Tamisha Iman Deserves Everything, Even If RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Doesn't Deserve Tamisha Iman

Illustration for article titled Tamisha Iman Deserves Everything, Even If RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Doesn't Deserve Tamisha Iman
Screenshot: Youtube

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 has officially ended, with Ru and the head honchos at World of Wonder having crowned Symone, from the House of Avalon, who was a fan favorite and front-runner throughout the competition. The grand finale was a cataclysmic televised drag event, with a hotly debated top four, and a season rife with accusations of what Alyssa Edwards once memorably described as “rigor morris.” Notable among the critics is Tamisha Iman, whose own elimination at the hands of top four finalist Kandy Muse kickstarted much of the speculation about production mishaps.

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In a recent Instagram Live, she accused the show of “fuckery” behind the scenes, adding that she was “pissed with a way a lot of the stuff has went” and that as “soon as this contract is up and I can voice my opinion” she would do... exactly that! It’s almost too bad, because there is a universe where Tamisha Iman is the most famous and successful drag queen in America. Sadly, we live in this one, where both RuPaul’s Drag Race and World of Wonder don’t deserve her in the slightest.

So what’s the buzz with Iman this week? Well, in the wake of the finale, and amid news that All Stars season 6 has moved to Paramount+, gay Twitter has resurfaced performance videos of Tamisha Iman dating all the way back to 1998, before some of the queens her season had even been born.

An early narrative about Iman in season 13 was that she was the legendary mother of the “Iman dynasty,” whose children included Tandi Iman Dupree, famous for a stunt involving a Wonder Woman costume and a drop from the ceiling, for which the judges all praised her. She was outspoken about her history as a choreographer and performer, telling viewers she had mentored many of the queens in Atlanta, including fellow contestant Lala Ri, who won later won Miss Congeniality for season 13.

In the above video, that knack for dance makes itself clear, as does her deep understanding of performance and spectacle on stage. It’s extremely pageant in nature, like most Atlanta drag, while also filled with pop star worthy choreography, like when she delicately unwraps her headdress to reveal a matching wig—a staple of American drag queens—later doing the same with her dress. And look at the way those dancers fling her around, with one even doing a full twist into the splits while she’s lifted up into the air like a cheer competition.

This isn’t just another performer or drag queen. This is a star, and before most of her competitors could even read.

Talk about her extremely obvious dance chops started almost immediately after her neck-and-neck Janet Jackson lip sync battle with Symone—not to mention her many years as a fixture of the Atlanta drag scene. Iman, by the way, did all of this with an ostomy bag under her costume.

While her recent surgery, which she revealed to her fellow contestants as well as producers only after she’d been eliminated, was a hindrance to her movements, I can see echoes of a performance memorialized on Youtube from 1998, in which she performed Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” From every inch of her, she just exudes charisma and talent, then and now, and I can’t get enough of it.

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(Warning! This one contains strobe lights.)

Her credits, according to these old Youtube videos, include: Miss North Carolina Continental 2007, Miss Gay USofA 2005, Miss Hotlanta International 2004, Miss Gay Georgia USofA 2004, Miss Black Universe 2000, Miss Universe 1998, Miss Gay Georgia USofA 1997, Miss National 1996, and Miss Duval 1996.

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Back to RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In her now-infamous Instagram Live, Iman made it clear she was not O.K. with the way producers handled things between her and Kandy Muse behind the scenes. Their clearly concocted “feud” lasted most of the early episodes, and culminated in a coincidentally timed lip-sync between them, after which Iman was eliminated and she revealed her ostomy bag to producers. But more than having added to the already sky-high pile of contestant accusations that the show is rigged—it’s reality tv, so of course it is—it also brought into question whether she had broken her contract with World of Wonder by speaking about it in the first place, and if she would ever come back for a round two with All Stars.

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In her finale reunion performance of “Arrogant,” she at least let the other girls have it, finally, with the most well-executed (and conspicuously named) music video of the bunch.

Will Tamisha Iman ever return for All Stars, or hell, another season of the main competition? We’ve seen World of Wonder bring contestants back before, like Shangela and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, so it’s not without precedent. Should she come back, there’s no question she could very well sweep the competition, with the entire fanbase and viewing audience on her side.

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The question, however, isn’t if she will come back at all. It’s if Drag Race, and World of Wonder by extension, even deserve to have her in the first place.

DISCUSSION

I like Symone, happy for her win, but looking back on the lip sync between Symone and Tamisha... Tamisha was robbed of her place in the initial winner’s round. Drag Race is fun to watch, but it is way less fun knowing how little of the show is simply beating the other queens each week, and is really the producers moving the players around the board to get the results they want. Also the really horrible contract the queens have to sign just to be considered. Yes, the queens will earn a living if they get on the show, but they are indentured talent. The contracts are actually offensive in how WOW takes full control... A queen can completely ignore the franchise and struggle to earn a living as a local queen, or she can sign a contract just to be able to audition, and lose control of her career for decades. It is a tough call. I think some of the contract cannot is unenforceable, and I hope someone WOW to court someday.