weird to say, but I'm such a fan of constructive criticism. It's how we grow and evolve…. It's that mentality that takes a good kick in the arse to be like, sis, let's turn this around!
Other physical aesthetics had people talking this season — particularly your signature red, yellow, and orange looks. Has McDonald's reached out for a sponsorship?
You know what, they haven't, and I'm ready to get super-sized! But, name me one queen throughout the history of RuPaul's Drag Race so far that has branded themselves like that. The next time you see a fire hydrant, you're going to think of me!
Why is that color scheme so important to you?
People will lose their s--- at the next evolution of me. Tina Burner as an artist and character has evolved, it's like Pokémon. We're going through some different evolutions. She represents fire, Tina Turner's "Proud Mary," when a forest burns down, it takes the whole thing down and beautiful things start to grow. It represents Hunger Games honey, the fight, something beautiful to look at but dangerous to touch!
In this week's challenge, I don't think you did poorly, but, like Kahmora Hall, the green screen curse also got to you when you couldn't remember "Now it's not only Victoria that has a secret." How many times did you actually have to read that line?
I mean, I wrote the line, so… [Laughs]. I remember writing it and doing costume changes; I remember giving the Pit Crew lines. I wanted it to be flawless! I always put on a production, but, I thought it was hysterical. I still laugh about it!
Who is the Tina we didn't get to see on Drag Race? Is there anything you want people around the country who were introduced to you on this show to know about you or your approach to the craft that maybe they didn't get to see?
I want them to know that my shoulders really are that big in real life! I want people to know that it's ok to be who you are, but it's also ok to change, evolve, and become the highest possible version of yourself. Watching it back, I wish I would've gone so much bigger. I was so scared to go too big and do too much.
...and maybe also don't cut your own hair!
You loved it. Wouldn't you let me cut your hair? I loved it! If anything, that's my side hustle: A makeup artist and a hairdresser. So, watch out world, because she's coming to a salon near you.
I'll take that as a threat!
I'll scare ya, kids!
Subscribe to EW's BINGE podcast for a full recaps of all 12 seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, featuring exclusive interviews with Trixie Mattel, Katya, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour, and more.