Tina Burner is a rising star in the drag community. She’s a staple of the New York City drag scene, she’s starred on Fusion’s Shade: Queens of NYC, and she’s the current reigning National Miss Comedy Queen. As if that isn’t enough, Burner just launched a partnership with GLAAD and the alcohol delivery service, Saucey. I was able to catch up with Burner for a quick chat about her career, her TV show, and what’s on the horizon for one of drag’s leading ladies.
So, I think the best way to start off this chat is to ask, how did this all begin? How did you get into drag?
I first started doing drag with some housemates in Fire Island for the annual Invasion celebration. Then I got a job as a bartender in the city, and one week my boss asked if I could get into drag to host karaoke. That week turned into another week, and into another, and I realized that drag is a great platform. It’s an excellent way to get a chance to perform, while also being a social platform. Drag is political. Drag is controversial. And drag can help change people’s minds on a daily basis. There’s such a power to it, and I fell in love with that.
You got to star in Fusion’s Shade: Queens of NYC, which, obviously, is a huge deal. Starring in a TV show is no easy task. Can you tell us what that experience was like, and how that came to be?
Well, Fusion was looking for drag queens around NYC. They were trying to find the right queens for the show, and I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hide my feelings. I believe in being respectful, but also being honest. And Fusion really liked that about me. They liked that I wasn’t afraid to be myself no matter what.
And you know, there were some queens on the show who totally changed their personality to look better on TV. I won’t say who, but they know who they are. But the reality is that the show is called Shade! Yes, drag is a community. Drag is a statement…But drag is also bitchy, and you know, sometimes the truth hurts. For me, I don’t regret anything, except for some makeup choices…and I also learned that some of my lighting choices didn’t work well either! (laughs). What a lot of people don’t know is that the show was 100% real. We had to go through our daily jobs and our weekly drag shows, all while being filmed doing it. It was exhausting, but it was so much fun.
One of the quotes from the show that I found to be really interesting came from Brita Filter. She said, “I absolutely feel more confident in drag, because it’s like a mask…” I’m curious as to your thoughts on that. Do you think drag is a mask, hiding who you are? Or do you think drag is a part of you?
For me, it’s a steroid. It’s an accelerant. My name is Tina Burner. It’s like, when you strike a match, you get the fire. Also, it’s a play on Tina Turner, because she’s my hero. But yeah, for me, drag makes me feel superhuman. It makes me feel more confident. I’m 6’2 out of drag. Add the heels and the wig and I’m over 7 feet tall. I’m just this giant monster. That’s really what I am, larger than life. Also, heels have helped my posture more than you’ll ever know!
Being based in NYC, you would have been trapped in the lockdown. How were you staying creative during all those months when you couldn’t perform?
Oh, I was getting in full drag, sitting in my apartment, doing shows on webcam or over the phone. Drag is a production, and when we are at our worst, hope is so important. I think providing the drama, the comedy, and the confidence of drag is very empowering during moments like that. I’m a fighter, and I think you have to continue to fight.
Speaking of helping and empowering others, you have a new partnership with GLAAD and the alcohol delivery service, Saucey. Can you tell me what that’s all about?
Well, as a performer, I always like to say I’m sassy and saucy, so when I was approached to do this campaign, it seemed like the perfect it. Saucey is an alcohol delivery service. You call them up or order online, and within 30 minutes, you’ve got booze at the door. It’s excellent right now since a lot of people are still not comfortable going out shopping. They’re partnering with GLAAD, so a portion of proceeds from any alcohol sold in Saucey’s Pride section goes to the organization.
It’s an excellent way to give back to the community, and all you have to do is have a drink with your friends. So, I’m really excited to be helping out with this campaign and to give back!
From my understanding, your role in the partnership is that anyone who buys alcohol from the Pride section gets a free cameo performance from you, is that right?
Yep! I’m gonna be sending out personalized messages to every single person, and who doesn’t want a personalized video from a clown in a gown? Plus, right now, being personal is so important. We’re in a time where everyone feels so separate, so to be able to bring a bit of friendship, humanity, and heart to this campaign is something I’m really excited about.
Are you anticipating that this could get huge? And you’ll end up trapped in your apartment for two weeks, filming video after video after video?
Honestly, that would be amazing! Because every video I do means another donation to GLAAD. So, if I have to lock myself in my apartment with a ring light for two weeks, bring it on! This is the gig, this is why I perform. I love being able to change someone’s day. So yeah, I can only hope that happens!
Alright, so I love to end my interviews with some lightning round questions. You can’t think about your answers, you just have to say the first thing that comes to mind.
Oh no! I’m gonna get in trouble. This is bad. I have a loudmouth, and everything will just come up like word vomit!
…But yeah, let’s do it!
Who is a drag queen you’ve met before and think is phenomenal, and you’d love to work with again?
Oh, Bianca Del Rio for sure.
Right after you get off stage after a show, what’s the first thing you do?
First place you’re going to travel to now that lockdown is over?
Orlando, I love amusement parks!
Steel Magnolias. Oh! Or, Singin’ in the Rain. I love old-school Hollywood.
You’ve already done one TV show, would you ever consider going on Drag Race next?
Oh yeah, if I ever got the chance, I’d do it. Look, I’m a competition queen. I love a good challenge!
Be sure to follow Tina Burner on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find out more about Saucey and show your support for GLAAD.