There have been a handful of drag performances over the years that have become the stuff of legend. Among them, there is the 2001 Miss Black Gay America pageant performance by drag icon Tandi Iman Dupree, who drops from the ceiling into a split dressed as Wonder Woman. Then there’s Dida Ritz’s spectacular lip sync to “This Will Be (an Everlasting Love)” on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4 — in front of the song’s originator, no less, Natalie Cole (who was a guest judge a few years before she passed on).
And now we add to the list Trinity K. Bonet’s dynamic, diva-licious Beyoncé-inspired “half-time” performance on the most recent season of Drag Race All Stars. Not only did Bonet beautifully embody the essence of the Queen Bee herself — and no shade to Mrs. Carter— she just may have out-danced her. But then again, the two talented performers seem to have a few things in common. For example, beneath both of their larger-than-life stage personas (Beyoncé’s famously nicknamed “Sasha Fierce”) resides much more low-key, almost introverted, personalities.
photo by Davide Laffe
Fans of the Drag Race franchise have gotten to know this sweeter, more sensitive side of Ms. Bonet, who out of drag is Joshua Jamal Jones — a quietly charming and handsome gay man from Atlanta (who, like most queens, uses she/her pronouns for his drag persona). However, this hasn’t ever stopped the refreshingly honest queen from speaking up about topics she’s passionate about, including social justice, mental health, and living with HIV.
Bonet started drag at a very young age and credits her mother, who is a lesbian, for allowing their home to be a safe place to experiment with gender and identity. She spent her younger years in Miami, where Bonet says she’d get all dolled up and try to sneak her way into clubs and pageants.
“My first pageant, I was 14 — the Closet Ball. There was like 9 people, I was dead last. But I was there,” she recalls with a laugh. “And I shouldn’t have been, but whatever.”
Bonet explains that because of her mom’s involvement with the local LGBTQ+ community, she was exposed to the art of drag and female impersonation early on.
“I grew up around a lot of different artists and entertainers and just became a sponge,” says Bonet. “At an early age I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Then when I moved to Atlanta…I kind of dropped out of school at that point and nobody knew me up here, so it was easy to get in clubs, perform and shit, and you know, keep under the radar. And that helped me get my start.”
Over the next decade Bonet honed her drag skills by performing in nightclubs and working the pageant system, which is evidenced by her poise and elegance onstage. By her early 20s, Bonet was no longer placing last in pageants. Instead she was winning them — and catching the attention of Drag Race producers.
photo by David Martinez
Bonet’s first appearance on the drag competition series was on its sixth season in 2014, when she made a lasting impression with her stunning runway looks and stellar performances. She also made herstory by becoming the second queen and one of very few public figures at the time to disclose she was living with HIV. (Season 1 contestant Ongina opened up about living with HIV on the main stage in 2009.)
When Bonet returned to the franchise last year for All Stars season 6, she killed it — this time making it all the way to the top 5 and solidifying herself as a legendary drag icon.
“Hell, I mean at the time it kind of just felt like vacation,” Bonet admits of returning for All Stars. “It was in the middle of the pandemic, so just getting out of the house, traveling…you know, I took the best out of the situation and allowed myself to enjoy my time there…. It really was just about taking the best things out of this opportunity and running with it, and hoping for the best.”
“That’s really the journey this time around,” she adds, “just being able to reach new people on a bigger platform and hope that your story makes sense.”
In a particular challenge, the queens were placed into groups to produce segments of “Pink Table Talk,” a chat show modeled off Jada Pinkett Smith’s popular Facebook series, Red Table Talk.
Bonet used the opportunity to educate viewers about the concept of Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U), the scientific consensus that means if your viral load is undetectable, you cannot pass HIV to a sexual partner.
“The thing about me when it comes to sex, is in my particular community, it’s very taboo when it comes to being open and honest about their status,” said Bonet during the segment. “Being a person who is openly HIV-positive, for a long time I was a lot of secrets for a lot of people. But I’m nobody’s secret. I’m successful, I got my shit together, I’m good in bed. I’m taking care of myself. I’m undetectable, which is untransmittable…. There’s a lot of people out here who are not educated that you can be with someone who is HIV-positive if they are undetectable and not catch the virus.”
photo by Rodin Eckenroth for Getty Images
Born somewhat out of frustration from not being able to participate in person, Bonet also chose to use the powerful platform to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think for me, during the time we were filming [there was] a lot of protesting and rioting and I knew I couldn’t be involved. So it was kind of like my little way of walking with the people,” she says. “That was a great place to picket…to speak up, to be seen. A lot of people watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. And even for those people who decided not to leave their home, you know, we’re bringing it back to your home. Even when you thought we were finished — we ain’t finished.”
These days Bonet is recuperating from an exciting but exhausting whirlwind U.K. tour and preparing for her next big gig: a six-month Drag Race Live residency in Vegas.
On her ever-rising star-power, Bonet remains characteristically humble. Though she’s continued to gain legions of new fans she says, “I’ve always felt like you don’t need to have a million followers...[if] the right people are paying attention to you and want to take the time to find out what’s going on in your life.”
cover art by David Martinez