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Drag Race's Tina Burner Stands by Her Soda Ad 

Tina Burner

Tina Burner has sashayed away, but she has no regrets.

In a recent chat with The Advocate, the RuPaul's Drag Race contestant said she stood by her fiery soda ad — last week's main challenge regarding branding — but has grown a lot due to the VH1 reality competition.

The show also had a surprise in store for Burner before the fateful lip-synch against Utica: Her mother delivered a moving message of love for her child and her drag career in Untucked.

Below, Burner discusses her elimination, the importance of her mother's support, and the future of drag entertainment — which might include a two-woman show with fellow New York queen Rosé.

The Advocate: Hi, Tina! Where are you based right now?
Tina Burner: New York City. 

How is that going?
Oh, it's just great. Honestly, as things start to open ... I think we're about to see such a resurgence of everything. I think New York is just such a beautiful place, and when theater starts to open again and there's live performances, it's what makes it special. It's just time for everything to be what New York is. And New York's a very lonely place without what makes it so beautiful.

As a performer, do you see more opportunities coming up with restrictions easing?
Of course. Things are gonna start to open up. Drag has always been on the forefront of everything. ... Drag queens, they always give you hope. One of the main reasons I started drag is because of that, for laughter. You have this perfect platform, an opportunity to change people's days and to navigate happiness in the world. I'll keep on doing what I can with safety ... because we need that. People need to laugh again. Being a comedy queen, honey, we are in demand!

I was watching Untucked last night and I was just so touched by your mom and her message of support for you. What was that like for you to watch it?
It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to watch. I get choked up thinking about it now. ... She's an incredible woman and such a complex person and I wouldn't be anywhere who I am today without her. It's a true fight and a struggle because, let me tell you, we have been through it, and I have stuck by her side when others didn't. And she's done the same for me. She broke me. ... [She's] a Drag Race expert. She knows more about Drag Race than I do. I want to see her on the judging panel because she is vicious.

It's amazing to have a mom like that who supports you that strongly,
When I first started doing drag, she literally ripped off the most horrible pictures on Facebook. And she turned it into a tote bag and sent it to me for Christmas. It had this chain on it. And it's funniest thing ever ... I still have it. But she [was there] from day one. ... I'm very lucky.

Of course, a lot of people don't have that kind of strong familial support, and I'm curious what message you hope that your mom as an ally on the Drag Race stage can send to the world.
No matter what your child does, no matter who your child wants to be, you embrace them because they're your child. My mom just always wants what's best for me. And she realizes that what's best for me is what makes me happy. Show the full support, just love unconditionally, and be your child's biggest fan, be their number 1 fan, even if it's creepy. I just picture my mom with one of those big foam fingers.

You went home during the branding challenge, which on its surface might have seemed the perfect challenge for you. 
The irony of one of the only people to really brand themselves on that show and then they go home on a branding challenge. Isn't life funny? Listen, I still stick by that commercial. I'm sorry, I gave you costume changes. The Pit Crew had lines. I gave you a production, honey. I'm willing to take your constructive criticism. You loved it. You're going to be saying, "Oh, hell yes!" forever. 

It was very impressive how you put all those pieces together to create that. Looking back, do you understand why your soda commercial wasn’t a favorite with the judges?
If you tell me some of the critiques, I'll tell you what I thought of it.

One of them was that the soda should have been called "Oh, hell yes!"
That was one of the critiques I didn't understand because if you think about it, every soda has a catchphrase... that's never usually the name of the brand. So I just thought, Do a catchphrase. ... It was on the can. It literally said "Burning Up, Hell Yes." You know what? No!

You came into this with a lot of experience as a performer; you had a brand before Drag Race. After doing the show, you know, have you reevaluated at any part of your career?
One thousand percent. I obviously came home and the first thing I did was spend about two weeks doing makeup with my makeup artist friends. [Laughs] It was such an amazing place to get criticism and to get constructive criticism. ... You've seen the evolution of Cher. You've seen the evolution of Madonna. And that's what I feel that I'm going to do even throughout my whole career. I think if you're not changing, you're not evolving. I mean, why are we doing this? It's a creative process, and it's amazing to look back and be able to see myself and go OK, let's fix that. OK, let's make that bigger. There was a lot of that for me, so it was literally a notepad. I think, given the opportunity again, it's just like, girl, I would have gone so much bigger and be so much more relaxed too. I think that's the biggest thing when you go there. ... There's someone like me who has so much to lose after doing it for so long. The tension is a little bit higher than some younger people and people who are doing it for less time, because you know, when you're in your 20s, you're like, I can do anything! And then you get into like 30s, and I just turned 40, [when] it's more serious. I think that's the big thing. I gotta let loose a little more.

And what's next for you?
Two covers of songs ... and part of the proceeds I want to go to the Actors Fund. It's a cover of "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line and "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin for my mom, because it's two really important things to express. ... I wanna do more theater. ... and with New York coming back, I think theater is going to be more important than ever. And I would love to jump in

Maybe a two-woman act with Rosé?
You know what, maybe! Maybe she'd let me do her makeup every night too. [laughs] I would totally do something with Rosé, actually. To get to know her and to realize that we're not so different than we thought was a nice surprise, one might say.

RuPaul's Drag Race airs Friday on VH1.

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