FASHION Magazine August 2017 Cover: Gigi Gorgeous
Gigi Gorgeous has been pushing boundaries ever since she posted makeup tutorials as a teenage boy.
We’re two looks away from wrapping up our cover shoot with Gigi Gorgeous, and the crew’s got that restless last blast of energy that comes with knowing the end is in sight. A gaggle of us, including Gigi’s girlfriend, Nats Getty, are standing on the corner outside Milk Studios in Los Angeles while photographer Max Abadian positions Gigi by a lamppost. She’s wearing a Saint Laurent vest, a 3.1 Phillip Lim T-shirt, a mesh top and high-waisted pants. It’s a look the 25-year-old YouTube star admits isn’t her usual body-con style, but she says she’s enjoying being a “fashionista chameleon” for the day.
After a few snaps, a car pulls up beside us and two very excited preteens start screaming, “That’s Gigi Gorgeous!” A few moments later, as if on cue, a car drives through the intersection and someone yells, “We love you, Nats!” The pair — who are social fixtures in this town — first met in November 2015, when they walked in August Getty’s (Nats’s brother’s) runway show, but they shared their first kiss months later at Club Sandwich in Paris.
I know this because I’m one of the one million plus people who have watched Gigi’s “Girlfriend Tag!” video. From the 13-minute chat, we learn that Gigi’s first impression of Nats was that she is “really dope—she looks like Justin Bieber, Eminem slash fucking supermodel, and like she’s just swaggy and cool.” Nats — who is often described as the heiress to the Getty oil fortune — says the thing she loves most about Gigi is that she’s “funny and sassy,” adding “she makes other people care and love even when she’s dealing with the toughest of crowds.”‘
In December 2016, the pair temporarily separated, and Gigi shared the news with her 2.6 million YouTube followers in her “My Break Up” video. She admitted to the 1.6 million of us who watched that she’d been a little self-destructive and anxious since the split. “Breakups suck so bad…. It sucks when you can’t make someone happy…. I wanted to apologize for keeping you guys in the dark about something I was so public with for so long…. I’m really, really sorry if I disappointed any of you guys,” she says tearfully into the camera.
For nearly 10 years, Gigi has openly shared her life story — coming out as gay, transgender and, later, a lesbian. She often describes the camera as her therapist and YouTube as her diary. The relationship she has with her fans is extremely important, and she considers her
connection with them “very real and very authentic.” Her video views range from three million plus for her “Detained in Dubai for Being Transgender” last August to 11 million plus for “What’s in My Mouth with Kylie Jenner” in September 2015. And the comments, which are mostly positive, run in the thousands. When we chat a week after the photo shoot, Gigi tells me she tries her best to read and respond to as many of the messages from her fans as possible. Her answers are candid, but she insists she isn’t interested in schooling anyone on what they should do or feel.
“Being given a voice for my community on the platform of YouTube is such a blessing, but I’m just living my life and not trying to be smarter than anyone or dive into politics deeply,” she explains. “I’m just sharing my life, and I feel that’s the best way to educate others.”
Case in point: In “Snapchat Q&A: Meeting Charlie Sheen?!” one teenage girl asks what it was like to know that she was a girl and that people would judge her for that. “It was definitely very, very hard growing up transgender,” Gigi replies. “It’s probably the ultimate mindfuck—or one of the top mindfucks ever—going through life assigned a gender that you don’t really relate to or know that you aren’t in your soul. I think that when I was really young, I knew, you know, ‘I definitely want to be a girl,’ but I think as time went on I kinda just made it work for myself, and then when I got older and came more into myself and mature, I said, ‘This is really what I am and I really want to go through with this transition.'”
The trigger that finally encouraged her was the death of her mother. Gigi was 19 at the time, and it profoundly changed how she wanted to live her life. “Losing my mom was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” she says. “Seeing her life being taken way too soon was one of the biggest life lessons ever. It taught me that life is too short and you need to live life for you.”
Two years later, she decided it was time to announce to friends and family that she was transgender, but she wrestled with how to tell her followers. She had shared her life with them, but she was hesitant to take this next step. Gigi says that she considered either “running away for a year” while she transitioned or trying to suppress her “inner desire.” In the end, she announced her decision in a video she posted on December 16, 2013, entitled “I Am Transgender.” It was viewed more than 3.7 million times and generated 15,000 plus comments. While many of them were positive, Gigi admits she was discouraged by some of the criticism.
