Arts·Canada's a Drag

A 'supermodel mixed with the fire of Beyoncé,' Toronto drag icon Tynomi Banks is here to inspire

Budding queens, take note: this is how you slay — and stay. Watch Canada's a Drag Season 2 now.

Budding queens, take note: this is how you slay — and stay

Tynomi Banks performs at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (CBC Arts)

Tynomi Banks is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all 21 episodes here.

On Tynomi Banks's Instagram (which boasts some 18,300 followers), her bio reads, unapologetically: "Give me money all the things I deserve everything."

If you've ever seen Tynomi perform, you'll find it hard to disagree with her proclamation. A fixture in Toronto's drag scene well before RuPaul's Drag Race started to push the art further into the mainstream than most ever expected, her performances should be required viewing for young folks thinking of getting into drag.

"Tynomi Banks is a supermodel mixed with the fire of Beyoncé, giving you all the sexy moves," she says of herself. "I'm unique because I'm in a position where I could inspire the younger generation and make them proud of their heritage and carve a distinct and individual future for themselves."

Watch the episode:

Episode 3 7:22

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Lucius Dechausay
Packaging Editor: March Mercanti 
Titles Designer: Hope Little

When Tynomi's non-drag alter ego Sheldon McIntosh was growing up and coming to drag shows, he "used to see legendary queens like Michelle Ross."

"[Ross] just used to sit down with me and talk to me about what she used to do. And I was like, 'Oh my god, you're an entertainer.' It's when I knew it was a true art."

Soon enough, McIntosh invented Tynomi Banks — "a combination of the two most legendary supermodels in the world: Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell."

"I never got into drag because I had low self-esteem," Tynomi says. "I just fell in love with the attention. I loved the attention and the love I was getting from people, and the support of the community."

Tynomi Banks performs at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (CBC Arts)

Years later, drag has exploded into something she never would have expected it to — so much so that she finds herself performing at the most unlikely of places, like the Ontario Chiropractic Association's annual gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where this episode of Canada's a Drag was largely filmed.

​"Businesses are becoming more open and inclusive and wanting to try new things," she says. "It's the power of change; it's the power of education. Years ago, I didn't see this happening."

As Tynomi makes her way into a culture still being introduced to drag despite its existence in Toronto for decades and decades, she wants to "bridge the gap between the straight world and the gay world" — even if that comes with its own issues. 

"Sometimes I feel like people treat it like a zoo," she says. "Like, 'I'm going to see the zebra.' No, it's nothing like that."

Ultimately, though, she has her priorities, er, straight: "I want them to love me. I want them to follow me. I want them to love drag."

Follow Tynomi Banks on Instagram.

Meet the other 12 kings and queens in the second season of Canada's a Drag here.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and playing integral roles in the launch and production of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.