To say Gia Gunn's time on RuPaul's Drag Race was "polarizing" is putting it mildly.
From shade filled confessionals to deliberately throwing competitors off their game, Gunn came into All Starswith guns a blazing and something to prove. Being the first trans woman on All Stars was her opportunity to make Drag Race her-story; and regardless of what you think of this talented queen, it cannot be denied that she changed the game. Gia and I sat down post-elimination to talk about her too-high expectations, coming back into the workroom as a trans woman, and what she thinks are the biggest obstacles facing today's trans community.
So many fans were glad to see you come back for RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 4. As your relationship with the show has been controversial at times, what made you want to take another crack at the Drag Race crown?
I am really looking forward to indulging more and capitalizing on the trans activism side and I do believe that a big part of being active in the community also comes with and from visibility. I wanted to also help bring visibility to a show that has so much influence in the world, and we have not seen any openly trans folks on the show. I saw it as my chance to break barriers and hopefully open doors for other people that deserve to be validated in this industry and to also hopefully make it onto the show as for me, trans men and women have validated drag just as much as gay men have since day one. Ireally did it with the hopes that it would have that happen.
What was it like coming back onto the show as a trans woman this time around?
I felt good to be in my skin and it felt good just being there. I was able to be there and know that I was an "empire" of sorts for people to come and it felt super refreshing. It was an honor for me to be able to return but to be able to return in my authentic skin.
Were there any former contestants that you were surprised not to see when you walked into the All Stars 4 workroom?
I definitely thought I would see maybe Kim Chi, I would have liked to have seen her. I thought maybe I would see Ongina from Season One, maybe Nina Flowers, Miz Cracker. those are a few that I really would have loved to have seen.
It goes without saying that sites and blogs this season are already calling you the villain of the season. Do you think that it a fair assessment?
I think it is important for people to understand that there is a difference between television personalities and real personalities and real people. I think I would not be doing myself any good to fully explain my full personal life and fully who I am on a television show that really isn't about that. It is a television show about illusion, about fantasy, about transformation, and up until now, about boys playing in wigs. Therefore, none of that seems too serious to me.
Also, I was there feeling a little bit cornered, a little bit defensive because I was only one out of ten girls. I can honestly say that I think that maybe some of my insecurities did get the best of me. Going back to the show definitely brought me back to a time that was not the most positive for me. It was not what I was expecting. I do think that I am only human, emotions arise, feelings come into play, and on top of it, there are cameras in front of you. Being very conscious about that and making some of the most legendary Drag Race television that there has been in history, I think I was very conscious and unapologetic of that; and it worked!
As you look at your All Stars experience in the rearview mirror, is there anything that you think you might do differently? Maybe not a regret, but something you may soften or deliver differently?
No, I think it is more on the backhand. I think I would have maybe planned a better Snatch Game character or maybe I would have chosen different fashions instead of listening to some of my other teammates when it came to what I was going to wear. I also wish I did not go in there with (pauses) such big expectations.
The fandom of RuPaul's Drag Race does have a large part of the fanbase that is young, and seeing a trans woman come into the workroom on Drag Race could be life changing for younger trans fans. What does it mean to you that you could be serving as an example to some of those younger fans?
I think it is a great honor, and I feel that the only word for it is "honored". To be this icon and this inspiration to these people. All that I ever want in life is to give people faith and to give them something that I did not have growing up; a positive role model when it comes to being trans. I think there is a lot of negative examples of trans people in general and I would be lying if I said that I did not feel a little bad about how people are perceiving me because I don't want them to think that is how all trans people are.
It sounds like "your portrayal" vs. who Gia truly is serves as a constant struggle...
For those that know me personally or those who have followed me since Season Six, they can see a difference between who I am on Drag Raceand who I am with my every day self. With that being said, I know that there is that small window of younger people who are getting to know me for the first time and may be seeing a trans person on television for the first time. I also know that that can be taken on of two ways, positive or negative, and I feel that that is also life in general; there is also going to be positive and negative, up and down, and it is up to us as individuals to show people who we are and try to change some of that hate into positivity and love. To me it is just a challenge to be able to continue my journey, seek my truth and be unapologetic at the same time and just introduce myself as who I really am. Some may ask why I went onto Drag Race and did what I did-because at the end of the day, its a reality show about drama, shade and drag. For me, it was a way of me not losing who I am, but being there in my authentic skin was just enough. For those that can differentiate between the two, they can understand that. For those that are misunderstanding who I am, I just encourage them to get to know me and follow my journey from this point on.
As a trans woman in the drag community, what inspires you to keep going and put your best foot forward as a trans activist?
I think that there are a lot of youth that are not being really spoken to. I think that there are so many drag queens who are great entertainers who are "gaggy" and fierce on stage, but are not opening up their mouths and really speaking to people, really helping inspire people and showing that they care, but speaking up. Standing up for what is right, providing inspiration and hope to those that may not have it.
For me, growing up as a very confused gay boy/drag queen, I did not have anyone that I could look up to that made sense to me. It was either a gorgeous showgirl that appeared as something I could never become, or as a crazy drag queen that I did not completely understand or identify with either. What really drives me is the lack of education that we have in the world and in the community.
Also, the hate that is out there against trans people specifically. That really drives me to kind of break down barriers and set people straight and most importantly, educate people on who we are as human beings and show the world that we are talented, educated, and have goals and love. We have many positive things to contribute to the world, just as many as any cis gender many or woman does. It just so happens that we are different. With that difference though, comes strength. I want to provide people with as much strength as I can provide knowing that there are a lot of people out there that do not have it.
RuPaul's Drag Race airs on Friday Night on VH1 (check local listings)
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