“I was trying to be authentic and honest and open, and I felt like it was biting me in the ass,” she recalls. “So I thought, ‘Why am I spending all this time and energy on something that is going to hurt me?’ I took a little break from the Internet, but I kept on with my transition and I came back stronger.”
Her “little break” was just shy of three weeks, which doesn’t seem unduly long, but it’s a lifetime for anyone who has spent years openly sharing their life online. Gigi marked her return by lip-synching Beyoncé’s “Listen.” In the black-and-white video that was shot outside in the winter, she belts out: “I am alone at a crossroads. I’m not at home in my own home. And I’ve tried and tried to say what’s on my mind.”
Gigi admits that the mean-spirited comments sting but adds that she doesn’t respond to the haters as that “adds fuel to the fire.” However, in her “Responding to Hate Comments” video, which she posted last July, she unapologetically dresses down her haters: “Anybody leaving comments saying that I’m not a girl can literally go burn in hell because that is the most ignorant thing you could possibly say.””
Ironically, because of her Barbie-esque take on femininity, Gigi has also been criticized for reinforcing gender binaries. “I am a girlie girl, and I like makeup, but that has always been my style,” she explains. “I think it’s important to note that transgender women come in all shapes and sizes and styles. There’s no box that you need to fit in. Being transgender is about what’s inside your soul.”
“It’s probably the ultimate mindfuck, going through life assigned a gender that you don’t really relate to.”
It is about one’s soul, but for Gigi her transformation also involved surgeries. In 2014, she had her hairline lowered and her brow and chin shaved. She also had a nose job and a mini eyebrow lift. Later that year, she had breast augmentation. She talks about these operations in her “My Facial Plastic Surgery Story” video, and they are also chronicled in the YouTube Red documentary about her life entitled “This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.”
“Surgery is something that, in my community, everyone really harps on because they want to look a certain way and feel like they need to have surgery to become a different gender, but that is just what my transition looked like and what I felt I needed for myself.” she explains. In her video “Boob Job Update!,” Gigi says the augmentation changed her life for the better. “For a transgender woman like me to get breasts, it is literally like a miracle…. I came into the person I was supposed to be.” As for future surgeries, Gigi says she’s good for now. “At this point, I’ve fully transitioned and I’m happy with who I am.”
Although she has become a role model, I ask Gigi who she looked up to as she made momentous changes in her life. “Janet Mock has had a huge influence on me,” she replies. “She’s an author, she’s transgender and she’s so graceful and elegant and eloquent.”
Gigi also credits Caitlyn Jenner for making being transgender a household topic and for helping kids with their identity. “I would have loved to have someone like Caitlyn around when I was younger. I had friends who were trans who helped, and growing up I always loved Lady Gaga — her music, her style and what she stands for. She helped to model a lot of my personality, and she gave me courage…. She recently came up to me at the American Music Awards, tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hi!’ I was dying inside. I could have died happy right then and there.”
It’s the same sort of tearful, ecstatic reaction Gigi gets when she’s with her fans. At the recent Beautycon Festival in New York City, Gigi elicited more screams — and, in a few cases, tears — than Drew Barrymore, who also attended. Gigi doesn’t take her influence over her fans lightly, and she’s constantly reminded—and humbled—by the effect she has on them. “I had a woman tell me that her son had just come out as gay,” she recalls. “She later returned with him, and he was in tears. He said the sweetest things about how I helped him out of the closet.”
To close our chat, I ask Gigi what she thinks is the one thing every woman should experience in her life. “Skydiving!” she blurts out. “I did it, and I would do it again and again and again. It was so much fun. So exhilarating.”
Her response strikes me as the perfect metaphor for her life. Here’s a young woman who defied what some might consider an innate survival instinct by taking a proverbial leap of faith to find her true self. I’m certain there have been many exhilarating — and at times frightening — free-fall moments, but her parachute has opened brilliantly and she has landed on her own two feet looking radiant, happy and, yes, gorgeous.