Few aspects of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars are more gratifying than watching a queen redeem herself in a very specific way. Such was the case for Trinity K. Bonet, who, after expressing her desire to be a Beyoncé impersonator in Vegas during season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race, was told by fellow competitor Bianca Del Rio that she looked more like “Sammy Davis Jr. in a Beyoncé wig.” However, after returning to the competition for season six of All Stars, Trinity finally got her chance to silence the haters when she performed a pitch-perfect recreation of Queen Bey’s halftime show performance in the “Halftime Headliners” challenge. We all collectively gagged.
And that was only one of her highlights. Though Trinity didn’t win any main challenges during her original stint on the show, the Atlanta-based queen returned to the Werk Room seven years later fully ready to dominate the competition. In addition to slaying her Beyoncé performance, Trinity won the branding challenge and the girl group challenge; her team also came mighty close to winning the Pink Table Talk. Unfortunately, however, the higher you climb, the harder you fall — and though Trinity, at one point, was widely considered the frontrunner, by the second half of the season, she had begun to falter, landing herself in the bottom multiple times.
So when her just-eliminated competitor Eureka made a surprise return to the competition, it was no surprise that Trinity got a little scared. As she noted, as the only remaining queen to have spent multiple times in the bottom, she’d inevitably be voted out next. When she got the least enthusiastic critiques for her “Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent” monologue, the writing was on the wall for Trinity and everyone else. And after a lip-sync tie between the week’s winner, Eureka, and the week’s lip-sync assassin, Jaida Essence Hall, it was unsurprisingly revealed that the group had collectively decided it was Trinity’s time to go.
Ahead of her elimination, NYLON hopped on the phone with Trinity K. Bonet to talk about why she knew she was going home, how she really felt about the “game within a game,” the importance she placed on speaking out about her HIV-positive status and the ongoing campaign to educate everyone about how undetectable = untransmittable, the special connection she shared with fellow competitor Eureka, and how she’ll never be okay with the “messy narratives” Drag Race pushes through fixtures like the reading challenge and roasts.
What do you think happened this week leading into your elimination?
Oh, well, Eureka came back! Shit, that was about it — they brought someone back. We were playing a fair game as far as track records, and I had two bottoms on my own and those two bottoms from the top five. It was mathematically my time to go, so there was nothing I could do about it.
You seemed the most disgruntled about Eureka’s return. Almost immediately, you were talking about how her returning could mean that you’re next. Do you think your focus on that had an impact on your performance in the challenge?
I just knew what was going to transpire if anybody else got the chance to come back — if I didn't win, I was going to go home. On top of that, with what they were asking for challenge-wise, as far as telling stories and stuff, I knew for sure it would be Ginger. And [the remaining queens] had said if the next girl comes back and doesn't win, then we'd vote her back out. But Eureka won, so there was nothing we could do. It was what it was.
RuPaul had been teasing this “game within a game” all season, but no one really knew what was going to come of it for a long time. What were you all thinking when you first found out what it was going to be? Had you all been trying to guess what it was?
I mean, they were. I wasn't really focused on it. I was just trying to focus on doing good enough so it wouldn't affect me in the end. And since I had two wins, if I hadn’t been in the bottom for Snatch Game, then it would’ve been different. I would’ve known I was going to stay and those would have been somebody else's words. Had I not had that many bottoms, then I probably would have been like Ginger, just smiling and laughing from the beginning. But it wasn't funny to me at the time, because it was like, fuck! You try to do your best to stay in the game, you make it to Top Four, which is normally a good thing, but you're really not there. There’s still more.
Two episodes ago, when you guys played the Superlative mini-challenge, you got pretty upset that some of your castmates voted for you as being the most likely to go home next. Knowing that everyone had to answer that question, do you know why it got to you?
I don't like messy narratives being pushed. None of the questions were really positive, other than: Who would most likely be voted for president? Everything else seemed a little messy. Who would be most likely to steal your man? It just seemed messy to me. And yes, reality TV is always supposed to be that way, but it doesn't have to be. American Idol is a competition and you don't make them read each other.
That’s the only thing about Drag Race that I will never really like, is that there are messy narratives that are pushed and shaped, and then all the reading sessions and such. I can live without that and I will never change my mind about that. No way, no how. I don't think I’d ever be comfortable doing a roast or something like that because I really don't think ill of people, and when you have to pull out negative things about them, you don't know if they really feel this way about you or not. But they're saying things that are supposed to be authentic to you, so it's supposed to be funny. But I don't find those things funny. What's funny to me is jokes, but not jokes about your fellow peers when you really don’t even feel that way.
You used this challenge to talk about your HIV status, which you also talked about in your original song and during the Pink Table Talk. I know you came out as HIV-positive during your original season, but I’ve been enjoying seeing the deeper, more nuanced conversations this season. Did you always know you wanted to use your platform this season to shine a light on what it means to live as an HIV+ person in 2021?
Definitely. I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work throughout the years since Drag Race. I just toured Canada in 2019. I did 28 cities in 30 days, just speaking on U=U [editor’s note: undetectable = untransmittable], prevention, and things of that nature. I just wanted to really capitalize on that and use my platform to fight and just constantly encourage people to get past it. Please don't think that this sickness is what it was in the '80s or early '90s. We live in a different time where medicine is very effective and people are living with no problems, not infecting others. But they don't even know this, because they don't know anybody and nobody's really talking about it. They bypass the HIV commercials and all that stuff. They're trying not to think about it because it's not their problem — until it is their problem.
So if I can continue to be a voice for people and just put that little bug in their ear that U=U means Undetectable = Untransmittable, then cool, great — now they know that. And they can know that, well, shit, if I ever do get infected, it's not a complete death sentence — I can live and I can thrive. And I think that it coming from me, from just a regular-shmegular-degular guy, versus trying to hear it from a doctor telling you things that you don't really comprehend, really helps. To hear it from the average Joe, now you can really comprehend it and understand it.
The story you told this episode had to do with a fan who called you his “guardian angel” and talked about how hearing your HIV-positive story on TV saved his life. Have you had any similar experiences since opening up even more during this season?
Oh, God, every day. If I gave you my DMs, you would probably gag. I'm being serious. From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, you get these inboxes from people all over the world, just ecstatic about you and your story and what it did for them and how it helped them — you can't help but just be humbled by it.
I told somebody earlier that when I was younger and dealing with depression, it put me in a bind where I felt like I didn't have a purpose and that nobody would care about how I feel, so I thought, What’s the purpose in confiding in people? But when I told my story and everybody started telling me theirs, you realize the impact that you have on people — you do have a purpose. This thing called drag is bigger than myself at this point. There have been times where I’ve wanted to stop, but it's like I can't stop. If I do, then there are these people who will be disappointed in you. My reasons would have been selfish to stop doing drag.
You and Eureka got very close this season and developed something of a flirty relationship. Was having that relationship important for you this season?
It was great. I didn't have that in season six. I wasn't really close to anybody like that. I knew Eureka before the show, so it just made it even better since the relationship was already there organically. We're really good friends and we could confide in each other. “Bae” is just “bae” — it's a nickname in itself. It’s not a physical “oh, we go together” relationship. Just, that's my bae.
I felt really touched when Eureka opened up about how important that relationship was for her as a plus-sized person, who isn’t always used to getting that kind of affection. Was being able to make a real difference in her life an added benefit?
Yeah, definitely, as she did the same. She probably doesn't think she made an impact, but it's always nice to know that you can confide in somebody or cuddle up with somebody, because, you know, sometimes you just want a hug or you just want to be in the presence of someone you know genuinely cares about you. It's not sexual or anything like that. It's just being compassionate and caring and listening, so that that other person can talk.
Most queens come back to All Stars wanting to prove how much they’ve grown and matured since they last appeared on Drag Race. What was the main thing you wanted to show off about who Trinity K. Bonet is now vs. who she was back in 2014?
That I was more than what I gave off on the show. That I wasn't actually just full of excuses and scared to compete. That I have what it takes to make it all the way — even not knowing if I would make it all the way. You just go in there and do your thing and enjoy yourself and hope for the best. Also, [I wanted to show] that I'm authentic and real. I'm just as moody, just as sensitive as I was eight years ago — those are just traits that I have. But I'm bigger than my personality.
You just said you wanted to prove that you’re not “full of excuses.” Watching yourself on your original season, is that the vibe you thought you were giving off?
Well, no. I say that because that’s what I hear the fans say over and over again. I've grown accustomed to hearing that narrative. But I don't feel like it was excuses; it was the fact that I had never done television before, had never competed around cameras and stuff like that. All of those things were new and foreign to me, and they made me nervous and not able to compete to the best of my ability.
But people at home watching are like, “Oh, well, you shouldn't have signed up for it. You shouldn’t have come on this game.” But these are all the things I didn’t know. You think you're going into something with one idea of it and it's something else. When you're watching it at home, it's a 45-minute show. But when you're there, it's a 15-hour work day. You don't expect that. Nobody tells you that. That's not in the contract. But now I know how to handle myself.
And have you seen a change in the fan response this time?
Oh, yeah, definitely. The reading and stuff is still there; you still have people who just don't buy it. That's life. But the caliber of people who do love and support me, the celebrities that watch Drag Race and have seen me and reached out, all of that stuff makes more of a difference.
Speaking of celebrities, you did an instantly iconic Beyoncé routine for the halftime show, which you wanted to use as redemption after the whole situation with Bianca Del Rio during your season. How did you feel in that moment? How has the response been?
Being able to do that meant a lot to me. I feel like all the other Beyoncé impersonators have had really close encounters — if not [real] encounters — with her, but I still hadn’t. It was like, Well, when am I going to get my big Beyoncé chance? And I did. And it was, as you and the girls say, iconic and very memorable. There are a lot of people who thought I was robbed. So it just makes me feel really good about it. I just honestly hope that she did see the performance, and if she did, that she enjoyed it. Nonetheless, just to know that she saw it would be enough for me.
Now that you're gone and there is a final top four, who are you rooting for and why?
I don’t have a specific person. I think after watching the season, I think everybody has been on one accord. We've all had our ups and downs. We've had great moments and we’ve had sad moments. We’ve had tensions. But I think the top four is accurate, honestly. I think those girls have put in the work. I don't know what they did on the last challenge, and once I watch that, I could probably be like, "Okay, she's ready to win." But as of now, it could go any way.